Wednesday, June 15, 2016

It's THE long-term relationship documentary: Jin Moyoung's Korean family tale -- MY LOVE, DON'T CROSS THAT RIVER

You could ask for more -- more detail, more exploration, more history and maybe more regret -- but never mind. The new South Korean documentary MY LOVE, DON'T CROSS THAT RIVER -- during the making of which first-time documentarian Jin Moyoung spent 15 months filming a pair of nearly century-old forever-sweethearts as they make their way toward death -- gives you plenty to view and consider. Sure, this film is an inevitable downer but it is also an incredibly beautiful ode to "togetherness."

Mr. Jin (the filmmaker is shown at left) has the ability to keep himself and his camera remarkably unobtrusive, at once turning us viewers into flies-on-the-wall and his happy couple into near-perfect examples of as close as we living might get to something approaching "eternal" love. Granted, Korean culture is a good deal different from ours here in America (my god, where are their guns?!), but it would take, I think, an awfully hard-hearted viewer to be able to withstand watching this old couple and their extended family, including a couple of treasured pets, without feeling enormous empathy.

Jin's film begins with the sight (above) and sound of what looks suspiciously like grief, and it ends with this same sight and sound. In between, however, there is so much amusement to be found, as well as a stunning amount of beauty in the colors, landscape and wildlife, that most of the film seems much more joyous than dark.

This very aging couple exults in charming "fights" involving everything from leaves to snow to water, and the simply gorgeous color and texture of their clothes -- where do they get these and how in hell do they keep them so clean?! -- are, I suppose, part of the most-likely dying tradition of Korean country life.

We see the couple's children and grand children, and watch as an argument breaks out among the younger set, while the senior couple simply sits and watches. Later, the man's son tells his dying dad, "I'm sorry I couldn't be a better son. From now on, I will!"

We see the untimely death of one pet, while the other grows pregnant and gives birth. We maybe wonder from time to time where this pair's anger has gone (she seems to reserve most of hers for a local reverend's dog), and as our old man worsens, we also ask if Korea perhaps offers no kind of hospice care.

We do see specifics of the man's distress and illness, but death, when it comes, is handled with a fine and artful touch. We learn how important a belief in an afterlife is to these two, and what the burning of clothes signifies for the dying. The filmmaker even includes a lovely flashback (not too far back, mind you, as he only spent a little over one year filming) that takes us briefly to happier, more colorful times.

And then we're back to that snow scene and the grief and tears. Yet what we've lived through in between this beginning and end is memorable, moving and mostly enthralling.

From Film Movement and running only 86 minutes, My Love Don't Cross That River opens this Friday, June 17, in New York City at the Angelika Film Center and Lincoln Plaza Cinema, and in Los Angeles the following week on June 24 and 25 at various Laemmle theaters. From there, the film will expand to many other cities in the weeks and months to come. Click here then scroll down to see all currently scheduled playdates, along with cities and theaters.

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