Chung-Ryoul Lee's OLD PARTNER (Wonangsori) brings you up close to -- not just death and dying but -- lives lived in the senior years without much vari-
ation, little hope and what appears to be a zero degree of joy. Despite some truly lovely photography, with compositions that are breathtak-
ingly beautiful, all the more so because of their simplicity, the lives we see are full of drudgery, and the film Lee has made from these lives threatens to descend into that same kind of hell. That is does not (though for me it comes awfully close) is to the credit of the director, who in this, his first docu-
mentary, captures an elderly Korean farming couple and their ox -- the old partner of the title -- with as much tact as feeling. The two humans seem barely to be surviving, and the local veteranarian has diagnosed a soon-to-happen death for their ox, who looks more than ready for it.
He picks and then feeds a passel of dandelions to the creature, much to the consternation of his wife -- who notes that he wouldn't do the same for her. This woman is a complainer -- first, last and always -- and while she certainly seems to have every right to do this and much to complain about, she does grow tiresome. Her husband is going deaf, though from time to time this deafness seems to be by choice. Who can blame him, considering what he is constantly forced to hear.
Old Partner opens at Film Forum tomorrow, Wednesday December 30, for a one-week-only run.