[MOVIE REVIEW]Labor story not workmanlike

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[MOVIE REVIEW]Labor story not workmanlike

If most of Ken Loach's films are grim, serious and Spartan, like "Land and Freedom" (1995), his latest, "Bread and Roses," presents a different side of the acclaimed director, colorful and spicy. With a reputation for being a left-leaning filmmaker, Loach has spurned the vapidness of Hollywood to present the struggles of the have-nots in Europe.

For the first time, however, the British director has made a film set in the United States, in Los Angeles. Based on the janitors' strikes in the 1990s, "Bread and Roses" weaves realism, sarcasm, comedy and drama into a tale of poor, illegal immigrants who have come from Mexico to the City of Angels.

The film opens with the feeling of a documentary, depicting a true-to-life crossing scene at the Mexican border. The camera busily follows characters, and once they cross the border, the screen goes black.

From then on, the film is seen through the eyes of Maya (Pilar Padilla), a streetwise, strong and adamant woman who desperately wants a cleaning job at a posh office building in the heart of the city, like her sister, Rosa (Elpidia Carrillo). Though her chances at first look slim, with so many undocumented Mexican immigrants vying for the positions, Maya luckily is able to land the $5.75-per-hour job.

Just when she thinks things are working out for her, however, she gets drawn into a huge labor struggle. One day, a labor union activist, Sam (Adrien Brody), shows up with plans to organize a labor union. Maya leaps into the fray, in part because of Sam, a smart, witty and dedicated white college graduate. Their relationship grows, but so does the trouble caused by the conficts of management.

What Loach deals with in the film is in the end another serious, political story of have-nots, but the way he presents it is delightful, even carefree, mostly because of Maya's and Sam's characters. The use of humor in the film is unusual for Loach, but definitely welcome.

Brody, who also starred in "The Pianist," this year's winner of the Palme d'Or prize at Cannes, gives an adept performance, while Padilla is competent if a bit terse. About a quarter of the film is in Spanish, subtitled only in Korean, but the story is clear enough that it should not hinder English-speaking viewers from understanding the film. "Bread and Roses" is playing at Cine Cube in Gwanghwamun, central Seoul, at least until the second week of June. For more information, call 02-747-7782.

by Chun Su-jin

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