[MOVIE REVIEW]From Minimalism to Nothing

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[MOVIE REVIEW]From Minimalism to Nothing

"One Fine Spring Day" is a simple film full of empty spaces. In this special-effects-laden age, when most movies are intent on overpowering you with explosions and computer graphics, a quiet, leisurely film seems like a most-welcome change of pace. Unfortunately, "One Fine Spring Day" does not really deliver.

Because the director Hur Jin-ho's first film, "Christmas in August," found phenomenal success in Asia, "One Fine Spring Day" is jointly produced by companies from Korea, Japan and Hong Kong - a first, the producers say.

"One Fine Spring Day" is a minimalist story, well-acted, ostensibly about "why love ends." Yu Jee-tae plays Sang-woo, a young sound engineer who lives in a small house with his family in the country in Kangwon province. Lee Young-ae plays Eun-su, a radio announcer in Gangneung, in her early 30s and coming off of a divorce. She meets Sang-woo when she decides to put some of his nature recordings on the air.

The two of them travel to random locations, then sit around while recording and listening to natural sounds - the wind whistling through a bamboo forest or rivers babbling over rocks.

The director Hur cited Ozu Yasujiro as an influence, but any similarities are only surface-deep. Ozu was a master of formalism, with each scene fastidiously laid out, and everything carefully arranged. Hur, however, is an impromptu kind of guy. The movie went into filming with only a basic plot, and much of it was made up as they went along.

The film does not work as a character study, because we learn almost nothing about these two characters. Eun-ju's background is deliberately muddled and unformed, while Sang-woo is supposed to be "innocent," but comes across as just emotionally immature. Nor does the film deal with any wider, societal ideas. Nor is the stated theme, "Why does love fade," really addressed. Eun-su is on the rebound from a failed marriage, and never seems deeply in love with Sang-woo (tellingly, she is careful from the beginning to keep their real lives separate). The story is too simple to even qualify as emotional pornography. It does not wallow in grief or loss, and is too mature for any base, emotional payoff.

In the end, this is essentially a light, Sunday afternoon melodrama, dressed up in art-house clothing. Boy meets girl, girl leaves boy, boy keys girl's car. If that story sounds like your cup of ginseng, you might enjoy it.

by Mark Russell

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