In evident, art-house fashion, the film follows Choi Hyeon, a S.Korean man, who works in China as a professor and is married there, in a melancholic trip in the streets of the city of Gyeongju, and down memory lane. In his trip, that was instigated by the death of an old friend, he meets another old friend, the deceased’s wife, an ex-lover and gets to know the beautiful owner of a tea-house and her friends.
A very personal, art house film.
Zhang Lu directs a very personal film, with the protagonist conversely mirroring his own situation, since Lu is Chinese, but now works in S. Korea. The dialogue is scarce and the pace quite slow, as Lu almost forces the audience to observe the surroundings, the beauties of the city, and the everyday life in it.
Through this trip, and the experiences Choi Hyeon has, he also makes some subtle comments, regarding a number of subjects. These include fidelity, the ties with the past, alcoholism, coping with loss and sadness, jealousy, and others.
Regularly, a film like that, with duration of 145 minutes, would be quite difficult to watch. However, Lu, through the almost constant changing of locations (apart from the tea house) and some scenes of subtle humor manages to keep the interest unwavering. The second aspect becomes evident in the scene where two older women mistake Choi Hyeon for a movie star and Yoon-hee, the proprietress falsely confirms their impression.
The film’s technical aspects follow its general aesthetics. In that fashion, Cho Young-jik ‘s cinematography realistically portrays a plethora of places in the city of Gyeongju, and Kim Hyung-joo’s editing follows the slow pace of the movie. Kang Min-kuk’s music accurately accompanies the general subtlety,
Park Hae-il is a true actor-chameleon
Park Hae-il does not stop amazing me every time I watch one of his films. Either as a Joseon hero in “War of the Arrows,” or as a corrupt reporter in “Whistle Blower”, or even as the low-key character he plays in this film, he is always great. In here, he manages to portray a wide range of notions and feelings, through expressions, movements, and body stance, in a very difficult part that he carries out to the fullest.
Very beautiful Shin Min-ah is also great as Yoon-hee, managing to portray a character that has obviously been hurt, but retains her dignity at most times.
Great chemistry between the two protagonists
The chemistry between the two is great, and is exemplified in the night they spent in her apartment, with both of them lingering somewhere among attraction, reluctance and drunkenness. The way Lu uses the door to her bedroom to show the above is ingenious, and the whole sequence the best in the film.
More than just an art-house film
“Gyeongju” is obviously a film addressed to art-house fans. However, Zhang Lu’s direction, the beauty of the city, and the performance of the actors result in a film that will entertain most audiences.
The film is distributed by M-Line Distribution