Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 04, 2017 8:04 pm 
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A wandering homeless girl meets an engaging transgender woman

Elizabeth Kerr's Hollywood Reporter review calls the new Korean film Jane "A disjointed experiment in narrative form that takes the unreliable narrator trope to untenable ends." She says the transgender female caretaker for teen runaways portrayed by Gu Gyohwan will insure the film mileage in LGBT festivals, but "after that Jane is destined for oblivion."

Everything that Kerr says is true. The most memorable person in Jane is Jane, Gu Gyo-hwan, who disappears early on, though she is in a final scene in a night club, performing. She and the quiet troubled teenager So-hyun (Coin Locker Girl’s Lee Min-ji) spend time together during the first part of the film, in which we soak up the atmosphere created by Jane. So-hyun is a placid, mousy girl who has been abandoned by her boyfriend, Jong-ho. Throughout the film So-hyun provides narration in the form of a letter. What she recounts is circular, and may or may not be true. Jane may be an invention of hers, or just some of the scenes with Jane may be, or not. They are at a kind of foster home, with some other lost youths.

The foster home ends when Jane dies, and they bury her and disburse. So-hyun winds up in another "home" of runaways, which isn't as nice. It's dominated by a cruel young man who in the first scene of it, has beaten her, why we don't know except he has judged by her face that she's a "pilferer."

But as Kerr says, the kinds of "misery" that come up here are "rote," and "seen in street-kid dramas from every corner of the globe." The action is drab and repetitious. It's still harder to keep track of because of the unreliable, circular narration.

It is a paradox that Jane may seem technically adventurous, but its content is drab and familiar. That rather undercuts things, doesn't it? And so it's also true as Kerr says that this would work better as a short film, in which the centerpiece would be a portrait of the transgender woman Gu Gyo-hwan, as Jane. Director Cho has made her most interesting material somehow peripheral.

Jane/꿈의 제인 (kkum-eui je-in), 104 min., debuted May 31, 2017 in South Korea. Reviewed here as part of the NYAFF where it shows 13 July 2017. Presented with the support of Korean Cultural Center New York.


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