×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Spring in My Hometown

Kwangmo Lee's exquisite first feature is one of those slowly paced, minimalist Asian pics which play well at festivals but which rarely make it into Western arthouse cinemas. Buffs will revel in the film's placid beauty, but patience is needed for full appreciation of the film and the director's penchant for staging key scenes in extreme long shot will make even TV exposure problematic.

Kwangmo Lee’s exquisite first feature is one of those slowly paced, minimalist Asian pics which play well at festivals but which rarely make it into Western arthouse cinemas. Buffs will revel in the film’s placid beauty, but patience is needed for full appreciation of the film and the director’s penchant for staging key scenes in extreme long shot will make even TV exposure problematic.

Dedicated to the filmmaker’s father and grandfather, “who never lost hope” (per closing title), the film spans two years, 1952-1953, in a tiny backwater far from the battleground of the Korean War. However, the conflict impinges itself on the traditional lives of these villagers via the unwanted presence of American troops and their fraternization with local women.

The film is seen from the perspective of a little boy, Sung Min, who spends all his spare time with best friend Chang Hee. Endlessly inquisitive, the sprigs delight to spy on Yank soldiers who dally with women in an old abandoned barn.

But one afternoon they’re in for a rude shock, as the woman having sex with a Yank is Chang Hee’s mother. The distraught lad reacts badly to the shocking revelation, and some time later the barn burns down and Chang Hee disappears. Later still, the unidentifiable body of a boy Chang Hee’s age is found in the river.

This little tragedy unfolds in the most leisurely style, with glorious, photography by Hyungkoo Kim — whose camera remains stationery throughout — making a major contribution.

A key element of the film is the political undercurrent in which neighbor is pitted against neighbor even in this isolated place, with right-wingers in the village opposed to the armistice and indeed any compromise with the hated communists.

The actors inhabit their roles with complete conviction, and music is used sparsely but effectively to enhance the delicate mood.

Interestingly, the title is something of a misnomer, since the events unfold either in summer or fall, and the landscape is bathed in a permanently autumnal glow.

Narrative is punctuated with regular titles which elaborate on the personal story as well as setting the events alongside the wider political context. But one of these titles, as translated, mistakenly states that Richard Nixon visited Korea as president in 1953.

Technical credits for this poetic, gentle, but probing film are pristine.

Spring in My Hometown

(SOUTH KOREAN -- PERIOD DRAMA)

Production: A Korean Film Art Center/Baek Du-Daegan Co. Ltd. production. Directed, written by Kwangmo Lee.

Crew: Camera (color), Hyungkoo Kim; editor, Sungwon Ham; music, Il Won; production design, Jae Hee Song; sound, Seungshul Lee. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Directors Fortnight), May 15, 1998. Running time: 110 MIN.

With: With: Sungki Ahn, Yoojung Bae, Oksook Song, Seonhoi Yoo, In Lee.

More Film

  • Loureiro’s Abano, Aragón’s Caribe Music Team

    Chelo Loureiro, Emilio Aragón Team on Animated ‘Valentina’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    CANNES – Spanish producer-turned director Chelo Loureiro of Galicia’s Ábano Producións has teamed with Spanish multi-hyphenate Emilio Aragón at Caribe Music to produce the upcoming animated feature “Valentina.” Valentina turns on a girl who is tired of having Down syndrome, and believes it to be the reason she’ll never be a trapeze artist. But Valentina’s [...]

  • Morelia Brings Four Shorts To Cannes

    Morelia’s Daniela Michel Presents Four Standout Mexican Shorts at Critics' Week

    Since 2005, the Cannes Film Festival Critics’ Week and Mexico’s Morelia Intl. Film Festival (FICM) have enjoyed a reciprocal relationship. Each year, a selection of short competition films from Morelia is shown in a special selection at Critics’ Week, with the features from the Cannes section screening five months later in Morelia. The short film [...]

  • Fedor Bondarchuk Drops Teaser for ‘Attraction

    Fedor Bondarchuk Drops Teaser for ‘Attraction 2’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    CANNES–Russian director Fedor Bondarchuk and his Art Pictures Studio have released the English-subbed teaser to “Attraction 2,” the sequel to Bondarchuk’s 2017 sci-fi blockbuster, which Variety has acquired exclusively. The director behind record-breaking Russian films such as World War II epic “Stalingrad” was in Cannes this week, where he presented footage from Art Pictures’ slate of upcoming [...]

  • Gkids Takes North American Rights for

    Gkids Takes North American Rights for ‘Weathering With You’

    CANNES–Gkids, the U.S. distributor of 11 best animated feature Oscar nominees, has acquired North American rights for “Weathering With You,” the new film from director Makoto Shinkai and producer Genki Kawamura. Gkids has set an awards-qualifying run for 2019 with a theatrical release in early 2020, in both the original Japanese and a new English-language [...]

  • Transilvania Film Fest Launches New SVOD

    Transilvania Film Fest Launches New SVOD Platform

    CANNES–The Transilvania Intl. Film Festival has announced a new SVOD service, TIFF Unlimited, which will launch during the festival’s 18th edition, which bows May 31 in Cluj, Romania. The service will curate titles from current and previous editions of the festival, while also showcasing other hand-picked auteur-driven productions, presented in partnership with local distributors. It [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content