Hong Kong Digital
is a recurring series of movie reviews by John Charles -- associate
editor / film reviewer for Video Watchdog magazine and the author
of The Hong Kong Filmography.
A Night on the Water
(1998; U-Rim / Samsung Entertainment Group)
Cover art courtesy Bitwin.
Definitely Not Recommended
Phoebe (beautiful Playboy alumnus Sung-Hi Lee) at the train station and
the two have a memorably steamy time together. The next evening, Seong-ha
looks the girl up at a strip club she frequents and the two enjoy another
evening of hot sex. Phoebe then goes missing for a while, causing Seong-ha
to realize just how deeply he has fallen for her. When she finally does
return to him, Seong-ha proposes that she give up "the life" but
Phoebe's self-destructive behavior shows no sign of abating, even after
learning that she is pregnant.
|South Korea has offered up some of the
most stylish, absorbing, demanding, and exciting films of the past
few years. Kang Jeong-su's A NIGHT ON THE WATER is not one of those
films. In fact, this English language production (shot in Vancouver)
is so remarkably dopey, it makes Cheong Yao melodramas seem like trenchant
observations on the human condition. Businessman Baek Seong-ha (Yoo
Ji-ha, whose good looks and proficiency with English do not compensate
for his inability to act or project intelligence and sophistication)
takes the fall after he causes his firm to lose $100 million in the
Asian economic crisis. One night, he picks up hard drinking prostitute
Sung-Hi Lee. Image courtesy Bitwin.
Click here for another still of Lee -- contains
nudity (courtesy Bitwin)
Screenwriter Kim Jae-sik adapted his own novel and the dialogue certainly
sounds like something translated from another language. Yoos character
is given to vapid soliloquies that wouldn't make the grade at a junior
high poetry class:
One day, I met a woman I would fall in love with. Her name: Phoebe.
She loved the sea more than she loved me and stayed with me only briefly.
With happiness in front of her, she turned to the deep blue ocean. Phoebe.
That was all.
Lee, meanwhile, gets all of the standard hooker lines like "You
pay for the drinks, I'll cover it with my body" and "My whole
life story sounds like a cheap novel, huh?" Other exchanges strive
for the street authenticity of PULP FICTION (just so that we get the message,
Yoo is shown watching the Tarantino movie on TV at one point) but merely
evoke snickers, while the rest of the dialogue consists of non sequiturs
and banal observations. Convention dictates that movie streetwalkers have
colorfully troubled childhoods but Kim largely glosses over that part
of Phoebe's life, leaving little reason for the viewer to understand her
compulsive behavior and loopy beliefs (namely, that she is the reincarnation
of a killer whale because she loves shrimp and has a "fin" growing
out of her back!). The ending is dumbfounding in both its intent and sheer
ineptitude. On the very meagre positive side, the sex isn't bad, though
it never strays beyond what one would generally find in a R-rated Hollywood
production (full frontal nudity is not allowed in South Korea), and Lee
manages to show some promise, in spite of the hopeless material.
Bitwin #BDV-D059 (South Korea label)
Dolby Digital 5.1
Optional Subtitles In Korean and English
12 Chapters Illustrated In the Menu With Stills
Coded for ALL Regions
Contains nudity, sexual content, substance abuse, and coarse language
DVD menu courtesy Bitwin.
Board Ratings and Consumer Advice
South Korea: 18
The element displays minor wear and contrasts are variable but
colors are attractive and the image is usually sharp, if a bit dark.
The unmatted framing generally looks balanced (though a boom mike
almost bops Lee in the head at one point) but the sound has been
derived from the optical track of the print and leaves something
to be desired. At any rate, the stereo mix is basic and not especially
interesting. The only extras are brief Korean profiles of the director
A NIGHT ON THE WATER is available at Poker