Import This: Breathless

Great movies come from all around the world, and so do great DVDs and Blu-rays. Import This! is an irregular feature here at FSR that highlights discs worth importing for movie lovers and fans of fantastic cinema. Some of the movies will be foreign while others will be US releases that have yet to see a domestic release, some will require region-free players while others will play on any DVD or Blu-ray player, and some will be recent films while others will have been out for some time. The one thing they’ll all have in common is their status as damn fine films and/or fantastic entertainment well worth importing into your collection.

Breathless
Country of origin: South Korea
DVD Label: Terracotta Distribution/UK
DVD Region: 2*

One of the best movies of 2009 is this tiny Korean film about the cycle of domestic violence. Sounds like a downer, but while the movie is filled with drama, violence, and heartbreak, it’s also imbued with a surprising amount of humor and warmth. Sang-hoon works as a debt collector on the enforcement side. He excels at his job because he’s capable of inflicting pain on anyone without a second thought or care. A tragic and abusive past has brought him to this point, and anyone foolish enough to get in his way pays for it in pain… until the day he meets a teenage girl named Yoon-hee. By “meets” I mean he spits on her as he passes by, but Yoon-hee has her own troubled life and instead of playing the typical passive victim she demands an apology. So he knocks her out with one punch.

And so begins a beautiful friendship between two loners who’ve experienced the terrors of abuse first and second-hand. The difference between them is in the way they’ve dealt with the pain and how it translates into their everyday lives. Yang Ik-june and Kim Kkobbi are brilliant as the two and together fill the film’s two-hour running time with more emotion and heart than just about any other ten films combined. Domestic violence has a way of circling back on itself, and the effects are on full display here. You’ll come to love both of these characters in different ways, and the tension and suspense over their fates becomes a heart-racing and almost unbearable experience. Life-affirming and beautiful even as it shows the most despicable parts of human nature, Breathless is an amazing debut. The film, as well as stars Ik-june and Kkobbi, have won multiple awards at festivals around the world. (My full review is here.)

DVD: The recent release from the UK’s Terracotta Distribution is as much a labor of love as the film itself. Only 2000 copies were printed of this limited collector’s edition, and as of this week there are fewer then 300 remaining. The sleeved snap-case includes a booklet with written messages from Ik-june (who also wrote and directed the film) and Kkobbi. Disc two includes several features that shed light on the film as well as the film-makers. There are insightful interviews with Ik-june and Kkobbi that are fun, playful, and informative on the back story of both characters. It’s a relief of sorts to see them smiling and laughing after watching such a serious and heavy film. Also included are some travelogues of the film’s journey through various festivals including Rotterdam, London, and Korea, with an interesting Q&A captured at the London premiere. The two leads are along for the ride and their joy and appreciative nature is infectious. The extras are rounded out with photos and various international trailers for Breathless.

– Buy Breathless from Amazon.co.UK

*Note: I use a Phillips DVP-5990 region-free player. It’s currently available at Best Buy for under sixty bucks, and it has so far handled every DVD I’ve tossed at it including successfully converting PAL format onto my NTSC television. Feel free to email me with any questions.


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