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[DVD REVIEWS]Elvis never knew a Hawaii this blue

Aug 13,2002
"Waikiki Brothers"

Directed by Yim Sun-rye. Starring Lee Eol and Oh Ji-hye.

"Waikiki Brothers," a distressing yet touching portrait of dashed dreams, has its own history of ups and downs. When it opened in October, it had to compete at the box office with a number of made-for-success films. It drew interest from critics and industry people, but few viewers, and closed quickly.

Frustrated cinephiles moved to resuscitate "Waikiki" a few months later, and it reopened at a small theater. Now the DVD version is out, complete with English subtitles and a variety of extras.

Watching "Waikiki Brothers" is emotionally demanding. For 109 minutes, you witness a painfully honest portrayal of how life destroys dreams. Forget bikini-clad bodies on a tropical beach; this is about a shabby rock band playing a rundown nightclub in the sticks.

Sung-woo (Lee), the leader of the band, wants to be a big musician, but he barely scrapes by on the band's meager income. The other members are burdened with woes: some quit, some get hooked on drugs or alcohol. Sung-woo is the sanest of them all, and resolved to fight cruel fate.

One day, reality bites. He encounters In-hee (Oh), his first love from high school, who used to be a singer in another band. In-hee is now a widow, and barely survives by selling vegetables on the street. Then Sung-woo gets his biggest test from life, and has to decide whether to keep chasing his dream or succumb to reality.

The film features local pop songs from the 1970s and 1980s, evoking nostalgia for Koreans and delight for others. The director Yim paces the action slowly, using long takes, to give the characters time to develop. "Yim has the deepest love for the characters in the movie, so she needs time to explain," said a movie critic, Sim Young-seop. The technique is effective in the end. You may need to hit a bar after this film -- it's that moving -- but while Yim tosses you into a pit of despair, she leaves bright skies above.

by Chun Su-jin




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