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Film

My Dear Enemy @ Fantasia, This Friday

Posted by Andrés / July 22, 2009

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Founded back in 1996, Montréal's Ciné-Asie has recently enjoyed the fruits of its labour with newly created Ciné-Asie Creatives. The organization this year has been involved with North American distribution deals. One of the first arrivals is South Korean director Lee Yoon-ki's latest film, My Dear Enemy premiering at Fantasia on Friday. Read on to find out why you should go watch it and what else Ciné-Asie is up to.

Fantasia Film Festival fanatics: you may have watched Na Hong-jin's debut action thriller The Chaser earlier this week in which a brutal young serial killer pops off sexy escorts and places their heads in aquariums. Well, you may remember the disturbed killer, played by Ha Jung-woo, an increasingly more prominent Korean film star. Even if you didn't catch the film (lucky you), you can imagine my shock when I see this twisted impotent freak that likes using hammers and nails on girl's heads as another womanizer in My Dear Enemy. Only this time, he's a decent friendly guy, sort of like James Stewart in It's a Wonderful Life, helping out others without any thought for himself. I guess everything works for him down there in this film.

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Since the average filmgoer at this event is the kind that finds head smashing seemingly hilarious, My Dear Enemy may come as a shocker. There is no blood, no violence, no swearing, no quick cuts and no fantastical creatures. Rather, this is about two very normal people: Hee-soo and Byoung-woon, two ex-lovers who meet again one year after their last encounter. Taking place in one day, it plays out like Lost in Translation, foregoing plot or point, and instead following two characters who we discover through small life-like events and who may come to understand each other.

Hee-soo could be described as a cold woman: she has travelled to find Byoung-woon for one purpose: to collect a debt of $3,500 which he failed to pay back for a whole year - and she's not leaving his side until he pays it back. The problem is that Byoung-woon is broke and homeless. He must rely on favours from all the people he has befriended over the years in order to pay back Hee-soo who begrudgingly accompanies him on the shameful exercise. Amongst the people he meets are a middle-aged rich corporate woman, a single mother, and a woman who may or may not work nights as a sex worker. While we never really learn why they are willing to help Byoung-woon out; it is clear that he is a kind-hearted person who was willing to help them out in the past. Interesting is that most of those he encounters are woman, and he is painted as some sort of unwitting womanizer, though his childish attitude certainly does not please Hee-soo. In fact, nothing that happens pleases Hee-soo, whose sour and demure appearance gradually make her less beautiful to the eye.

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Beneath the minimalist storytelling are some truths about the human experience. Hee-soo and Byoung-woon have very different priorities, as well as conceptions about money. For Byoung-woon, the $3,500 was more a favour than cash, and his forgetful nature led him to forget the IOU he had written her over a year before. For Hee-soo, the $3,500 was never a favour: but a loan. What we learn as they drive around the city is that the people Byoung-woon collects from are returning him favours, not simply cash. The conception of cash as cash or as a helping hand may be one of the points that drew these two characters apart years before, though we are never given a window into their past life.

My Dear Enemy is not a particularly memorable film in that it is not an eventful film. Like many minimalist films of recent years, its aim is not to entertain in an overt way, but to bring the audience along the ride: to provide a window for the now of these two characters, and perhaps raise some answers as to what kind of people they are and what their outlook on life is. I found Lee Yoon-ki's movie a road trip worth taking, even if just once. And for Fantasia filmgoers, this may be the film to check out to take a break from gushing blood, or to get a different side of actor Ha Jung-woo who plays a human being rather than a homicidal maniac.

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Special thanks to Ciné-Asie for allowing me to check out an advanced screening of the film, as well as or the images above. They are up to much more this year, including being a co-sponsor of the current pinku eiga (Japanese soft erotica) films playing at the Cinémathèque québécoise. The series plays until July 26th, so there are still quite a few films left to check out. Most of them are no more than 60-80 minutes. You can also check out movie posters of pinku eiga films from the 60s and 70s at the Cinémathèque.

My Dear Enemy plays Friday, July 24th and Monday, July 27th as part of the Fantasia Film Festival.

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