Apr 21, 2012

SFIFF55: Choked

5:07 PM

With the start of Spring comes one of my fave times to chillout for days in a filmhouse thanks to the oh-so-glorious SFIFF, known to the masses as The San Francisco International Film Festival. In their 55th year they bring more of what you would expect in what has become one of the biggest draws on the Int'l Filmfest circuit. After bruising through the program guide-- circling the must-see flicks to the ones that pique my curiosity and even marking up the more obscure to get out of my normal tasting menu-- I went with Choked as my first go see of the Fest.
Courtesy of San Francisco Film Society

What got me hyped about Choked, the first feature film of writer/director- Joong Kim-hyun was that at first I thought this was a product of the K-pop sensation from Shinee.

Yeah, so I was wrong about that.  After watching the trailer and then reading the press kit I was hooked on the intimate words of the Director:
“Is being poor the saddest thing in the world?
Do not say it isn’t so. You’ll turn to stone as soon you say so.
I hoped it wasn’t so. I wanted to believe that poverty wasn’t the origin of such sadness.
Is it capable to hurt for someone else? Is condolence even possible?
Hold on. Do not lose hope.
I could not bring myself to say these words.
But I still want to hurt instead and console.
I want to do the impossible.
I want to tell all the stories I’ve heard and the stories I believe everyone already knows.
Stories that are all about me and all about you.
Straight up I connected with what this film could be and as I walked through the doors, jumped in the nice, comfy plush seat in one of the screening rooms and watched on.  Being a major fan of Korean films I was anticipating a lot of drama for your mama, hopefully some tasty scenes of dripping sex and of course some blood-splat violence.  Again, I was wrong at least for the most part.

Choked opens with the protaganist Youn-ho (Um Tae-goo) who plays the role of a struggling lower-level salaryman looking to earn his keep for his family and future in a recession-ridden Seoul.  Thanks to his swindling mother, Hee-su (Kil Hae-yeon) and horrible selection in a gold-digging, fiancee-- we are taken on a depressed ride of Youn attempting to arise from his own personal Hell. 

Kim in true Ozu (that reference is for you Bucky!) fashion gets you hooked into the emotional turmoil that is played out between Youn, his mother, his fiancee and another woman- Seo-hee (Park Se-jin) that claims to have been scammed by Youn's mother.

Mid-way through Choked I was reflecting on my own family history and struggles with poverty-- on different occasions thinking about how difficult it is to do the right thing with so few resources. That genuine feel of being devoid of rationale and pure desperation is what made a few filmgoers in the crowd cringe, myself included and not have the strength to bear as Youn fell deeper and deeper in his storm of bad judgements.  Kim pulls this off without the physical violence and shock factor that I have been programmed into thinking is Korean cinema. 

Through the story we are treated to Seo-hee and Hee-su's deep connection that shows how we make family when we are let down by our own blood.  Choked is a riveting, emotional blackhole that will suck you up dry of any goodness you are feeling.  Be warned.

Two more showings that will be played during the SFIFF55, hope to see you out!

This post was written by:
big O
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