Thursday, June 18, 2015

A Midsummer’s Fantasia (Han-yeo-reu-mui Pan-ta-ji-a)

Jang Kun-jae’s third feature is an unusual project, comparable in recent memory only to Miguel Gomes’ singular Our Beloved Month of August (2008), in that it is divided into two distinct halves, the first with an overriding documentary feel, the second using actors from the first to narrate a fiction.

The film takes place in the near-abandoned village of Gojō in the Nara Prefecture of south-central Japan. A young Korean film-maker (Im Hyeong-gook) is visiting with his interpreter (Kim Se-byeok) to research the area and interview locals, and the film’s opening is straight documentary, with credits rolling over a long-held, static shot of a barely-bustling café full of old people, followed by a table interview with the proprietors. The film style adheres closer to something one might wish to call typical east-Asian slow narrative fiction thereafter, however, with lengthy, static shots of people talking, or thinking, frequently with their back to the camera. In the film’s first half these are interspersed with further documentary-style interviews, distinguished by an unselfconscious use of jump cuts in the monologues, although others are played out before the dramatist’s cameras, as Im and Kim talk with various non-acting locals of the region, and we learn from them something of its history and current character (all the young people have left and the school has been closed for twenty years), just as Jang himself did, making his own research.

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