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Turning Gate
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Kim Sang-Kyung in Turning Gate.
  AKA: On the Occasion of Remembering the Turning Gate
Year: 2002  
Director: Hong Sang-Soo  
  Cast: Kim Sang-Kyung, Chu Sang-Mi, Ye Ji-Won, Kim Hak-Sun
  The Skinny: Fate and coincidence collide in this mesmerizing tale of one man's personal journey of romance and self-reflection.
Review by Calvin McMillin:

     "Even though it's difficult to be a human being, let's not turn into monsters." That initially throwaway piece of advice echoes - sometimes comically, sometimes poignantly - throughout acclaimed director Hong Sang-Soo's brilliant 2002 film Turning Gate. The film is deceptively simple; there isn't a traditional plot per se, but as events unfold, the filmmakers' more novelistic approach to storytelling pays off in spades, leading to a memorable, wholly satisfying finale.
     After being passed over for a role in an upcoming film, actor Kim Kyung-Soo (Kim Sang-Kyung from Memories of Murder) leaves Seoul to visit his old pal, Sung-Woo (Kim Hak-Sun). While in Chuncheon, they take a ferry ride to see the fabled "Turning Gate." The two of them never actually make it to the gate, but along the way, Sung-Woo tells his friend about the legend attached to it. Take note: it's a story revealed only in passing, but it actually comes to have a greater meaning as the film develops.
     During the first half of the movie, the men meet up with Nyung-Suk (Ye Ji-Won), who quickly becomes smitten with Kyung-Soo. After a stolen moment of fervent kissing, Nyung-Suk and Kyung-Soo find time to be alone and end up embarking on a passionate one-night stand. Nyung-Suk falls hard for Kyung-Soo, and numerous complications arise for everyone involved, resulting in our hapless hero taking the next train back to Seoul not long afterwards.
     While on the train, Kyung-Soo finds himself sitting next to the beautiful Sun-Young (Chu Sang-Mi, from Everybody Has Secrets). She claims to recognize Kyung-Soo from his acting jobs, but he doesn't have a clue who she is. When she gets off the train at her stop, Kyung-Soo is impelled to follow her. After a humorous encounter involving her nosy family members, the two find time to get to know each other. But what initially seems like a case of "love at first sight" (or "lust at first sight" anyway) turns out to be much more as Sun-Young reveals more about her past connection to Kyung-Soo. Not long after, he falls deeply in love with her (maybe!), and perhaps she with him. However, the legend of the Turning Gate, likely forgotten by even the most attentive viewer, soon comes into play in the most fitting of ways.
     As the narrative anchor of the film, Kim Sang-Kyung makes for an interesting leading man, perhaps mostly because the unsympathetic Kyung-Soo is so far from the traditional protagonist in a mainstream film. He is clumsy, dull, and perpetually awkward throughout most of the film, yet still fascinating in the context of his interactions with the two women, especially in his late-coming epiphany in the second half of the film. Ye Ji-Won is believable as the clingy Nyung-Suk, whereas the beautiful Chu Sang-Mi is impressive as Kyung-Soo's "dream woman," conveying an alluring image of both intelligence and strength, especially in comparison to rather weak-willed Kyung-Soo.
     The numerous connections between the first and second halves of the story, as well as Hong Sang-Soo's unobtrusive, naturalistic storytelling method make Turning Gate the kind of movie that warrants a second and even a third viewing, as little incidents and bits of dialogue are actually interconnected in ways one might not necessarily catch the first time around. Although some may be put off by the quiet aimlessness of the initial portions of the film, it becomes increasingly relevant to its more obviously involving second half. Refreshingly frank in its depiction of sexuality, Turning Gate is yet another movie about missed opportunities and second chances at love. The film offers no firm answers as to whether fate or coincidence is at play in our romantic entanglements, only that it is neither of these things that determine whether we become monsters in the end. As Kyung-Soo perhaps learns at the story's close, it is not our destiny, but our choices that matter the most. (Calvin McMillin, 2007)

Notes: • The film's second half bears at least a small resemblance to Richard Linklater's Before Sunrise. Not only do the two characters in Turning Gate have a chance encounter on a train that results in an impromptu romance, but they even visit a fortune teller as Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy did in the 1995 film.

Region 1 NTSC
YA Entertainment
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Korean Language Track
Removable English Subtitles
Dolby Digital / DTS
Trailer, "Making of" Featurette, Movie Highlights, Sneak Peeks

  Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen