Week 4: the final stretch
“Breathless,” South Korea
Reviewed by James Tabafunda
Song-hoon (Yang Ik-june) is an enforcer for his gangster friend Man-shik (Jeong Man-shik). Song-hoon’s personal life, filled with childhood memories of being a victim of domestic abuse from his father, enables him to easily direct his clenched fists and bad temper toward anyone, especially the vulnerable people he visits to collect money. Song-hoon’s life experiences make him perfectly suitable for this job.
His viciousness is even directed toward a tough schoolgirl named Han Yeon-heui (Kim Kkobbi), who must constantly defend herself against a mentally ill father and a disrespectful, violent older brother Yeong-jae (Lee Hwan). The plot takes another turn as Yeong-jae joins Man-shik’s gang without his sister’s knowledge.
Even though Song-hoon spits on her and punches her in the face hard enough to knock her down, she stands back up in defiance of his intimidation. For the first time, he discovers hope, and they slowly build a family of their own with his young nephew.
Yang Ik-June’s directorial debut is an example of filmmaking with handheld cameras — which is shaky at times. His script — based on the experiences of his friends and family in Namgok-dong — features a story with disturbing violence and nonstop profanity, which is reminiscent of Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction.”
While an integral part of the story, Song-hoon’s relentless attacks become increasingly more vicious and consume a majority of the film’s two hours. Screenwriter Yang leaves little time to explore Song-hoon and Han’s friendship, and how it miraculously helps them escape their unhappy and troubled lives. His film’s dark tone remains constant to the end.
Thursday, June 11 at 9:15 p.m., SIFF Cinema
Saturday, Jun 13 at 9:30 p.m., SIFF Cinema
Reviewed by James Tabafunda
This movie is a historical drama about a poor, but highly skilled silk weaver named Vengadam (Prakash Raj). Never without his eyeglasses, at the beginning of the movie, Vengadam is taken under arrest, wearing handcuffs and transported on a bus to his hometown. He is temporarily released and escorted to visit his family for two days in 1948.
The film then goes back in time to explain how he arrived at this point.
It begins 16 years earlier when Vengadam makes a shocking claim in front of his village community that his newborn daughter Thamarai will someday wear a silk sari at her wedding, a luxury reserved only for feudal overlords and those in the highest caste. Initially upset at him for making such an unthinkable promise, his wife Annam (Shreya Reddy) eventually changes her mind and joins him in saving their hard-earned rupees.
After a sudden financial setback, Vengadam knows they will never have enough money for the silk sari so he decides to steal a silk thread each day to secretly weave one at night for his daughter.
Thamarai (Shammu), now an adolescent, waits patiently as her future husband and soldier Ranga (Mini Ramesh) comes back home on leave so they can marry.
Vengadam and Ranga’s father Parthasarathy (Jayakumar) agree to their arranged marriage. The film’s main conflict arises when Vengadam must choose to either finish his daughter’s sari in time or become the leader of an illegal communist movement among his co-workers during a strike.
South Indian writer and director Priyadarshan succeeds at balancing tragedy with history. His story examines the period’s traditions and social class structures through the many heartbreaking tragedies experienced by the film’s main character. Raj’s performance is full of warmth and conviction.
The colorful silk saris stand out among the white work uniforms of Vengadam’s coworkers, thanks to production designer Sabu Cyril and cinematographer Thiru.
Friday, June 12 at 1:15 p.m., Seattle Cinerama
James Tabafunda can be reached at email@example.com.
Want to see a Seattle International Film Festival movie?
Go to these theater locations:
2100 Fourth Ave., Seattle
321 Mercer St. at Third Avenue
McCaw Hall, Seattle
For tickets, visit www.siff.net.