April 18, 2005

Cornell Cinema

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As part of Cornell Cinema’s usual presentation of foreign films, playing this week are two movies from Asia exploring diverse genres. A Korean film, A Tale of Two Sisters, delivers Stephen King-like spooks. Another film from Bhutan, Travellers and Magicians, explores one man finding and loosing himself simultaneously.

A Tale of Two Sisters

The Ring opened up the floodgates for horror movies from Asia and for the most part, the past few years of terror imports like The Grudge and its peers have been good. To join the neighborhood is Ji-woon Kim’s dark exploration into guilt and what skeletons a family decides to hid in its closet.

Two very close sisters, Su-mi and Su-yeon return home after a period of hospitalization that is not explained to live with their father, who is distant and their new step-mother, who is a little too nice. Most of the tension comes from the fact that the audience knows that there is something terribly wrong in the household but we just don’t know exactly what it is. Don’t worry, you will find out (almost) and have plenty of scares along the way. Not only does Two Sisters provide moments that make you jump in your seat, it manages to sustain an overall creepiness much like Kubrick’s The Shining.

It’s difficult to describe the film any further without taking away some of the surprise, of which is worth sticking around for. Just a little word of advice is to avoid any wardrobes you might run into (or get trapped in).

Travelers and Magicians

When the protagonist of this film tells another character that he is going to the United States she replies, “America. I heard they don’t even know where Bhutan is there.” I have to admit, after watching this movie I had to check out the World Factbook to find out a little more about this small country in the Himalayas. However Khyentse Norbu’s beautiful film ended up telling me much more about Bhutan than any list of statistics.

The film’s protagonist is Dondup, a young long-haired man who is dying to get out of the rural village where his government job has left him. When an opportunity to get a visa to go to America arrives, he packs all his American CD’s and clothes and heads for the bus stop. However, he misses his bus and must hitchhike his way to the capital within two days to get his ticket out. Along the way, a traditional apple seller, a Buddhist monk and a paper maker and his daughter join him at various points in his travels.

The monk, fully aware of Dondup’s infatuation with western culture tells a fable. This fable turns into a parallel storyline that follows the original plot. The second plot, which ends up being a lot like The Postman Always Rings Twice, ties into Dondup’s search for what the monk calls “dreamland.” Eventually Dondup starts to question his planned trip to America, especially since he shows a liking to the girl that he is now traveling with. Eventually the film revolves around whether Dondup will take a chance and go to the “dreamland” of the West or remain in his native country. All of this is set against the dramatic and beautiful landscape of Bhutan and filmed using soft colors.

Archived article by Mark Rice
Sun Film Editor