Review: ‘Do U Cry 4 Me Argentina?’

Fusing a range of styles into an eye-catchingly anarchic portrait of the plight of Buenos Aires' so-called "1.5 generation" -- young Koreans whose parents have emigrated, leaving them stranded between two cultures -- Bae Youn Suk's "Do U Cry 4 Me Argentina?" is high-energy fare that fuses several genres into something quite unlike anything that's come along before.

Fusing a range of styles into an eye-catchingly anarchic portrait of the plight of Buenos Aires’ so-called “1.5 generation” — young Koreans whose parents have emigrated, leaving them stranded between two cultures — Bae Youn Suk’s “Do U Cry 4 Me Argentina?” is high-energy fare that fuses several genres into something quite unlike anything that’s come along before. The urgency of pic’s message in seeking to overturn stereotyped views of BA’s Korean community grounds the project firmly in contempo reality, helping to compensate for its many excesses and lapses of taste. Pic’s likely destination is in world cinema sidebars.

Duk Kyu (Cho Duck Kyu) delivers cloth to an illegal clothing factory run by the father of sullen Borum (Kim Borum). Duk Kyu works for an arrogant rich kid, who makes his life a living hell. As they are hiding during an inspection, Duk Kyu and Borum strike up a tentative relationship. After one more ritual humiliation, his nerdy buddy Sang Hyun comes up with the idea of kidnapping their boss to make some cash to get away to the U.S.

Out in the street, tough Hyoung Sik (Bang Hyoung Sik) and his gang spend their days getting into fights with local kids and feeling resentful, until they come up with a plan to rob the boss — a nicely symmetrical plot twist that leads to some unpleasant Tarantino-esque business involving lit cigarettes and nostrils as the kidnapping goes predictably awry.

Tina (Cristina Um) is a tango-playing, Spanish-speaking violinist trying to get work, and the only character who ends up happy, the questionable message seeming to be that if you stick to what you’re good at and aim to integrate, you’ll survive.

In pic’s world, everyone is out to make an easy buck, and the script suggests that local perceptions of immigrant Koreans as crooks is the result of their arrival in an alien culture where savage capitalism reigns. Stylistically, pic is part gangster movie, part social realism and part musical (the kids keep breaking out into pop video-style Korean rap), and visual trickery is over-employed — strangely, it is neither Argentina or Korea that ultimately defines pic’s style, but Hollywood.

Perfs are fine considering that most cast members are holding down day-jobs in Argentina. Moments of nicely self-aware humor (“you’ve seen too many Korean films”) and reflective conversations about how they come to be in Argentina help to break up the general intensity.

Do U Cry 4 Me Argentina?

Argentina

Production

A Cinetica Television production. (International sales: Cinetica, Buenos Aires). Produced, directed, written by Bae Youn Suk.

Crew

Camera (color), Ariel Fernandez, Washington Perez, Suk; editors, Suk, Ariel Fernandez; art director, Suk; sound (Dolby), Washington Perez, Suk. Reviewed at Buenos Aires Independent Film Festival (national competition), April 17, 2005. Running time: 102 MIN.

With

Cho Duk Kyu, Kim Borum, Bang Hyoung Sik, Cristina Um.
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