This Charming Girl (여자, 정혜, Lee Yoon-ki: 2004)

This Charming Girl was the first film screened in the Lee Yoon-ki month at the Korean Cultural Centre UK, as part of the ‘Year of 12 Directors’ on 9th August 2012. KCCUK was packed with the film having sold out, with indicates the popularity of Director Lee, and I am expecting similar audiences for the remaining 3 screenings this month.

The protagonist of This Charming Girl is Jung-hye (Kim Ji-su), an ordinary young woman who works a mundane job in a post office and whose life is the epitome of loneliness and post-modern alienation. We are drawn into her daily life, as she goes about her day to day routine, the film detailing the very minatue of her existence. A naturalistic film, with almost no extraneous noise and the very bare minimum use of soundtrack,  This Charming Girl is an exemplary example of what Deleuze calls ‘cinema of the time-image’, in other words, a film concerned with the expression of lived time, and the movement of memory which disrupts the flow of time, actualising the virtual through its interpenetration into the present: a key example of this is the present in which Jung-hye  is lying on her sofa, while her new kitten licks her feet, which ‘becomes’ the past, and instead of the kitten licking her feet, we see instead her mother cutting her toenails as the two share a tender moment of mother-daughter bonding. The day-to-day life of Jung-hye is continually interrupted by such ‘becomings’ as past and present dissolve into one temporal continuum. It is through such temporal disruptions that we access Jung-hye’s interiority, seeing events from her past including leaving her husband during the honeymoon, past encounters with men including a ‘rape’ – the trauma of which prevents her entering into meaningful relationships with men in the present. In line with the naturalistic depiction of life, Director Lee offers no resolution to Jung-hye’s traumatic past instead choosing to end the film on the cusp of the future: a moment of virtuality which still remains to be actualised.

Time unfolds slowly in This Charming Girl and the film relies on the strength of Kim Ji-su’s performance to draw viewers into the cinematic diegisis and ultimately to care about what will happen to her in the future, and thus resolve the film themselves  rather than relying on a diegetic [re]solution to Jung-hye’s inability to move on from the ghosts of her past.

While I personally found that time moved slightly too slowly for me, and I would have liked a nice scene of bloody revenge (there was one moment when I thought this was going to happen), This Charming Girl deserves the awards and accolades that it won, and is well worth going out of your way to see.


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