Poetry (Lee Chang-dong, South Korea) Dragons and Tigers
Lee Chang-dong won the Dragons and Tigers Award at VIFF 1997 for his debut feature, Green Fish. He has since won awards in major festivals the world over for Oasis (2002) and Secret Sunshine (2007), one of the most talked about films at Cannes and Toronto (and still without an American releases), and his new film, Poetry, arrives from Cannes with a well-deserved award for Best Screenplay.
So why isn’t Lee considered in the same company as Hong Sang-soo or Bong Joon-ho or Park Chan-wook? When I pitched the question to Daniel Kasman (film critic at Mubi) as we hoofed it to a VIFF screening, he confessed that he doesn’t see any real visual sensibility to the director, no directorial design to the cinema. I grudgingly concede his point. Lee is a superb screenwriter and a magnificent director of actors (Jeon Do-yeon was awarded Best Actress at Cannes for the amazing portrait of rage and betrayal of her intense performance in Secret Sunshine) and both of those skills are at the forefront of Poetry, an enthralling drama of an aging woman whose compassion is tested when she learns that her teenage grandson is guilty (with five of his friends) of raping a classmate, a “plain” schoolgirl who killed herself.