REEL ASIAN 2011: BLEAK NIGHT Review

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REEL ASIAN 2011: BLEAK NIGHT Review
A father tracks down former classmates of his son, specifically looking for his two best friends Dong-yoon and Hee-june. What he wants is to better understand his son, Ki-tae, and why he would take his own life. Perhaps these two have the answers? 

Dong-yoon dropped out of school and has not been seen since. Hee-june transferred to another school before Ki-tae's suicide but went to the funeral. What unravels in a series of flashbacks is the shattering of friendships set on by misunderstanding only to expose how fragile these binds were to begin with. 

As we put together the pieces of this puzzle our perception of who is the victim and who is the antagonist switches between the three. Lines are crossed, things are said and 'sorry' is an empty word in the end. 

Bleak Night marks an impressive and uncompromising debut from writer and director Yoon Sung hyun. His characters feel very real. His film, though quiet and underlined with tremendous force, requires a great deal of attention as the story reveals itself through a multitude of flashbacks. You will have to be on your toes as it is sometimes never quite clear what is real time and what is a memory that either of the two friends have or share with the father.

Bleak Night paints a bleak portrait of Korean youth and in light of reports this year that suicides are on the rise amongst them this intimate portrayal of broken friendships doesn't sugarcoat the issue at hand. Actions have consequences and if not dealt with those consequences can be dire.

Saturday November 12th @ 2:45 PM @ THE ROYAL
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SeasonsNovember 8, 2011 6:47 AM

Best film I've seen so far this year, along with Miike's 13 Assassins (japanese version).

BastianNovember 9, 2011 7:07 AM

I was lucky enough to co-animate a very interesting two hours debate with Yoon Sung-hyun during the Parisian FFCF (French-Korean Film Festival) last month. He was invited in order to introduce his (very) interesting short movies, as well as "Bleak Night". We were very happy, since all his screenings of his long were full and we even had the surprise to see Luc Dardenne amidst the audience!!!

If I have time, I'll try to write down and translate the whole interview…but amidst the VERY surprising bits, you might want to know that the director would LOVE to direct a live adaptation of Japanese manga "BERSERK" by MIURA Kentaro!!!

As surprising as it sounds, I'd love to see what Yoon Sung-hyun might do with such a material, certainly reinforcing the characters "darker, introspective" sides…

As for the time being Yoon Sung hyun's is completing the script of his next feature, a more "commercial" project, but in the same vein as Bong Joon-ho's movies.
Bong actually told me during my Cannes interview having LOVED "Bleak Night" and be ready to help in producing Yoon Sung-hyun's next feature…but nothing has been done for it for the time being.

Major_RagerNovember 9, 2011 11:25 AM

Ehhhh... I thought it was alright. I watched it with my Korean gf not too long ago. I had a problem with the flow of the script... even at 2 hours running time, it leaves the viewer in the dark so often it's really hard to tell what's going on and why such-and-such person is being a drag, when the time could've been spent better on development than useless conversations and long still shots. My gf didn't feel it was a very accurate portrayal of Korean youth, but then again, she hasn't been there in a number of years. Still, it is indeed very bleak and worth watching for the performances alone.

Jon PaisNovember 16, 2011 6:21 AM

I thought Bleak Night was one of the most satisfying Korean films to be released on DVD this year (Poongsan was the year's biggest surprise). It's a slow burner of a film, there isn't a whole lot of action, but the dialogue and interaction among the young men kept my interest throughout the 2-hour running time. Lee Je-Hoon's performance as Gi-Tae was excellent, and much stronger than his role in the mediocre Front Line. For me, the weak link was Jo Seong-ha, who plays the father, an unnecessary contrivance. As for the cinematography, I don't recall any static shots drawing attention away from what was going on in the film. This was a much less flashy look at high school youths than we've seen in the past, with their brawls, stupid pranks and girl troubles eating up much of the screen time. This is really a character-driven drama dealing with the issue of bullying, whose outcome was not at all what I expected.