The Restless (Joongchun)
Originally posted on Sept 30, '07, at slangards.multiply.com
Every now and then, I pick up a DVD because I find the cover interesting. More often than not, I'll buy a foreign movie even if the DVD cover is in another language and I've never heard anything about it. Asian titles get a lot of this favored treatment, Korean films more so than anything else.
Korean cinema just has a unique slant to it in that their cinematic machine is based on entertainment. It's not like the movie scene here where everything is about awards, resulting in films so "socially relevant" that you want to blow your brains out. Or in the states where it's all box office all the time, pandering to the lowest common denominator. In Korea, there is a drive to put out product that is commercial viable, socially relevant, but most of all entertaining.
The Restless is one of the films that leans more towards the commercial side. It tries to be a lot of things to a lot of people, but doesn't really succeed. At the core, it's a story of two star-crossed lovers who meet again in Midheaven, a kind of purgatory, where souls must cleanse themselves before re-incarnation. It also has themes of deep fantasy, pulling things from Korean Mythology. It even borrows from Hong Kong action, though the filmmakers attempts to stage wire work battles are kind of feeble and disappointing.
The imagery of Midheaven, with it's colors and romantic Asian architecture is probably the best thing the film has going for it, which is why the drama scenes, though often over the top, still ring truest. Costume designs are a little derivative, borrowing a lot form Jackson's Lord of the Rings, but they are pretty impressive and can stand on their own. Effects aren't as slick as a Hollywood film, but since the effects aren't really the biggest draw, it doesn't really affect the rest of it.
I feel it works best as a romantic drama, and if you enjoy Korean tele-novelas, this would be a nice one to pick up for the weekend. If you're looking for a nice asian fantasy epic though, you're better off with something like "Volcano High" or my personal favorite Japan's "Ashura-jo no Hitomi".