×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Springtime

A beautifully modulated, assured performance by Choi Min-shik anchors "Springtime," the tale of a disillusioned music teacher who leaves the big city and finds renewal at a rural junior high. A tad long at more than two hours, but, this would make a quality entry in festival sidebars, with some chance of Eurocable play down the line.

With:
With: Choi Min-shik, Kim Ho-jeong, Jang Shin-yeong, Yun Yeo-jeong, Kim Yeong-ok, Jang Hyeon-seong, Kim Gang-woo, Lee Jae-eung.

A beautifully modulated, assured performance by Choi Min-shik (“Old Boy,” “Chihwaseon”) anchors “Springtime,” the tale of a disillusioned music teacher who leaves the big city and finds renewal at a rural junior high. A tad long at more than two hours, but, like its protag gaining inner strength from its relaxed approach, this would make a quality entry in festival sidebars, with some chance of Eurocable play down the line. For such an unflashy, character-driven film, local B.O. was solid at 700,000 admissions (north of $4 million) this fall.

The theme of returning to simpler, small-town values is still a potent one in South Korean cinema, though generally attached to stories of revisiting one’s childhood home or school. Latter is not the case here: Middle-aged, still-single Lee Hyeon-woo (Choi), a talented wind player and amateur composer whose professional and emotional life in Seoul has stalled, is only able to find a job at a no-hope school in an insignificant mining town.

Leaving behind a woman, Yeon-heui (Kim Ho-jeong), who’s equally frustrated at his refusal to commit to her, Hyeon-woo starts teaching a small wind band of unmotivated kids who are due to enter a music competition. He also gradually gets to know the pretty local pharmacist, Su-yeon (Jang Shin-yeong), who’s having troubles with her b.f. (Kim Gang-woo).

With all the ducks in place, film looks like it’s going to turn into a cozy tale of the power of music and community values — along the lines of “Mr. Holland’s Opus” or “Les choristes” — climaxing with the crucial concert. Instead, the focus stays tight on Hyeon-woo himself and the 10 or so supporting players whose lives intersect with his own.

Chief among these is one of his charges, young Jae-il (Lee Jae-eung), whom he befriends and often shares a simple meal with, as well as financially helping the tyke’s impoverished grandmother.

Hyeon-woo’s friendship with Su-yeon also doesn’t run along expected lines: It’s left vague whether there’s any romantic leanings on Hyeon-woo’s side, and their relationship slowly blossoms into a real friendship.

Typically for the whole movie, the final music competition isn’t blown up into a heartwarming climax. Pic’s real, interior climax is in Hyeon-woo’s final realization of Yeon-heui’s part in his life, sketched in the gently moving final reels.

No South Korean actor is better at portraying shambling, somewhat ornery charm than Choi and here, far more reined in than in “Old Boy,” he offhandedly dominates the picture, often with a sly wit. Jang is fine as the young pharmacist, and Lee totally cute-free as the young kid.

Tech credits are pro, with Lee Mo-gae’s camerawork catching the cold light of a bone-freezing Korean winter.

Springtime

South Korea

Production: A Chungeorahm Film release of a Chungeorahm presentation, in association with Cinema Service, Tube Entertainment, Happinet Co. and OCN, of a Siz Entertainment production. (International sales: Tube, Seoul.) Produced by Jo Seong-weon. Executive producer, Choi Yong-bae. Directed by Ryu Jang-ha. Screenplay, Yun Jae-gyun, Lee Eun-gyeong, Jeong Heo Deok-jae, Ryu.

Crew: Camera (color), Lee Mo-gae; editor, Kim Hyeon; music, Jo Seong-woo; art director, Lee Geun-ah; costumes, Kim Mun-hyeong; sound (Dolby Digital), Lee Byeong-ha; assistant director, Kim Du-hyeon. Reviewed on videocassette, London, Nov. 19, 2004. (In Tokyo Film Festival -- Winds of Asia.) Running time: 128 MIN.

With: With: Choi Min-shik, Kim Ho-jeong, Jang Shin-yeong, Yun Yeo-jeong, Kim Yeong-ok, Jang Hyeon-seong, Kim Gang-woo, Lee Jae-eung.

More Film

  • Mara Watkins Nabhaan Rizwan Steven Wouterlood

    Diverse Talents Pepper Variety's Fifth 10 Europeans to Watch List

    Variety has unveiled its fifth edition of 10 Europeans to Watch, spotlighting 10 rising talents from across the continent who are poised for breakthroughs in 2019. The selection includes emerging actors, directors, showrunners and cinematographers from six countries whose dynamic talents are being showcased on screens big and small, and on both sides of the camera. [...]

  • Glass Movie

    Box Office: 'Glass' Shines Overseas With $48.5 Million Weekend

    After autobots and aquatic kings have dominated foreign markets over the past few weeks, a different kind of hero has risen to the top of box office charts. M. Night Shyamalan’s “Glass” is the new champ overseas, pulling in $48.5 million from international territories. The supernatural thriller, a sequel to 2000’s “Unbreakable” and 2016’s “Split,” debuted [...]

  • Yalitza Aparicio as Cleo, Marco Graf

    'Roma' and 'The Favourite' Lead London Critics' Circle Winners

    After ruling the U.S. critics’ award circuit, “Roma” continued its dominance on the other side of the pond, as the London Film Critics’ Circle announced its winners tonight. A week after landing seven BAFTA nominations, Alfonso Cuarón’s Mexico City memory piece landed film of the year and director of the year honors from the group [...]

  • M. Night Shyamalan Should Stop Writing

    The Big Twist M. Night Shyamalan Needs: He Should Stop Writing His Own Scripts (Column)

    Quick, name the greatest film by each of the following directors: Alfred Hitchcock, Steven Spielberg, David Lean, Robert Altman, Roman Polanski, Kathryn Bigelow, Jonathan Demme. Answers will vary (mine would be: “Psycho,” “Saving Private Ryan,” “Lawrence of Arabia,” “Nashville,” “Chinatown,” “The Hurt Locker,” “The Silence of the Lambs”), but whatever your taste, odds are that [...]

  • Andy Vajna Dead: 'Rambo' Producer and

    Andy Vajna, 'Rambo' Producer, Dies at 74

    Andy Vajna, executive producer of several “Rambo” films as well as “Total Recall” and several “Terminator” movies, died Sunday in Budapest after a long illness. He was 74. The Hungarian National Film Fund confirmed his death, calling him a “dominant figure in the Hungarian and international film industry” who was responsible for the development of [...]

  • Glass trailer

    Box Office: 'Glass' Dominates MLK Weekend With $47 Million

    M. Night Shyamalan’s “Glass” topped box office charts during the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, collecting $40 million over the weekend for a four-day sum of $47 million. If estimates hold, “Glass” will come in behind “American Sniper” ($107 million) and “Ride Along” ($48 million) as the third-best showing for both January and MLK holiday [...]

  • FICG Names Estrella Araiza As New

    Estrella Araiza To Head Up Guadalajara Intl Film Festival

    The Guadalajara Intl. Film Festival (FICG) has announced that Estrella Araiza, until now the festival’s head of industry and markets and director of the Guadalajara IntL. Film Festival in Los Angeles, has been promoted to the position of general director of the prominent Mexican festival. She replaces Ivan Trujillo, appointed director of TV UNAM. Araiza [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content