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[HanCinema's Image Gallery] "Han Gong-ju" @ 24fps


Lee Su-jin's "Han Gong-ju" @ 24fps...

There are so many films flashing furiously past our eyes nowadays that it's hard to remember some of the devilish details, moments, and ideas from our favourite features. Add to that all the music videos, T.V. series, news broadcasts, digital advertisements, YouTube playlists and gaming, and it might well start to feel like there's an insurmountable backlog of compelling content, and you'd be right (sooner or later). Our lifetime is slowly being replaced by digital dream streams that if we were to watch all the classics, the critically acclaimed, personal recommendations and cultural must-sees, our lives would no longer have a convincing anchor in reality, and screen-time would be our only time.

As a cinephile, and a person, this upsets me. And while I don't have any immediate answers to dealing with the sheer size of one's DVD collection or external (digital technologies have indeed left our feeble lifetimes far behind), I have a suggestion for at least reflecting on cinematic time given and enjoyed.

Sure, screenshots from films are readily available online and a plenty, but this digital dumping does little to counter the existential crisis of a true cinephile. I want to relive magic moments, sublime shots and sequences, and remember details like the costume design, dialogue, lighting, framing, and so on. Nothing excessive (Google is aptly named), just a humble 24 frames to remember, share, and celebrate before the next wave. Enjoy!

#1 Lee's heroine (Chun Woo-hee) first appears confessing something to a packed staffroom, and ends with them passing her her backpack. She'll have to move schools now, hope someone takes her in, and (above all) stay quiet- "But... I didn't do anything wrong", she tells them. And they know.

#2 One teacher does step up as a kind of reluctant guardian, and collects her here from her apartment/crime scene. In the now empty living room, a busted fan clicks continuously in the corner as it fails to rotate, unable to fully function, potentially damaged beyond repair. D.W. Griffith might call this (and other such punctuated details Lee has us fixate on throughout) as the beautiful "wind in the trees".

#3 Before we are fully aware of what happened to Gong-ju , Lee snaps this curious moment, magical realized (one of them is clearly a ghost), revealing the psychological depths of the damage, of her journey ahead . "And when you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you" - Nietzsche.

#4 She has sexual experience; it's official.

#5 The social aftermath is cruel and quickly crystallized. Her family fails her, her friend escapes, school ushers her away, society shames, and here the police's insensitivity and thick accusations exposes the shaky structures she has to survive under (the clinic nurse earlier even lied to her when she asked if they had female doctors to examine her, for obvious reasons, but was whirled into the consultation without further regard - he might as well have worn a gorilla mask), or not. Here, after being verbally bullied and stigmatized by the cops, she spies her assailants lined up across the room, and (for, if I recall, the first and only time) cries.

#6 After all she's been through, all Gong-ju wants is to learn how to swim 25 meters and sing to herself. Here, after choosing her own swimming costume and donning her gear, she stops suddenly just before the pool hall's entrance to remember to breathe.

#7 A group of girls from her new school are flawed by her musical talents, but push her too hard not knowing her history and reasons for being here. Here, Eun-hee (Jung In-sun) tries to reach out and apologise to her new friend.

#8 Those marks are from a staple gun made the night before. She probably didn't see them under the mask.

#9 "Without music, life would be a mistake". - Friedrich Nietzsche

#10 Her new friends secretly watch as Gong-ju sings her broken and beautifully heart out.

#11 In a moment of uncomfortable maturity, Gong-ju suggests taking pictures of her host's bruised body (she was caught in a local love affair and a female flock mobbed her accordingly), saying that it will help legally if things escalate. The traditional mother-daughter roles switch, and age plays fiddle to her firsthand(s).

#12 This is a bizarre and telling scene. Gong-ju is having dinner with her old teacher, his mother (who she's staying with), and her host's new suitor. All connections she has to this intense domestic dinner are artificial, and the drama around the dinner table reminds us of the kind of family life she won't be living.

#13 Gong-ju's friend, who was also attacked, committed suicide soon after the pain.

#14 Lee cuts from that personal 'vision' to a similar shot of Gong-ju staring back at the apparition.

#15 Gong-ju's new classmate fights hard for her friendship, and the blunt (often angry) barrier is understandable.

#16 Her mother doesn't want anything to do with her, and her father is opportunistic drunk. In this scene she (against the advice of her mentor) meets her father and signs a settlement form that leaves his wallet fatter.

#17 This is what courage looks like. Before being drugged, before the multiple rounds of rape and abuse, she stands her ground.

#18 Gong-ju's best friend is being pulled from the river after jumping. She was pregnant.

#19 Persistent, her new friends record and create a website showcasing Gong-ju's musical talents to help promote her skills online. She wants nothing to do with the world, there are victimless vultures out there looking for her.

#20 The gang and peer pressure at play.

#21 He's family; the drink is spiked.

#22 They all wear a gorilla mask as they take turns with Gong-ju's drugged husk.

#23 Her new friends finally learn the true extent of the horror behind the voice they love.

#24 Subtle, yet immensely powerful. Lee concludes his first feature with this shot, with one more to follow...


- C.J. Wheeler (@WoolgatheristKoreaOnTheCouch)

Available on Blu-ray and DVD from YESASIA

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