Eric Wolfram's Writing, Review of Failan


Directed by Song Hye-Sung

This is a story of love conquers all. It shows love, from beyond the grave, saving and healing someone who desperately needs it.

A beautiful industrious Chinese immigrant, Failan, goes to Korea. The only way she can stay is with the help of an arranged marriage, which only exists on paper. She never meets her husband, a washed up gangster, and she only marries him for the visa.

More so, the story focuses on this veteran gang member who is particularly troubled and pathetic. His journey to her is his journey to redemption. Her letters become his moments of truth.

Unfortunately, an hour before that beautiful story develops, the film takes on all the overtones of bad gangster film. The story writers confuse being "cool" with being an asshole. So all the gangster charactures are the latter? (When will gangsters film makers everywhere realize that the two states are not synonymous?)

In Failan, the screen writer makes his gangsters behave like overly tough, obnoxious, yet childish, name callers who extort pocket money from innocent small vendors. Many people get slapped around -- not beat or killed -- just slapped. Strange.

Through it all, there are some moments of true cinemagraphic and visual brilliance. While riding on the train, the gangster peers out to the sea, which has come to represent his redemption, but the sea visually blocked from him by a chain link fence and barbed wire. Furthermore, I like the way the camera craned away from the drunken fight scene at the end of the movie. No matter how slow it starts and needless gang slapping at the beginning, any film which is about the power of love gets my vote.

Country: South Korea
Year: 2001
Run Time: 115 minutes
Cast: Choi Min-Shik, Cecilia Cheung, Son Byeong-Ho, Kong Hyeong-Jin
Producer: Kim Seung-Bum, Moon Sung-Joon
Editor: Park Gok-Ji
Cinematographer: Kim Young-Chul
Screenwriter: Song Hye-Sung, Ahn Sang-Hoon, Kim Hae-Gon

This Film Was Viewed at the 45th San Francisco International Film Festival

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