Don't you just hate spoilers? I do, too. That's why I always try to include warnings. However, I sometimes ramble a bit too much here or there and maybe a few (or many) key plot points slip without me giving proper notice. So I'd like to include a blanket spoiler warning for the weary internet travelers of the world: Here There Be Spoilers. You've been warned.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Breathless (Ddongpari)

I don't know how to begin. I really don't. Sometimes something is just too moving for words. Sure, critics are supposed to be objective and deconstruct magnificence by poking holes and nitpicking, but sometimes that just doesn't fly with me. Sometimes I watch something so amazing that I just can't accurately describe the emotion I feel from watching it. I feel moved right now and I don't give shit one or two about saying this movie was too long or whatever. As far as I am concerned this movie simply has no flaws. I was, cheesy as it may sound, quite breathless by the end. 

The movie is indeed a long one. At two hours and ten minutes it feels like an eternity in Hell. That is not an insult, though. Movies about abuse are the toughest for me to watch. I have watched two films about horrifying abuse before. One being Jack Ketchum's The Girl Next Door and the other being the Korean film Silenced. The former made me want to throw up, but the latter made me want to cry and hug a pillow. 

I am a man. I feel uncomfortable saying things like that. I often do, though. Not so much in real life because it can be embarrassing. In real life words hurt more because people see you face to face. It's easy to insult somebody (like so many Internet Warriors out there do) when you've never seen their face or don't have to see them in person the very next day. It's easy and a lot of the time I believe that the internet really is turning us into venomous people. Or at least "part-time" venomous people so that we can be saints when we are away from the computer. 

So, perhaps ironically, it is also easier to say things like "that made me want to cry" on the internet because we also don't have to look someone face to face while we say it. There's no judgement from "real people." Generally speaking, that is. The internet also enables us to be "part-time" sensitive people, I guess. 

In reality, I am probably a mixture of both venom and sensitive, but I've trying hard to not be so venomous towards other people. I'm a hermit for a reason, I guess. 

Breathless is a film about venom, the venom in people's lives that no one wants to talk about. It's about beating a daughter or a father or a sister or your soulmate. It's about the spread of hatred through violence and by violence I don't mean the kind of cartoonish violence a lot of people whine about from certain action or horror movies. I could watch Jason Voorhees behead a hundred floozies, but anytime I see a character hit a kid or a woman I can't stand it. It makes me rage. It makes me feel ill. 

Remember the scenes in The Godfather when the Vito's daughter kept getting abused both verbally and physically by her piece of shit husband? To me, that's horror. When I was younger and less mature I didn't really grasp what horror was. Zombies and staged scares and all that stuff? Nah, this movie is real horror. This is real violence and it is uncomfortable and extremely effective. I get it now. I didn't then, but I do now. 

I have this belief that men who hit women, children, or the elderly should have a special spot in Hell. Not that I really believe in Hell, but merely that there should be such a place for them. Breathless deals with all three topics and not subtly. There are a lot of beatings in this movie. Just so you know what you are getting yourself into. Please don't watch this with your children. You've been warned. 

First off, before I start in on the plot, I wanted to say that Yang Ik-june is masterful in this movie that he not only starred in, but directed, edited, and wrote as well. Not only that, but this was also his directorial debut. He nailed it on the first time out. Just truly an amazing feat.

It's said that this film is semi-autobiographical and if so my heart definitely goes out to the guy. I just hope he's not the complete asshole he is in this film. 

His character Sang-hoon is a loan shark. Chances are if you owe money he'll come by and rough you up real good. He also has some serious childhood trauma. As a child he witnessed his father abuse his mom and accidentally stab his sister when she came to his mom's rescue. 

Sang-hoon inherited his father's bad traits and beats up on people that owe money as well as his own father now that he is strong enough to do so and his father is old enough to regret the actions of his younger self. His father doesn't fight back. 

Sang-hoon spends time with his nephew when he can and tries to leave him money that he doesn't gamble away, but after one of his visits he runs into a high school girl named Yeon-hee and one of the more odd friendships I've seen is formed. 

Yeon-hee comes from a house where her brother is much the type of person that Sang-hoon is. Her father is a man that hasn't been the same since Vietnam and he often loses his temper on her. Her father even forgets that his wife is dead, killed by a group of loan sharks. Feeling alone in her own house she seeks refuge with Sang-hoon, one of the personality types that is ironically making her life a living hell. 

Yeon-hee and Sang-hoon both want to escape their situations, but they don't know how. Sang-hoon even less so. Sang-hoon is a terrible person, but he gradually seems to want to change. However, change doesn't come easy to someone with so much venom in their blood. His hatred towards his father and other people seems overbearing. There appears to be no hope for him. 

His unlikely friendship with Yeon-hee (whose family situation about which Sang-hoon doesn't even know) might be the key, though. He just needs to find the door. 

Bring those tissues, people. You'll need them. You will feel, as I do, quite moved and breathless. This movie is long and painful, but it is worth it. 

Few movies about living a shitty life have been made so well. 

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