When was the last time you saw a good movie? When was the last time you saw a movie from Korea? If you said “I don’t know” to either of these questions, this movie is right up your alley. “Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter … and Spring” is an interesting film that catches the viewer completely off guard with its sincerity and intelligence. It is hard for a movie nearly two hours long with less than 20 pages of dialogue to stay entertaining, but writer/director Kim Ki-duk pulls it off. Lots of subtle acting and a story of self-discovery through simple right and wrong make this a perfect example of top-notch art cinema.
What is that, you say? Art cinema who? Gather around the campfire as we all become a better-educated audience. Art cinema is not your typical cause-and-effect narrative movie like “Top Gun.” Art cinema tends to be indicated by movies that tell stories but have no plot and are usually more focused on characters than actions. “Stranger Than Paradise” is an American example of this type of cinema. “Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter … and Spring” is a good indicator that the film industry is quite healthy in Korea.
The film tells the story of a Buddhist monk and his pupil who live on a raft temple in the middle of a lake. The raft and the lake make for a remarkably beautiful set that changes character with the passing of the seasons. The five episodes of the movie from which the name of the film is taken show the pupil as he grows and learns. Each segment symbolically mirrors the season it is named after. Likewise, the pupil and master get older in each act. There is a heavy Buddhist influence on the film, but it does not bash the viewer over the head with religious references. The story of the troubled pupil dealing with life immediately connects with the audience. Love, death, frustration, sorrow, embarrassment – everything is covered. An honorable mention goes to actor Yeong-su Oh, who plays the wise old priest. He is the coolest old dude since the cranky master Pei Mei in “Kill Bill.” Thanks to an excellently written script, each episode incorporates traditional Buddhist stories of morality onto the screen. Rather than just talk the talk, the film communicates more meaningfully through the actions of the priest and pupil. The film moves along at a mellow pace straight from the beginning and is overly qualified to captivate your attention until the very last shot.
So if you are looking for something foreign, damn entertaining and impressive to your more cultured friends, then grab five bucks and head over to Campbell Hall. It is playing tonight at 7:30.