This humble reviewer was looking forward to the film in question, even though I hadn’t read much about it – I rarely read a synopsis nor always view a trailer anyway – and once I’d decided to go ahead I also learnt a little bit more from Anton Bitel’s recorded intro.
This introduction is mentioned here, and a little detail of the film, and indeed the LKFF 2020 / London Korean Film Festival 2020 itself can be found via this link: https://www.koreanfilm.co.uk/film/lucky-chan-sil-cansilineun-bogdo-manhji/
The intro provided some info regarding the director, Kim Cho-hee which I didn’t know and I am glad that I then DID know! I’ll go into that further down this review.
Having enjoyed quite a few of Hong Sang-soo’s films over many years – and we know that his films can be loved or loathed, perhaps like any director’s works – I was keen to see what this director, who had worked with Mr Hong for quite a while was going to give us. I wasn’t disappointed.
The film opens with a dramatic and well-known piece of music.
This music takes us a to a scene where a group of people are drinking – soju and beer are visible – and already we could easily be watching a film by Hong Sang-soo [or “starring” Hong Sang-soo – more on that later]. The group are messing around or daring one another with questions and indeed drinking. Rock; Paper; Scissors (or Rock Paper Scissors, you may call it) is involved too.
Soon… death by soju falls upon the elder, the man of this scene. A scene to end all scenes perhaps. Thankfully though, we are just getting started.
In the scenes which follow we are introduced to the female lead, and who was clearly visible in that soju-death scene [as were one or two other important characters to the story, let’s say], and it’s a person named LEE Chan-sil (played by KANG Mal-geum) and we are also following the act of her moving home, with the help of some younger lads.
When she arrives at the new dwelling – a house belonging to an older woman and who is played by Youn Yuh-jung – she is kind of happy with the place, even if a certain room makes her and/or her male helpers wonder what’s going on in there. We do hear positive information about this place though, as mentioned in a scene with her actress friend Sophie (played by Yoon Seung-ah), and its that the mountain air will do her some good. This can only be good thing, surely.
It seems that Chan-sil has downsized her accommodation by moving here and also a shift in her work life has also occurred. This leads her to being almost up for any kind of work and whilst visiting that friend, Sophie a rather unusual job opportunity arises
After all, Sophie is an actress who is incredibly busy doing other things – what with guitar lessons, pole-dance lessons, makgeolli-making (she does like a drink!), French lessons and more – and so surely she could do with some help. Could Chan-sil become her housemaid, if she has no other income to speak of?
A little side-note now or rather some side-thinking by yours truly. I find it a little ironic that the great Youn Yuh-jung, who has appeared in many films [and TV programmes] is in this. Why? It’s just that one of the roles she’s known for is that of her character in Im Sang-soo’s version of “The Housemaid”. Well, we have a “Sang-soo” there too and a role of a “housemaid” comes up in “Lucky Chan-sil”! Two spooky coincidences maybe.
[Anyway, back on with the show (rather than the showing-off)?!]:
It’s those French lessons which bring another character onto the scene and indeed into Sophie’s house and ultimately into Chan-sil’s life and world too. This new character, Sophie’s French teacher is a guy named Young (played by Bae Yu-ram) and… well… he is, or seems young, and younger much more than Chan-sil.
This means that whilst busy Sophie is out and about, attending this and that, Chan-sil has someone to speak to and this wouldn’t do any harm, I’m sure – especially seeing as she’s not got a lot of other things to do… and the fact that Young is an amateur filmmaker indicates to us that he’s also got quite a bit of time on his hands!
It seems that Chan-sil and ‘young Young’ could have a lot in common, at first anyway. You see, Chan-sil is also connected to cinema, and is a film producer and the reason she has so much more time on her hands and less money, or no other work, is that the man who died of soju-death at the start of the film was the one director she worked for. This is all revealed in these first scenes.
So, Young and Chan-sil start talking and walking. With them both not working much, or barely working and not really on what they want to be, they start to build a relationship or at first a little rapport anyway.
In these early walk and talk scenes, it was interesting and ironic to me that [being a filmmaker too] Chan-sil would say words to Young, along the lines of ‘most would-be directors are always writing and not filming’. It not only resonated with my situation as a writer/director but also, perhaps, she was referencing the fact that when she was a producer for the now deceased film director she was working all the time, on every or most movie projects of his, and therefore not simply writing & waiting for production itself.
Either way, there is another subject which comes up and that is Christopher Nolan, or Mr Nolan’s films – Young mentions that he likes those kind of films. After this, Chan-sil realises that they have very different tastes in film. After all, she’s more of a Yasujirō Ozu fan. This difference in opinion or tastes comes up or is hinted to at more than one time in the film. It was these parts which resonated with me also… not that I don’t like Mr Nolan’s films [indeed, perhaps more so that I, like many others don’t fully understand them! ㅋㅋㅋ] but that A) I like more challenging films – challenging in a non-Nolan way; B) I’m put off when a film or a certain director’s films are loved by so, so many. I’m open to many, many different types or genre of film but sometimes I have my favourites or simply non-favourites.
OK… MMM slightly drifted off topic there but on with the rest of the review.
It’s important to note [or at least this reviewer thinks so!] that when Chan-sil is asked by Young about which film or films she has made, she responds with words similar to this: “I doubt you would have heard of the films I’ve worked on”… But why is it important? I like to think that this is the director of “Lucky Chan-sil”, Ms Kim Cho-hee revealing a little, autobiographcially regarding films she has made. Not only that, but maybe it’s in reference to the films of Hong Sang-soo, with whom she worked with for a long time! More on the HS-S connection in a while.
Chan-sil and Young’s relationship, either one of friends or potentially a deeper one, keeps you watching, especially as the conversation continues – yes, quite a bit of conversation in this film, albeit maybe a little less than many HS-S movies.
In fact, this old-young friendship (with the potential to turn into something else) made me think of the film which I’ve raved about a lot on here, in the past. That film is “JAMSIL“. The feel of certain scenes, especially with these two characters reminded me a little of that one. Not only that, “CHAN-SIL” sounds a little bit like “JAMSIL”!
This film is full of things of significance or perhaps hints at significance, signs maybe. We see what looks like a tree of fruits. These are “quinces”. This reviewer at first, naively or stupidly thought they were lemons but in fact that piece of fruit is known as a Quince (모과) – but what is the point to all this? Precisely. Not ‘what is the point to this paragraph concerning quinces’ but instead do they, or the tree of them offer us a sign? Or do they simply offer our heroine Chan-sil a sign? There’s a scene or two regarding the tree which made me think there is… a sign.
Funnily enough, the next day I was walking along New Malden high street (aka the UK’s KoreaTown area) with a friend and he pointed some quinces out to me – but they were not in a Korean shop… No, a Turkish one, I believe.
Is there significance or an uncertainty of a certain room, as mentioned earlier in this review?
If I told you there was a ghost in the shape of Leslie Chung, would you believe me? Well, maybe it’s not quite that. Although this insinuation could align with Anton Bitel’s words from the Introduction which accompanied Lucky Chan-sil [as part of the online London Korean Film Festival 2020 screening]. Anton was referring to something, or someone else – which I’ll tell you about in a moment – when he said words along the lines of “…exorcising her own ghosts”. Anton was referring to the director of the film, Kim Cho-hee – although, seeing as this movie is semi-autobiographical you could link that “exorcising” to the film’s character, I suppose.
But back to signifying or signs, and also that mention of Hong Sang-soo at the start of this review. You see, those early scenes of drinking did include soju and we know that director H S-S has made many a film with such an act of consuming – is director Kim Cho-Hee significantly hinting towards Hong Sang-soo? And… if so, is it alluding to films by him, or his real life personality or habits?
Furthermore, in this film the deceased director is said to have had affairs. Now, it’s common knowledge, in much of the film world or at least with many South Koreans, that Hong Sang-soo has had at least one affair. The one actress and one affair MMM is referring to is the one with star of “The Handmaiden” [and this year’s LKFF2020 Hong Sang-soo film “The Woman Who Ran] and many other films, Ms Kim Min-hee!
Lastly, is there some significance or allusion involved with the death of the director at the start? I’m not saying our director Kim Cho-hee was wishing her follow director, Mr H SS was no longer on this planet, but maybe there’s some weird metaphor in there. I will state these words instead, which accompanied the film as part of the description on the LKFF website, “…Kim Cho-hee served as producer to director and notorious soju-drinker Hong Sangsoo – so when her own feature debut as writer/director begins with a male indie director suffering a fatal heart attack during a heavy soju-drinking session, Kim is clearly dramatising her own struggles to break free of Hong’s shadow…” — Perhaps this is more in line with those words, “exorcising her own ghosts”.
But let’s skip all this and fast-forward to some interesting moments towards the end of the film.
Around 10 minutes prior to the end of the film there is a beautiful moment, or perhaps a beautiful use of a shot. Whilst a certain character is playing an accordion the camera zooms slowly in and after that, slowly out.
There’s also a moment when quite a few of our film’s characters are walking in the evening. In some ways, by now, the story has almost reached a resolution or at least certain people have been reunited. What we witness though is one of the characters stating that it’s a ‘most beautiful night’ and, I can tell you it certainly looks like one! In fact, the light from the moon has given the scene a lovely feel – and it’s a full moon. It’s a full, circular moon and some may say “full circle”, a little like the story in front of us. It is a nice touch.
Touch or Torch?! Well, adding to that touch, is a torch moment. One of our characters stands with a torch and it makes them look a little angelic. Perhaps there’s a meaning, it’s signifying something and/or a metaphor hidden in that. It could also be a light from a film projector… and with that…
We are in a scene featuring a film being played in the cinema. Whose film is it? That’s not important [spoiler-free reviews here at MMM, where possible!], but what we witness on screen is, in MMM’s eyes at least ‘pretty pretty’ to look at. It’s somewhat uplifting, especially with the music which is heard. Is this glow from the screen or indeed a certain lit up moment on it – involving a travelling train and a tunnel – telling us that there is light at the end of such a tunnel, and maybe the main character’s?
You could say that this closing of the film is implying what’s going through Chan-sil’s mind, or her journey thus far. Whatever she may be thinking or us the viewers, it could be what is known as a…
…”Train” of thought.
This marks the end of the review… and the start of a NOTES section.
NOTES / POINT OF ‘POTENTIAL’ INTEREST:
Dr. Anton Bitel, when introducing Lucky Chan-sil for the London Korean Film Festival 2020 had quite a bit of information to hand over to viewers.
One of those items was about director Kim Cho-hee and the suggestion or reality that she and a certain Kim Kyeong-hee are one and the same person. You see, it’s actually Kim Kyeong-hee who worked on 8 of Hong Sang-soo’s films (between 2008 and 2015), as producer or co-producer. All this said, we are still unsure as to which of these names is actually Ms Kim’s original or birth name.
‘LUCKY’ YOU… A TRAILER:
This is direct from the KoreanFilmBiz / KoBiz YouTube channel. KoBiz and KOFIC (Korean Film Council) are technically one and the same… Further into at: KOFIC/KoBiz website.