Milky Way Liberation Front

Milky Way Liberation Front


Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

This is a genuinely fun, occasionally laugh out loud film about the travails of film-making. It's largely set during the 2007 Pusan Film Festival and a number of its observations are perhaps most keenly felt among a festival audience, but its sense of humour and verve are enough to commend it to any viewer.

RYU Yeong-jae (the capitals are a habit of the film as well) is a novice director, struggling to pull together the scenario for his first feature length film. The title is a reference to a children's television show, and it would appear to be a pun based on a character's name. That's not guaranteed. Titles have long been a problem when it comes to international sales, but Milky Way Liberation Front has a vaulting ambition when it comes to communication.

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With an aphasic, a ventriloquist, a deaf mute, a Japanese movie star and enough industry types to ensure even normal words make no sense, this film has done everything possible to make words uncertain. It's brilliantly judged though, as subtle and as brilliant as the retro teen lingo of Brick. With on-screen in film captioning, parallel subtitles and musical interludes, MWLF is having fun with the very process of film. It has a bright colour palette, sharply observed characters, and natural humour.

As Yeong-jae, Ji-Gyu Lim has a gangly geek thing going that fits perfectly. Awkward and talented, he's fresh from a breakup with Eun-Ha (Young-ju Seo) and trying to pull together his next project. Though he's got an idea, his pitch becomes increasingly more complicated and stretched from its original roots as people get involved. His idea for an aphasic in love is so mutilated by others' opinions that he falls victim to stress-induced aphasia himself.

Park Hyuk-kwon, ventriloquist star of the titular minor children's show, steps in, and with his questionable 'assistance' things get even more complicated. A dalliance with an obsessive sound recordist just adds to Yeong-jae's difficulties. However, it also serves to highlight the excellent sound design.

While some have made mention of the cast laughing over their lines, this allegedly amateurish presence does more to strengthen the film than not. It's not on a par with Ed Wood filming actors walking into doors: the scenes involved are genuinely funny, and in the context it would seem natural to laugh.

Written and directed by Seongho Yoon, it shows the quality of his eye and feel for language. With love and sex and movies involved, Woody Allen's an obvious person to point to. Many have read the film as a South Korean digital indie version of Living In Oblivion, but in truth it's so self-aware (though never self-conscious) that it's possibly more accurate to compare it to The Player. Those comparisons aside, its free-wheeling innovations and fun put it on par with more surrealist fare like Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind or Stranger Than Fiction. While never quite as out there as some other recent Asian films (Gozu springs to mind), it's still a quirky treat.

Reviewed on: 18 Jun 2008
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Milky Way Liberation Front packshot
Black comedy adventure about a screenwriter whose personal and professional world is falling apart.

Director: Yoon Seongho

Writer: Yoon Seongho

Starring: Ji-Gyu Lim, Young-ju Seo, Eun-Seong, Bo-kyeong Kim, Yukie Mori, Hyung-keun Yu

Year: 2007

Runtime: 85 minutes

Country: South Korea

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