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So Yong Kim's In Between Days (U.S.-Can-S. Kor / 2006)

PostPosted: Wed Dec 12, 2007 2:39 am
by arsaib4
*A 2007 (U.S.) Release*

There is no lack of good, original coming-of-age films that deal with the trials and tribulations of adolescence. What makes the said personal/thematic impulses in writer-director So Yong Kims In Between Days somewhat distinctive, however, is that its young female protagonist deals with them while also attempting to come to terms with a foreign land and a new cultural environment. But, for better or for worse, Kims minimalist effort is less geared towards her process of assimilation and is much more interested in delicately mining her burgeoning crush on her best male friend and study partner.

Petite and melancholic, Aimie (Jiseon Kim) is a teenager whos recently emigrated from S. Korea to a wintry N. American city (the film was shot in Toronto, and despite the efforts made to generalize the setting, those familiar with the city will know that it takes place there as well). She feels disconnected from her working mother and has yet to find her place at school. It appears that her only friend in this isolated milieu is Tran (Taegu Andy Kang), a self-assured young lad, also an immigrant, who only has eyes for westernized Korean girls and prefers to treat Aimie as an innocent young thing -- though hes more than willing to experiment with her when the topic of sex comes up, possibly because she wouldnt know any better. (Kim has beautifully encapsulated the push-pull dynamics of the relationship between them.)

Primarily shot on DV, the film is tangentially based on the directors own childhood experience of moving from S. Korea to Los Angeles at the age of 12. Its Kims first feature but she had previously worked on a number of experimental short films and video installations (and the influence is apparent in her static compositions of the frozen landscape that are poetically set to Aimies monologues intended for her absent father).

Kim has mentioned Rebels of the Neon God (1992), Rosetta (1999) and Unknown Pleasures (2002) as the three films which inspired her the most. If the narrative's existential ennui belongs to the Tsai, then her spatial inquiries of lifes intangible moments certainly owe something to the Jia. As for the Dardennes, while Kims overall aesthetic isnt nearly as rigorous, her accentuation of the sound-design as her protagonist trudges through the snow does bring back a few memories. Subtle and unassuming, In Between Days is a most welcome addition to the ever-percolating coming-of-age scene.

Grade: B

*The film premiered at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival, where it won a Special Jury Prize. It went on to play at the likes of Berlin (FIPRESCI Prize), Toronto, and Buenos Aires (Best International Film/Actress).

Re: So Yong Kim's In Between Days (U.S.-Can-S. Kor / 2006)

PostPosted: Fri Dec 14, 2007 3:19 am
by A
I think I had this on my Top ten for 2006. It's definitely one of my favorite films.

What i liked most about it was the almost casual pace of the film, the many seemingly unimportant scenes and moments that lingered on - both of which would have usually been edited out of less observant films. This is definitely something Kim has in common with Jia Zhang-ke. But i think her visual style is also more direct and straightforward, at first glance less lyrical and epic than Jia's. The unobtrusive and gentle look at the protagonist is also very unique I think. If she speaks about Dardenne and Tsai there are obvious connections, but I must say that she definitely has her own way of showing things, which I found as good as the one by the three filmmakers mentioned (and in some moments even better). I think her view is in a unique way gentle and bleak , and the places and situations presented were mostly pleasing to me. Maybe this has to do with the fact that I love snowy landscapes in big cities, and I could identify with the feeling of having moved to one. I think the film is difficult to grasp, and one of its qualities is also its elusiveness.
The unsettling and abrupt ending of the film is also in a league of its one, and was my favorite moment when I saw it for the first time. Very fitting, and of a complexity one usually doesn't encounter on the screen (again, Rosetta does come to mind).

Somehow I enjoyed practically every artisitc decision Kim made in her film. The telephone conversations which could easily sound uninspired were surprisingly also a joy to watch.

I can't exactly say why the film is so good, but you are quite right in your observations arsaib. It's not so much the coming-of-age than the whole composition of the film. The town, the season, the love-interest, the friends, the loneliness, the absent father, the relationship with the mother, and not least the protagonists eyes, face and movements. Her expressions are in my opinion incredibly effective. The cinematic sculpting of time and space coupled with a subtle narrative make the film more of a documentary-inspired portrait of a short time-span in one person's life. The coming-of-age is a consequence rather than the focus of In Between Days. Like a diary that is regularly missing a few pages, the film does show what usually happens in between the so-called "events" in one's life.

There are parallels to the films of Angela Schanelec, especially the elliptical nature of Marseille (2004), a film that almost never shows the events themselves. What we see is always what happened before or after. What has or hasn't changed, and the difficulty of grasping the importance of moments that define our lives.

Re: So Yong Kim's In Between Days (U.S.-Can-S. Kor / 2006)

PostPosted: Sat Dec 15, 2007 7:19 am
by arsaib4
You did have In Between Days in your Top Ten of 2006 (at #10). It probably won't finish that high on my '07 list, but it will definitely be there.

I agree with you that despite containing certain traits of the aforementioned filmmakers' work, the film still belongs to Kim (who could be mentioned alongside someone like Miranda July, another young woman who's recently transitioned from experimental shorts and video installations to directing a full-scale feature). I may have insinuated something unintended with my earlier comparisons. Though I wouldn't refer to it as highly original or authentic. Perhaps I've seen far too many minimalist efforts that feature melancholic young protagonists.

Good point regarding the ending. One could actually sense the character's emotional growth. And that's partially due the fact that, as we mentioned, the film focuses on what most consider throwaway moments. Another film you may want to keep an eye on is Alexis Dos Santos' Glue, which I initially saw at TIFF '06 and may write a little about it now that it's available on DVD in the U.S.

Speaking of which, I need to mention that the same applies to In Between Days. It was recently released by Kino. A brief conversation with Kim and Bradley Rust Gray (her husband/producer) is provided as an extra feature.

Re: So Yong Kim's In Between Days (U.S.-Can-S. Kor / 2006)

PostPosted: Wed Dec 19, 2007 5:26 am
by A
Only number 10? That really was an incredibly strong year.

This year In Between Days could easily finish at the No.1 spot. I think 2007 has been the most disappointing year in my movie watching experience - ever.

I can't really sleep at the moment (it's five o'clock in the morning here in Germany), and I'm going to rewatch this year's personal favorite, Lady Chatterley, at the cinema in a couple of hours. hope I won't have to drink too much coffee.

Hmm, seems I'm rambling a bit. To get back to the film, I don't think your comparison to other filmmakers was problematic (If Kim mentions them herself as inspiration, how could it?). It's just that I feel the Dardennes, Jia and Tsai are such distinct and idiosyncratic filmmakers that it's almost impossible to compare them to anything or anybody. They are in my opinion some of the most unique voices in film history, and have of course influenced and inspired lots of filmmakers.

Maybe the experimental background you mention was one reason why I found Kim's style very fresh and unique. I felt like she was recycling something new and personal out of a clichd and over-used formula. I think she definitely borrowed from the three above-mentioned filmmakers, but more from certain scenes and ideas, than from their style or aesthetics. That's usually something i consider "bad" borrowing: trying to imitate or even pay hommage to a specific way of filmmaking (maybe the main reason why I found Tarantino's last two (or if you want three) films his weakest - it's more a "fanboy" effort than a primal scream). The raw energy I felt in So Yong Kim's In Between Days on the other hand, was very inspiring to me.

I definitely need to check out Miranda July's work. I'm still a bit pissed at myself that I didn't buy her last film on DVD when I could have had it as a bargain. Haven't heard of Glue before. Thanks for the tip. And I need to get hold of Kim's feature on DVD. So many films I want to own, but so little money. If only I was a workaholic, and not a lazy bone.