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Address Unknown
  |     review    |     notes     |     availability     |      


Year: 2001
Director: Kim Ki-duk
Producer: Lee Seung-jae
Writer: Kim Ki-duk
Cast: Jo Jae-hyun, Yang Dong-kun, Park Min-jung, Bang Eun-jin, Kim Young-min, Myung Kye-nam, Mitch Mahlum
The Skinny: Hard hitting, shocking and incredibly powerful. Kim Ki-duk's take on the effects of the Korean War on its victims is a very good work, marred in part by the hilariously bad performance by Mitch Mahlum as the American soldier. Accused of being Anti-American, it at least has a balanced view of the consequences of war, unlike jingoistic commercial pap such as We Were Soldiers.
by LunaSea:

The central message of Kim Di-duk's film Address Unknown is how war has no winners, but only casualties: emotional, physical and social. Everybody in this film suffers, from nostalgia of the past; from the treatment they get by the government; from their condition in Korean society; and from the pain of being away from home in a new land, brought there for something they don't understand (the soldier at one point screams: "Where's the fucking enemy? We're the enemy!").

Chang-guk (Bet on My Disco's Yang Dong-kun) is a half-breed, whose African American father deserted him seventeen years earlier. His mother (Bang Eun-jin) keeps trying to write letters to her husband, but they're always returned to her (hence the title). She keeps promising her son they will soon leave for the US, and live a happy life with his father. Ji-heum (Kim Young-min) lives with his disabled father, and has a hard time accepting his condition. He rarely speaks, but he craves Eun-ook's (Park Min-jung) attention. Eun-ok herself lives a troubled life: she has a cataract on her eye, and her only pleasure seems to be "playing" (sexually) with her puppy. Kae-nun (Jo Jae-hyun, a Kim Ki-duk regular and star of the hit TV series Piano) is a a dog butcher who releases his pain beating dogs to death, but he's gentle with his girlfriend - Chang-guk's mother - and tries to protect her from her son's fits of rage.

The "love story" between the American Soldier and Eun-ook is an important part of the story, but it also partly hurts the whole experience. The character is certainly well drawn and multifaceted, but Mahlum's performance ruins it all. Kim's choice can only be understood if he was looking for spontaneity in the debuting young "actor." However, Mahlum is awkward, irritatingly over-the-top in scenes which require emotional release, and above all "fake." His performance ruins the air of realism that the rest of the excellent cast creates with their characters.

Address Unknown's tragic tone hints at the consequences of the Korean War on people without being heavy-handed or overly biased towards one side or the other. The American soldiers are an uncomfortable presence due to their sex crimes and behavior, but there's a deeper understanding of their fate as well. They're brought to an unknown land with nobody to talk to, and a cultural and linguistic barrier which is difficult to overlook. The film reaffirms Koreans' pride (especially in Eun-ook's resolution of her relationship with the soldier), and points fingers at those who use war as an easy tool without thinking about the consequences. It's a hard-hitting experience, with many shocking scenes and Kim's usual penchant for brutality mixed with poetic beauty. The only regret is that the director chose such an inexperienced actor for such an important role. Otherwise Address Unknown would be one of the strongest films of his career. Nonetheless, the emotional impact remains, and it's well worth watching. (LunaSea 2002)

Note: • Bang Eun-jin won the Best Supporting Actress Award at this year's Grand Bell Awards (Korea's most important Film Awards).
Availability: DVD (Korea)
Region 3 NTSC
Atlanta Contents Group
2-Disc Special Edition
Korean Language Track
Removable English, French, Italian, Spanish Subtitles
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Commentary Track by Director
Venice Film Festival Documentary
Making Of, Interviews with director and cast
*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc
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image courtesy of Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen