The Last Dining Table

The Last Dining Table


Reviewed by: Trinity

In The Last Dining Table, the feature film debut from director Roh Gyoeng-tae, a set of loosely connected characters on the fringes of Seoul society eke out unfulfilling lives. There is the gambling addict who has lost everything, the dancer dying of AIDS, the grandmother desperate to divorce her dead husband, the teenager agonising over her looks and the mother mourning for her lost son. Each is seeking an escape, through love and through closure.

Roh bravely chooses to play out this holistic human drama through an unorthodox structure, with little dialogue and little continuity. Gradually, we perceive that the characters are connected, and fated to meet although not in any climactic sense as we might expect in a Western film. In fact, the style is more reminscent of the surreal vignettes of Monty Python's Flying Circus, where characters repeatedly intrude from one scene to another. Indeed, there are moments of true surrealism in the film, with mud-covered naked figures prowling a green-lit subway train late at night.

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Recurring motifs feature as well as the recurring characters: a blood-like substance dripping on broken crockery, a guide to escaping to Mars, a distant booming like an explosion underground. Gradually each of the strands come together, but there is no sense of denouement in the end.

All that is left is a sense of bitterness. If this is a meditation on modern South Korea then perhaps it is the lack of empathy with the characters or their surroundings which truly signifies the loss of family values that is being keenly felt. This is where Roh loses his way. By comprimising his film to bring the characters together, and yet failing to inject the irony or imagery of a director such as Jodowrosky, this falls short, being neither a surreal reflection on modern society, nor a truly refreshing swooping filmic path through marginalised life. A courageous attempt then, to bring a different style to the screen but one which, like his characters, never quite takes flight.

Reviewed on: 18 Aug 2007
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Seeking fulfillment on the fringes of Seoul.

Director: Roh Gyeong-tae

Writer: Roh Gyeong-tae

Starring: Baek Hyun-joo, Kim Do-yeon, Oh Heoung-ki, Hong Suk-yeon, Hwang Bok-soon

Year: 2006

Runtime: 94 minutes

Country: South Korea

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