Friday, March 4, 2011

Small town, older woman and, yes, poetry

A movie about guilt, responsibility and reconciliation.
Korean director Lee Chan-dong follows his masterful Secret Sunshine (see review below) with another movie steeped in mysteries that hide beneath the surface of ordinary life. * In the quietly evocative Poetry, Lee focuses on Mija (Yun Jeong-hie), an older woman who lives in a small Korean town. * As the movie progresses, we learn that Mija is suffering from early Alzheimer's. She's also saddled with the task of taking care of her adolescent grandson (Lee Da-wit), an indifferent kid who has been part of a crime that a group of the town's dads are trying to cover up -- a gang rape. * Perhaps needing a bit of solace, Mija enrolls in a poetry class. She struggles to develop her powers of observation, to look deeply at things. * As was the case with Secret Sunshine, Poetry focuses on a woman who is not entirely at home in the world. Mija dresses elegantly and has an almost airy quality about her. She usually looks as if she's stepped out of the pages of a chic gardening magazine, an appearance that's very much at odds with her part-time job, taking care of an old man who apparently has suffered a stroke. * Yun floats through the movie with an eerie sense of detachment that throws the actions of those around her into sharper relief.* Poetry deals with issues of guilt, responsibility and the troubles of a woman who finds herself thrown into the middle of a male-dominated cabal, a group of fathers who care only about making sure their sons escape the consequences of their criminal behavior. * But more than all of this, Lee's film suggests that only poetry (or perhaps more broadly, art) provides a place where painful contradictions -- if not resolved -- at least become bearable.

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