Fest focuses more on pix than names

PUSAN, S. Korea — With more movies than ever this year, and the Korean selection at an all-time high, the Pusan Intl. Film Festival consolidated its rep as a useful shopping center for Asian cinema, but not a showcase for big names or a wealth of major discoveries.

With the World Cinema section largely for locals to savor — South Korea has almost no arthouse network catering to movie buffs — most visitors come to sample the Asian lineup. “Sample” is the operative word, as the sheer volume of titles dictates against anyone, even well-traveled industryites, being able to see more than a selection.

The competitive, 12-title New Currents section pretty much justified its policy this year of playing hardball in demanding world preems. Gay-themed Taiwanese drama “Eternal Summer,” from Leste Chen, was among the most talked-about entries.

Of the debut films on display, Korean audience-pleaser “Driving With My Wife’s Lover,” a marital drama by Kim Tai-shik; Vietnamese emoter “The White Silk Dress,” by Huynh Luu; and oddball femme two-hander “Wool 100%,” by Japan’s Mai Tominaga, all revealed potential future talents.

Widescreen memory meller “The Railroad,” the sophomore feature by Park Heung-shik, drew strongest support from Asiaphiles more accustomed to the genre’s conventions, while Mayu Nakamura’s coming-of-age pic “The Summer of Stickleback” showed a nascent charm but no strong personal signature.

However, New Currents, like the Asian selection as a whole, still continued to favor indie, minimalist-style fare at the expense of a broader panorama of Asian production, limiting PIFF’s usefulness as a true one-stop venue.

The weak opener, Korean “Traces of Love,” also highlighted PIFF’s growing problem of attracting preems from major Asian names, who now prefer to bow in European or U.S. fests.

Other Asian-themed preems certain to have a future life in the West included docus “Crossing the Line” and “Comrades in Dreams,” Shinya Tsukamoto’s psychodrama “Nightmare Detective,” Patrick Tam’s highly tooled return “After This Our Exile,” Shin Dong-il’s classy chamber drama “My Friend & His Wife” and fest-only gem “The Last Dining Table” by Roh Gyeong-tae, hidden away in Critics’ Choice.

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