Review: ‘The Butterfly’

Kang Hea-jung, Kim Ho-jung

A futuristic parable about memory and coming home, "The Butterfly" rates as a severe disappointment after his accomplished (but little seen) debut feature, "Taekwondo" (1998), a Warsaw-set drama examining many of the same themes of identity. Way too long and discursive, this DV-shot low-budgeter won't flutter far outside festival cages.

A futuristic parable about memory and coming home, Moon Seung-wook’s “The Butterfly” rates as a severe disappointment after his accomplished (but little seen) debut feature, “Taekwondo” (1998), a Warsaw-set drama examining many of the same themes of identity. Way too long and discursive, this DV-shot low-budgeter won’t flutter far outside festival cages.

Set in South Korea “sometime after 2001,” film follows Anna Kim (Kim Ho-jung, from “Barking Dogs Never Bite”) as she flies home from Germany. Her homeland is ravaged by a mysterious virus that makes people forget painful memories, and Anna has signed up with an agency that provides a “virus guide” to let her catch it. (Butterflies lead the way to the virus, though little is made of this during the picture.) Anna’s guide is the scatty Yuki (Kang Hea-jung), who’s seven months pregnant, and her driver the maverick K (Jang Hyun-sung). When Yuki is fired and carted off to a sanatorium, Anna buys her freedom. Final twist is clever, but otherwise there’s little going on here except a lot of phony emotion and indulgent handheld camerawork. Transfer to 35mm is OK, but DV origins are still obvious.

The Butterfly

South Korea

Production

A D-production Co. production. (International sales: Mirovision, Seoul.) Produced by Jung Rae-young. Executive producer, Park Ji-young. Directed, written by Moon Seung-wook.

Crew

Camera (color, DV-to-35mm), Kwon Hyuk-joon, Moon; editors, Kim Duck-young, Lee Jang-wook; music, Jung Hun-young. Reviewed at Locarno Film Festival (competing), Aug. 6, 2001. (Also in Puchon Fantastic Film Festival and Toronto Film Festival -- Discovery.) Original title: Nabi. Korean and English dialogue. Running time: 109 MIN.

With

Kim Ho-jung, Kang Hea-jung, Jang Hyun-sung.
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