This Week in South Korean Film - 1/06/2021

Afterlifes, Angels, and Athletes

This week sees the rerelease of Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds in South Korean theaters. Rereleases of existing films have been quite common in the COVID-19 afflicted film market, but this is the first time a mainstream South Korean film has gotten such treatment. Up until now only mainstream American rereleases had been getting any kind of serious distribution. Although that’s very much a relative term. These chronic rereleases have consistently struggled against newer films, even bearing in mind that newer films only have a fraction of the audience they once did. They’re around mainly to offer variety at the multiplex at this point.

As for the quality of the movie aesthetically, well, my review can be found here. The short of it is that while the Along With the Gods movies are deliberate spectacle, framed around a grotesque and awe-inspiring afterlife, the actual conflicts are surprisingly down to earth. The plot of the first movie revolves entirely around the life of an ordinary firefighter that’s repeatedly judged across various planes of existence. The second movie, which I wrote about here, alters the format so that the main human conflict takes place a thousand years in the past. As in the first movie, the organization of the afterlife is also important, allowing for a three-pronged approach of spectacle, humanity, and bureaucracy. The movies are interesting if nothing else, and can probably be found in English by now. More are forthcoming, supposedly, although there’s no details as of yet.

In terms of actual new movies there’s only one this week. Finding Angel isn’t a rerelease, although amusingly enough its first showtime actually predates that of Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds. Finding Angel premiered at the 2017 iteration of the Jeonju International Film Festival. This means an English subtitled version does exist, although it seems unlikely to be released overseas. Going by the trailer Finding Angel is a fairly sweet and sentimental movie about an anonymous benefactor to the less fortunate. It certainly doesn’t look like an independent film, by which I mean the tone seems surprisingly upbeat. Finding Angel could easily pass for a mainstream Christmas movie, and I imagine that’s what most people would assume it was if they saw it on an airplane or what-not.

Speaking of which, American Airlines is currently playing Baseball Girl. You can read my review about it here. While not a particularly depressing movie Baseball Girl is definitely more in the comparably morose independent film style tone. This is particularly funny since a superficial description of the movie certainly makes it sound uplifting. A teenage girl wants to join the professional baseball leagues. Except the title character’s adversities aren’t depicted as destined to be successful provided she tries hard enough. The movie is deadly serious about the obstacles, be they social, emotional, or physical, rendering the task borderline impossible, but not quite.

I found Baseball Girl a welcome reprieve from the overly cheerful tenor of sports movies in general. Which really just goes to show how novelty in presentation can go a long way. Or maybe it just seems that way to jaded film critics.