An elderly lady in her 60's Yang Mija (played by Yun Jeong-Hee) works as a carer for a disabled man and she also raises her grandson alone. She has to endure the onset of Alzheimer's disease and also learns that her grandson was one of the attackers of a junior high school girl that committed suicide.
Through all of this and to fulfil her lifelong dream of becoming a poet the elderly woman starts to take a poetry class and starts writing.
Winner of the Best Screenplay Award at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival, Lee Chang-dong's follow-up to his acclaimed Secret Sunshine is a masterful study of the subtle empowerment-and moral compass-of an older woman that refuses to give up on life.
Arrow Films presents Lee Chang-dong’s Poetry on Blu-ray in its original aspect ratio of about 1.85:1 on this dual-layer disc in a 1080p/24hz high-definition transfer. Though this is a UK release (Kino has released a Blu-ray in North America) it is region free and should play on all players; it played without issue on my PS3.
The transfer certainly looks nice, though maybe the victim of some minor digital manipulation. It looks very bright, I’d almost say boosted, but this could be intentional; Criterion’s Blu-ray for Lee Chang-dong’s Secret Sunshine presents a similar look, though something seemed a little more artificial here. The image is sharp with some strong details but nothing ever really pops and it looks like some minor scrubbing has gone on since grain is barely noticeable and some of the finer details can look a little fuzzy, but nothing ever came off waxy or plastic-like on its surface at least. But colours look to be nicely rendered, with some sharp reds and greens, skin tones look natural, and blacks are fairly deep and clean. The print is in excellent condition with nary a blemish present.
In the end I can’t say if this best represents how it was presented theatrically, but I couldn’t pick out any big issues and in all it’s still a generally pleasing presentation.
We get a surprisingly immersive Korean DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround track here. It’s never showy, loud, or in your face in any way, yet it always has something subtle going on. Dialogue sticks to the front channels and sounds clean and natural, while the surrounds deliver the background sound effects like street noises, crowds, bird calls, breezes, or, like in a few places, the applause of an audience. It all sounds so clean and natural, with excellent splits and movements between the speakers, and because of this it really places the viewer in the environment. It’s not a film that calls for anything showy but the track we get here delivers an impressive experience.
The supplements are a little disappointing and feel slight, though it looks to top the Kino disc, which only has a couple of items on it (again I haven’t seen that disc and I’m basing this only on the specifications I’ve seen for it.)
First is a 19-minute making of featuring interviews with director Lee Chang-dong, and some of the actors that appear in the film, and seems to be more about the working relationship between them. Actor Lee Da-wit talks about his experience with the director and what it was like to work alongside veteran actor Yun Jung-hie, as does actor Kim Hira. Though I can’t say it offers anything truly insightful it’s an engaging extra.
On set with Lee Chang-dong & Yun Jung-hie basically presents some behind-the-scenes moments featuring the actress at work and then interviews with the two talking about the character she portrays. They also talk a little about her career and how this role (her first in 15 years) fits into her filmography. It runs about 9-minutes.
Yun Jung-hie: The Legendary Actrees is a 2-and-a-half minute PR piece about the actresses long career and all of her accomplishments. It’s not at all in-depth but a nice piece for those unfamiliar with the actress (like myself.)
The final interview is a 2-minute segment featuring Ahn Nae-sang who talks a little about Chang-dong and the film. It’s basically leftovers of his bit that was featured in the main making of found on this disc.
Arrow next includes the original Korean theatrical trailer and then the UK trailer.
The big supplement, and the best one by far, is the audio commentary featuring film critic Kim Young-jin interviewing director Lee Chang-dong. In Korean with English subtitles it features Young-jin talking about the film and how he feels about certain aspects of it while asking the director why he chose to do things a certain way, how he developed the story, the relevance of certain items within the film, how it was working with the actors, and any other subject he can come up with. Chang-dong answers freely and offers his own interpretations, and offers a number of anecdotes from the set and technical information about the making of the film. It’s fairly loose and not at all stuffy and is worth a listen.
That unfortunately closes it up, and while some of the material feels light and short the commentary is at least a solid addition.
A nice edition for the film. It presents a pleasing transfer, a pleasant surprise for an audio track, and a small wealth of supplements including an excellent commentary featuring the director. I haven’t seen the Kino edition yet so can’t comment on its transfer, but for those concerned about supplements this may be the one to go with, and the fact that it’s region free means anyone can pick it up.