[Review working title: “My Way – aka ‘Forrest Thump’ or ‘Chariots Of (Gun)Fire’…”]
Film: My Way (Mai Wei / 마이 웨이)
Director (& co-writer): Kang Je-kyu
Venue: The Prince Charles, London
Released & Distributed in the UK by Universal Pictures.
The very first film of Terracotta 2012 and Terracotta head honcho, Joey Leung tells us that certain personnel from Universal are in the audience.
London – the 40’s. A marathon is taking place. A commentator in that stereotypical stiff upper lip speech-tone tells us the position and indeed this characters name, all while we follow only really the back of this runner and others.
It’s Asia, but where? This could be Korea, Japan, Elsewhere. Watch and find out. But I will tell you thats its the 1920’s. Two Little Boys… One Korean, One Japanese… Competing – There’s a song in there somewhere. Whether a song or not, you could say that these two lads are ‘going for a song’, as the phrase goes.
The Korean lad is played later on in the film by Jang Dong-Gun. The other male, the Japanese lad is later played by Joe Odagiri – yes, him from “Adrift In Tokyo“.
Of course, kids grow up. Soon we meet a Korean male. He’s a rickshaw driver, or perhaps more aptly a rickshaw ‘puller’? But the real question is ‘can a lowly Korean rickshaw driver get permission to compete in the local Japanese-infused marathon?
Well, this isn’t exactly spoiling things by telling you he is indeed allowed because of that sole fact – he’s a lowly rickshaw driver… I mean, how on earth could ‘he’ win?! After all, he’s just happy to compete at all and ‘star’ in the race.
An obviously tense race – with our Japanese favourite guy getting egged on by his mum, whilst the Korean lad having the morale and loving support of his sister.
The tensity is raised a little when there is what appears to be foul play at… errr… well, at play here. But we shouldn’t worry as we all know who’s going to win… Or do we? Well, we think we do and even after that character DOES win, its then revealled that the foul play causes a different line up in the top 3 runners… Maybe neither of them win.
This may not sound much of a big deal but when I tell you that a riot breaks out, you’ll think differently!
And… It’s this riot which shows us a sample of what harsh realities of war are to follow – The blood, the bone thumping crunches, the pain and of course the camerawork at play. It’s kinda the sort of camera-play I call ‘the Ridley-Scott effect’ (or ‘effectS’ to be more precise – the ‘S’ being the plural but also standing for ‘Scott’).
Yes, this rioting has many effects. The loss of the race, of dignity and of the subtly placed humour we’d got used to in those first few scenes.
Anyone who causes a riot is never looked on nicely. Not now, not back then. In fact, its probably debatable as to whether those accused of rioting really did cause it. Either way, our main Korean man is soon in the Army.
Look out for a beautifully Sweeping shot of a train cutting through the desert plain. It’s a rare site, on film & definitely in real life. But we now have such an image to possibly beat any other which may ahve existed before.
In between being introduced to further characters or learning more about those whom we’ve already met, we are given another great shot. It’s almost out of the blue* – well, green – we see a man apparently walking on grass. [*If he were walking on water it perhaps wouldn’t be as ‘out of the blue’, sweeping film-sytlistically anyway. Then again, this is a Korean film, anything is possible – genres and styles surprise us always!]
Is this man floating on a platform made from wood? It may be the army and as such corporal punishments could be rife so I thought: Could this scene with him on this wooden material be another version of ‘walking the plank’?!
If you think that’s pretty awesome [obviously you won’t until you witness it on screen, big or small] look out for shots of a plane, and someone running against it as well… whilst witness a girl potentially painfully dying.
Dying? Maybe… But what kind of Korean film would it be without a little deceasedness?! This is life, after all. Or not, as the case may be.
But this is not really solely a Korean picture. It has Russian, German, French, probably the US and other! Not to mention the Japanese characters and/or places.
Here though, Death and the Japanese goes Hand-in-Hand… or rtaher Hari-kiri-in-Hand in this soon shot we’re soon presented with. So, it’s not only the Korean with a tad of violence in there films? I’ll stop there – I don’t want to enrage anyone.
Whilst on the subject of Korean or Japanese, I feel death is not solely by use of a knife in these nations [or n’asians’…;) ] films. It’s often natural death, which is, as I stated before just a part – or end of – life. In fact, death reels in so much emotion that I’m surprised the masses who support or promote ‘just the bloody’ or ‘way too ultra bloody’ elements of these countries’ haven’t jumped on natural death as much as the homicidal sort!
I don’t think there’s a true Korean / Japanese film fan out there who likes the label of all these countries’ films being ultra-bloody or ultra-violent. It’s the press and the films which are often most successful and sometimes this is one and the same as appealling to the masses, who frankly will watch anything so long as the story doesn’t confuse them too much and sticks to a tired formula which they’ll admire…and probably for life. Appealling to those masses, Apalling to the true fans of these lands’ films.
Semi-scathing attack over!
Like before, we’re displayed another train shot… Aren’t we lucky?! This time it’s superbly and fleetingly from the front of the train amongst snow.
Why snow? Could it because we’re in Russia?
Well, soon we are witnessing fighting in the Soviet. Soviet Blood is mentioned but my childlike braincells butt in to my creativity and twist that around to be ‘Blood on Serviette”…
[Or for a mini tongue twister and further play on words we could have ‘Blood in the Soviet on a Serviette for Serving one’s country & Serve you right !”]
Anyway… Enough of my ‘Shot’ at clever words about fighting or people getting well… Err… ‘Shot’…
So back to the type of Shot which I love so much. That being one of the cinematic sort. Yes, another great set-up, this time it’s a shot of vehicles moving between trees.
Trees or no trees, we make ‘Our Way’ from Russian-governed territory to a German one.
So, we stay in Germany? Of course not… Next is Normandy.
This film, although about war – and running! – it manages to put in all locations. Whether these be different countries or landscapes, it seems to have a setting for all seasons. No exception now, as we have a beach. There is an embrace – two men of the army. With the music and the setting, In felt this had turned into a gay love story. No harm in that, it just made me chuckle to myself a bit.
I can’t dig the dirt too much on the rest of the film, the plot and it’s characters as this would go against my site’s MiniMission Statement but skipping nearer to the end of the film, a kind of minor twist is, well, minorly dropped on us, the audience.
And… As the latter happens, I note how ironic it is how much an image of the Korean character covered in stuff (mud?), resembles the picture of the poster for the film ‘Himizu‘. Ironic in two ways… 1) Himizu was the Closing film of this same festival [My Way being Himizu the Opening one] and… 2) That My Way is both Japanese and Korean infused, as is the combination of both this film and Himizu.
With brilliant shots such as the one mentioned, plus images of tanks colliding, a man falling from a very, very, very high bridge and more it’s maybe no surprise that this is rumoured as the most expensive & ambitious Korean war epic ever made, if not any Korean film.
Furthermore, with scenes capturing all nationalities, such as one on a French beach, where an English sport is played with Germans, Koreans and Japanese this is surely is a film just like its distribution company… ‘Universal’.
“Universal Soldier”? Hardly. Universal? Perhaps. But maybe not for Everyone. I hope this is though:
“Mi-ni Mi-ni Mai-Wei Mo-Vie”…:
Feel free to find this Trailer and other Mini-er Movies here at:
Further details of Terracotta Distribution – the company behind the Terracotta Far East Film Festival & Terracotta Touring Festival – and another Asian film favourite, Third Window Films are below. However, before you rush to clickety-click-away I’d like to use this space to mention the recent mindless riots experienced here in the UK. Did you know that these riots caused hundreds of thousands of pounds in damages and loss to our favourite independent film distributors? These are, essentially… Arrow Films, Artifical Eye, The BFI, Crabtree Films, Cine-Asia, Dogwoof Films, Exposure Cinema, Eureka, Kaleidoscope Films, Left Films, Masters of Cinema, Metrodome Films, New Wave Films, Peccadillo Pictures, Revolver Entertainment, Showbox Home Entertainment, Terracotta, Third Window Films and Warp Films.
So, with the latter in mind it is even more important to spread the word, virally about these unfortunate vendors. On that note I leave you with these links… all which will, in some way assist in keeping such films to be distributed here in the so-called land of milk & honey.
Thanks for your support… in every way.