Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
NYAFF ’13: The Peach Tree
would have been a Sophie’s Choice worthy of Solomon, but a devoted father was
understandably reluctant to make it. Instead, he raises his two sons, conjoined
twin brothers fused at the neck, in seclusion.
When they finally encounter a young woman, both will be profoundly
affected in Ku Hye-sun’s The Peach Tree (trailer here), which screens
today during the 2013 New York Asian Film Festival.
is the sullen brother who controls their shared body. Sang-hyun is literally the superfluous one,
who can only watch passively from his backward looking vantage point. He is the one doctors wanted to “remove,” but
their father could not bear to consent. Both
bear the emotionally scars of their mother’s rapid descent into madness. Thinking it best to shelter them from an
insensitive world, their father raises them in a remote farmhouse, with their mother
hidden away like Rochester’s wife.
by his increasing resentment of Sang-hyun, the well-meaning father tries to
realize Dong-hyun’s ambition to become a published writer by recruiting Park
Seung-ah, a struggling children’s book illustrator. Shrouded in a hoodie to appear unremarkable,
Dong-hyun starts falling for Park as they work on a book transparently based on
his own experiences: The Peach Tree. Yet, even though Sang-hyun cannot see Park,
he still shares his brother’s growing attachment.
Peach Tree, Ku’s approach screams to
be compared to Tim Burton, in both good and bad ways. Visually, she commands the screen, while
showing an acute affinity for outcasts and underdogs. There is a comparable attention to detail,
but unfortunately there is also a somewhat similar slackness to her
narrative. It is no surprise where this
film is headed, but Ku takes her time getting there.
there is no getting around the fact Peach
Tree looks incredible. Cinematographer
Kim Soon-yong gives it all a rich, sun-drenched look appropriate for a fairy
tale. Formerly a major Korean TV star,
Ku has become an artistic polyglot, producing well received works in a variety
of media, like a Korean James Franco, except more talented and less
annoying. Clearly, she is an actor’s
director, coaxing some finely wrought work from her cast. Ryu Deok-hwan nicely expresses all the
complicated and conflicted turmoil roiling within Dong-hyun. In contrast, Cho Sueng-woo is mostly just
called upon to look sad as Sang-hyun, but he does so convincingly. However, Nam Sang-mi finds unexpected depth
in Park, who turns out to be more human than your typically noble
It is hard to watch the first and last ten
minutes of Peach Tree and not get
choked up. It is also difficult to miss
the naked manipulation. Ku’s film is
lovely to look at and features some finely drawn performances, but it would
have been nice to have a bit more life in the middle. Recommended for those who appreciate high-end
melodrama, The Peach Tree screens
this afternoon (7/9) at the Walter Reade as part of this year’s NYAFF.
Labels: Korean Cinema, NYAFF '13