Gwangju Blog

Spring in My Hometown

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Today’s
film is the somewhat retro wartime piece called
Spring
in my Hometown
,
or
아름다운 시절 
Areumdaoon shijeol

which means something more like “
those
beautiful days”
.  It
is pretty interesting, particularly if you’re the type of person
who possesses loads of patience to spare.  The fact that this
film is still talked about since it was released in 1998 speaks very
highly of its caliber, as there are not too many films that have
really survived from Korean cinema over such a long time.  Some
might consider it somewhat of a classic, and it definitely has all
the familiar signs of one.


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The
film takes place in a small town in the Korean countryside during the
Korean War.  Despite the fact that the great battles of the
war are raging during the time, the town itself is protected from
most of the horrors of the conflict.  However, there is an
ugly menace represented in the form of the nearby American military
base.

 

There
isn’t really too much of a story here.  Well, there is
actually, but I think most will find it nearly impossible to follow
in any linear fashion.  Suffice to say it is about a pair
of boys coming of age in this strange and dramatic setting, where
divided loyalties and the influences of foreign cultures
have created a microcosm of tension which is a war in itself, indeed
inside of a much larger conflict.

 

It
was directed by Kwang mo Lee, who also wrote the film, and while he
was kind of a one hit wonder, this film won dozens of awards– the
list is a mile long.


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Each
shot in this film is painstakingly done, and you get the feeling that
each frame took hours to construct and hundreds of takes to get
right– each one is just perfect. That being said,
these excruciatingly long shots where nothing much happens
make the film feel a bit more like a slide show than a film
reel. Sometimes it is nothing but an old man walking down a dirt
footpath, it takes five minutes, and you can see every detail.  One
thing most viewers might find annoying is that the camera almost
NEVER gets close to the characters.  You are watching them
from a far, and the audio sounds so muted you may need to turn your
speakers up to full volume to make out anything.


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Regardless
of these shortcomings, the film reeks of artistic merit, if perhaps
misplaced.  It is highly revered by film students and
critics the world over, so I you are really interested in the craft
of making movies this might prove an interesting specimen.

 

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