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A MIDSUMMER’S FANTASIA

May 12, 2020
  • Writerby Pierce Conran
  • View1103

2014 | 97 MIN | Drama
DIRECTOR JANG Kun-jae
CAST IWASE Ryo, KIM Sae-byuk, LIM Hyung-kook
RELEASE DATE June 11, 2015
CONTACT INDIESTORY Inc.
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Indie filmmaker JANG Kun-jae laid his roots with Eighteen (2010) and Sleepless Night (2013), a pair of low-key and richly rewarding features that put him on the map and despite not finding many viewers at home, they gave him plenty of festival exposure and ensured an audience would be around for his next outing. That film was A Midsummer’s Fantasia (2014), a commissioned work by the Nara International Film Festival as part of their ongoing NARAtive project, run by renowned Japanese filmmaker KAWASE Naomi, who served as a producer on the film.

Split into two parts, the story begins in black and white as a Korean filmmaker visits Gojo, a town in the Nara Prefecture of Japan, to perform research on his next film. He gets a tour from a city council member and his interpreter. The next segment, in color, imagines the story hatching in the director’s mind, of a romance developing between a local Japanese man and a young Korean woman, who is making one last stop in Japan on a long trip before returning home.

Shot in color and black and white, with a Korean and Japanese cast, JANG’s third film is a more ambitious project than his earlier works but it boasts a warm and intimate tone that is particularly reminiscent of Sleepless Night (2013) and makes for effortless viewing, particularly in the idyllic confines of Gojo, a town in the Nara Prefecture. The black and white segment features more static and handsomely composed photography, while the colorful back half, likely playing into the mind of the protagonist of the first, is more intimate, inviting us to cheer on its possible romance through engrossing long-take tracking shots.

The film debuted as the opening film of the 5th Nara International Film Festival and went on to be featured at the Busan, Vancouver and Hong Kong International Film Festivals, among others. It was a breakthrough success in limited release in Korea, welcoming over 35,000 viewers, and earned several notable prizes at home, including Best Screenplay from the Busan Film Critics Association Awards and Best Cinematography at the Wildflower Film Awards Korea.

LIM Hyung-kook (Come, Together, 2017) plays the director in the first segment while Japanese actor IWASE Ryo plays the town council worker and KIM Sae-byuk is the interpreter. In the second half, IWASE and KIM return to play the local man and the Korean tourist. IWASE returned to indie Korean cinema in KIM Jong-kwan’s Worst Woman two years later. Following A Midsummer’s Fantasia, KIM’s stature quickly grew and she has now become a major presence in the low-budget realm, appearing in several Hong Sangsoo films, including The Day After (2017), as well as KIM Dae-hwan’s The First Lap (2017) and KIM Bora’s House of Hummingbird (2019).
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