Kim Tae-yong’s Late Autumn was my second TIFF film this year and also second on Friday the 10th. It was only my first day at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival and I already learned a valuable lesson – don’t judge a film by its online synopsis. This was the first paragraph of the film’s official description on the TIFF website:
Late Autumn is an enchanting tale of two unlikely misfits who fall in love, despite all odds. Director Kim Tae-Yong’s subtle and nuanced direction elicits wonderful performances from his lead actors, crafting a lyrical and captivating love story.
Hoping to catch another Korean film at the festival other than Kim Ji-woon’s I Saw The Devil (to be seen on Tuesday) I landed on Late Autumn. I was also hoping to watch a South Korean romance flick, something I have not done in a while, and the first paragraph told me enough to expect as such. I expected the usual stereotypes of Korean romantic flicks, for example a couple meets, one of them encounters terminal illness, liters of tears ensue.. What also drew me to this film was that it had the same name as the legendary Yasujiro Ozu’s 1960 classic, Late Autumn. Needless to say, all my expectations and presumptions of the film were based on shallow pretences. Luckily, I could not have been more wrong.
WARNING: The following review may contain spoilers to Kim Tae-yong’s Late Autumn!!
Just the first day into the festival and I was already surprised and very much entertained. The experience was extra special because it was the world premiere of the film, even the director himself has not seen a full cut until this TIFF screening. Kim Tae-yong’s Late Autumn was a definite step out of the stereotypical unnecessarily depressing Korean romance film. A huge step at that. First off, over half of the movie was not spoken in Korean. The dialogue between characters, although limited, were spoken in predominantly Mandarin and accented English. Tang Wei was the lead in the film who gave an exceptional performance as a young wife who was in a physically abusive marriage in which she ended up killing her husband in self-defence. She ended up in prison but was given a two day parole to attend her mother’s funeral. On the busride back to the city of Seattle, she meets a witty and flirty Korean man running from something played by Bin Hyeon. You may remember Tang Wei from her debut performance in Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution, in which she also gave an amazing performance.
Anna (Tang Wei) and Hoon (Bin Hyeon) only spoke English to each other with their respective accents (Chinese and Korean), but it did not take away from the chemistry they sustained throughout the film. Due to the nature of language of Late, Autumn, many of the most informative and captivating scenes were performed without dialogue. It was this non-dialogue that made the film as beautiful as it was. The emotion derived from such silence, particularly between the two leads, that conveyed the transcendence of language especially when it comes to such an unconventional love between Anna and Hoon. Both characters have dark pasts that wished to be forgotten but they still thrive in each other’s presence in what little time they had. Ultimately, this film was great without needing much dialogue. The expressionistic and emotion-filled air that conquered language barriers was evident between the characters and also between the screen and the audience. We felt the body language and unvoiced signals sent between Anna and Hoon, and from them to us, making it all the more impressive.
This is a film based in the American city of Seattle, with an up and coming Korean director, Chinese lead actress, Korean lead, who only conversed with each other in accented but captivating English. I think this is the beginning of an orgasmic recipe for Banana cinema (:
TIFF review on Barbara Wong’s wonderful Break Up Club next!!