[DVD REVIEWS]Small films that pack a large punch

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[DVD REVIEWS]Small films that pack a large punch

One of the more notable aspects of Korea's film resurgence has been the impact of young filmmakers, bringing new techniques and ideas, and in general shaking things up.?And one of the best places for aspiring auteurs to make their mark is in the short-film scene.?Before Song Il-gon made the much-lauded "Kkotseom" ("Flower Island"), he won a short film award at the Cannes Film Festival.

Now Indiestory, Korea's leading distributor of independent films, and Pop Asia Entertainment have teamed up to present a diverse and offbeat collection of award-winning short films. With the next Broke in Seoul short film festival not scheduled until September, this DVD is one of the best ways to see some of the best in recent short film.

Korea Short Film Collection, Vol. 1 ("Hanguk Danpyeon Yeonghwa Geoljakseon," 2001)

These films range widely in quality and tone, from the soporific to the sublime.?

"Lachrymal" ("Nunmul," 1998), by Im Chang-jae, is a self-described "experimental" film, but it is no more an artistic experiment than throwing a bunch of chemicals into the sink is a science experiment.?Tepid and random imagery is highlighted by unimaginative camera work and poor technique.?"For the Peace of All Mankind" (1999), by Lee Seok-hun, set in the Vietnam War, is little more than an elaborate seven-minute gag.

But the other three films are more substantial. "Eraser Wrestling" ("Jiogae Ttameokgi," 1999), by Min Dong-hyeon, is the story of a young boy trying to beat the class bully in a game that involves flipping erasers.?Even as significant traumas are evidently occurring in his family, the boy is oblivious, concentrating only on the next rematch with the prodigious, cheating classmate.

"The Goggles" ("Mulangyeong," 2000), by Lee Su-yeon, is structurally the most interesting film, cutting back and forth between a young girl taking swimming lessons and a woman about to graduate from college, as well as several phases in between.?The story is full of the little stresses and horrible events that clutter one's life, some mundane and others quite serious.?It even stars Suh Jung, the same woman from Kim Ki-duk's "The Isle" ("Seom").

The final film, "Uncle 'Bar' at Barbershop" ("Ibalso Issi," 2000), by Gwon Jong-gwan, is a modest film set in the late 1970s.?

The character "Uncle Bar" runs a small barbershop, but he has his own ways of doing things that his friends do not understand, and he is not what he seems.

Aside from the English subtitles, there are no extra features on the DVD ?which is too bad when you consider how these small-time filmmakers are so less known than the mainstream stars of Korean cinema.?Since any of them could go on to become the next wave of feature-length directors or producers, it would have been interesting to know them better at this early phase.

The bad news is that this collection is getting increasingly difficult to find.?The good news, however, is that Pop Asia is thinking of releasing a few more DVDs in this vein.

by Mark Russell

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