Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 06, 2017 8:32 pm 
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LEE ZOO-YOUNG: A SINGLE RIDER (2017)

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Far away, in a world of loss and regret

Kang Jae-hoon (the eminent Korean actor Lee Byung-hun) is a sad, elegant, hollow man. This movie that he dominates seems becalmed - not a bad thing to pause and think - though Kang's story seems to run dry almost from the first. This brief film, Lee Zoo-young's directorial debut, could have been even shorter, but its quiet ruminations are often pleasant. It provides the sense of a lost time that no madelaine can regain.

Perhaps preparing for disaster from his profitable work in a corporate bank selling bad loans, two years before he has sent his wife Soo-jin (Kong Hyo-jin) and child to Sydney, Australia to live, and learn English. Now the disaster has come, the bankruptcy of his bank, the failure of investments, the dozens of angry clients and friends who trusted him. Humiliated and in disgrace, he goes to Sydney unannounced, with no baggage, in a good suit. Neither he nor the suit appears to wilt as the days go by, but whatever purpose he has had falters. Creeping up on his wife and the house he discovers her in constant association with a jolly, burly neighbor with a small daughter, an Australian construction worker whose own wife is in hospital in long term care. And so Kang begins shadowing his own life, or what might once have been his but seems lost.

Like a ghost Kang enters and explores the house, the beach, follows Kris (Jack Campbell) to the bridge he works on, even follows him to the hospital and talks to his wife in her bed. He finds Soo-jin has taken up the violin again and is seeking work, to remain in Australia. Remaining isolated, a lonely stalker of Soo-jin, Kang is pursued by a Korean girl he ran into on the first day, Jee-na (singer and Train to Busan cast member Sohee), a vacation worker who's been cheated by some fellow countrymen out of all her earnings and wants his help.

When Kang sneaks up on this other life that should be his but isn't there's mystery about what he'll find and what he'll do, and that's cool enough. But as his world is becalmed that also gives us a little too much time to wonder if this is or could be happening or we've been transported to the Twilight Zone, down under. Or one may feel events are starting to feel generic; might have had a little more edge. The whole affair is anemic, especially for Australia. But in this reportedly fifth time working with a woman director, Lee Byung-hun delivers in this reflective melodrama about regret.

A Single Rider/싱글라이더/Sing-geul Ra-i-deo, 96 mins., Korean and English with English subtitles, debuted in Korea 22 Feb. 2017. Reviewed as part of the NYAFF where it screened 1 July 2017.

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