SUNRISE/SUNSET & LEAVE THE BUS THROUGH THE BROKEN WINDOW
(The 2019 BAMCinemaFest ran June 12 – June 23 in Brooklyn, New York. HtN writer Matt Delman caught a double-feature at the fest. Like what you see here on Hammer to Nail? Why not pay just $1.00 per month via Patreon to help keep us going?)
The young man at the center of Sunrise/Sunset is not exactly a slacker, though the film’s style owes a certain amount to Richard Linklater. Min Suk, played by newcomer Kwangmin Lee, is more of an under-achiever. (He buys the prep books but can’t pass the exams). He’s charming enough to have a long-distance girlfriend, which brings him to New York City, where she’s studying abroad at NYU. His story, though structured like a travelogue, is actually more closely connected to his heart. Taking advantage of the city’s most famous tourist spots as his backdrop, director Jong Ougie Pak casually depicts a relationship transitioning—of two young partners evolving and growing apart. Evoking the naivety of Mia Hansen Love’s Goodbye First Love and Eric Rohmer’s freewheeling A Summer’s Tale before that, Sunrise/Sunset is a 47-minute bittersweet romantic escapade worth taking.
This type of meandering filmmaking relies heavily on the chemistry of its leads, which they fortunately have in spades. The girl, Yeon Jae played by South Korean actress Woohyun Kim, is kind and curious and a seemingly good match for the aimless Min Suk. His soft-spoken character is not unlike another recent Korean breakout Ah-in Yoo of Burning. Min Suk, though, can be a bit whiny, and that gets him into trouble with Yeon Jae who has come to enjoy her new life of independence in America. The film charts a course starting with their excited reunion through their inevitable uncoupling, but the story remains hopeful despite a half-hearted suicidal voiceover that’s played for laughs.
Min Suk’s voiceover punctuates the story throughout with humor and poignant philosophical observations. Witty writing is another vital component of the walking-and-talking genre, and Pak delivers. Thank goodness the voiceover (which is tough to get right) and the leads’ repartee is cleverly written because there isn’t much else going on. The compositions are nicely framed in a postcard type of way, and the black and white cinematography is well lit and unassuming. The sound design, on the other hand, could use some work (it’s rough but not beyond repair). Despite their budgetary limitations, the filmmakers have pulled off a beautiful “film featurette”—their label, not mine—something akin to a cinematic novella. One could also argue the short runtime is by design, mirroring the ephemeral quality of young love.
Leave the Bus Through the Broken Window is a wonderfully magical title for a wonderfully magical film. Possibly a phonetic nod to Exit Through The Gift Shop, (the Banksy doc), Leave The Bus is another investigative art-world film that blends reality with illusion. Director Andrew Hevia, in search of an artist to profile at Art Basil in Hong Kong, instead chronicles his own journey, becoming the protagonist himself. The first person POV can feel like a videogame at times, but even more disorienting is Hong Kong itself, and within that, the crazy world of High Art. It’s a real trip.
The one-man band is Andrew Hevia, traveling alone in an unfamiliar distant land. He is alone, but the audience is guided on his journey through the perspective of a robotic narrator. The narrator is faceless and monotone but not bland—one can imagine Emily from Don Hertzfeldt’s World of Tomorrow wryly commentating from some omniscient perch. Random oddball characters throughout also provide humor, and we get a few glimpses of romance with a Ukrainian woman. It’s not worth spoiling each encounter here, but let’s just say you’ll want to hear and see the Karaoke sing-a-long about Instagram influencers with your own eyes and ears.
Few films that are this weird break out into the mainstream. Hertzfeldt and the Banksy doc come to mind, as does last year’s under-appreciated Ghostbox Cowboy. What’s most interesting though is the filmmaker’s personal point of view. The ex-girlfriend with the dog that he left behind enriches the story with meaning and helps anchor the utter absurdity of Hong Kong. Leave The Bus is about leaving the past behind for something new and exciting. Sometimes you take a leap of faith and end up jumping off a building.
– Matthew Delman (@ItsTheRealDel)
Like what you see here on Hammer to Nail? Why not pay just $1.00 per month via Patreon to help keep us going?