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"Indéniablement le jeune acteur-réalisateur fait penser au Takeshi Kitano de VIOLENT COP ou encore de SONATINE" — David A, DVDRAMA
Director: Yang Ik-june
Screenplay: Yang Ik-june
Cast: Yang Ik-june, Kim Kkobbi, Jeong Man-shik
Producers: Yang Ik-june
Be warned from the get-go, BREATHLESS is no trip to Disneyland. It’s a descent into to the alleyways of Seoul, festering with violence and poverty passed down through generations, inhabited by economic outsiders looked down upon by so-called “decent people.” The kind of neighbourhood where one drops out of school to find work or to become a gangster, it’s home to the worst miscreants but also to some exceptional human beings—and occasionally, a mixture of both. Sang-hoon (Yang Ik-june), the henchman of a small-time gang boss (Jeong Man-shik), definitely belongs in the first category. He carries a heavy past which he attempts to exorcise by acting as unpleasant, vulgar and violent as possible. Punches and insults are dispensed in a most democratic fashion—everyone gets a piece. However, the day his path crosses that of Yeon-hee (Kim Kkobbi), a teenager who’s been around the block a few times, something changes. Their relationship starts off on a bad note and he’s constantly calling her a slut, but something is different inside him. Perhaps these two souls can help each other out of the cesspool they find themselves in. If the cesspool is willing to let them go, that is.
Sometimes we come across a film that makes us feel privileged to have witnessed something exceptional. BREATHLESS is one such movie. It’s an independent film with profound respect for its characters and audience, portraying a dismal location without resorting to the exploitation of misery and cheap psychology. Almost as many jaws get smashed as in FIGHT CLUB, violence and rage are omnipresent, but it’s more gut-wrenching than gratuitously shocking. Yang Ik-june should be proud, having written, directed and produced a masterful first feature in which he also incarnates the most “anti-” of Korean antiheroes with unique virtuosity, bringing genuine humanity to the part. He is supported by a young actress at the top of her form, Kim Kkobbi, who conveys the strength and dignity essential to Yeon-hee’s intense personality. Yang’s direction is exceptional and every technical aspect is crafted with staggering precision. Most astounding of all is the fact that after having seen so much infamy and cruelty onscreen, one still walks away with some glimmer of hope. If only for this reason, you should see BREATHLESS.