LUCKY CHAN-SIL (2019)
Tender and funny, a film producer meanders through the aftermath of her director’s death in this deeply affable debut feature
After several years as producer to acclaimed director Hong Sang-soo, Kim Cho-hee has emerged from his shadow to make a simple yet deceptively profound first film.
It is a warm embrace of a film, riddled with its own distinctive charm and held together with its smart shot selection and strong performances.
Using more than just a generous helping of autobiographical inspiration, Kim dramatises her own toils and efforts to make films outside realm of a legendary director, where she has served as producer to some of Director Hong’s most notable works such as Hahaha (2010) and Right Now, Wrong Then (2015).
While there are strands of Hong in its portrayal of human interactions and its gentle narrative pacing, Kim produces something unique and very much her own.
The film does open on an unmistakeably Hong visual though – a restaurant table strewn with empty soju bottles and a film crew playing drinking games at the end.
Suddenly, complete with a Director Hong zoom, we see the crew’s director collapse and die. His producer, Chan-sil (Kang Mal-geum), is then left to face a life without her key cinematic collaborator.
She moves to more humble living arrangements and attempts to seek a future in film, but the implication is she was riding the coattails of her deceased director and has scant to offer herself.
Eventually she takes a job as a cleaner to insecure starlet Sophie (Yoon Seung-ah) and has her headed turned by Sophie’s French teacher and short filmmaker Kim Young (Bae Yu-ram).
Chan-sil finds herself in a state of limbo. She is 40 and has dedicated her life to making films instead of finding a partner and starting a family, but now faces a future on the fridges of the industry she has served so diligently.
Lucky Chan-sil is one of those films where you find yourself drifting into the groove of its developments. Where you gently immerse yourself into the character interactions.
There is a sadness to Chan-sil's plight, but that is off-set by the film's humour, none of which is overbaked, but rather accompanies her struggles. A balancer which makes it so watchable.
The performances in such films – sometimes termed as ‘hangout movies’ as we spend time with characters on a daily basis – further elevates the film’s delivery, especially from Kang Mal-geum's title character.
Perhaps the film’s most memorable scene manages to compare Director Hong and this film’s low-key approach with that of US blockbuster director Christopher Nolan. Discussing Japanese director Yasujirō Ozu, who Chan-sil states her love for, Kim Young claims not much happens in his films and he prefers Nolan’s more exciting work. Chan-sil horrified reaction and downing of her beer is a priceless piece of cineliterate crosstalk.
Having managed to position herself so neatly outside of the Director Hong world with this debut, there is cause for her own buzz as Kim Cho-hee embarks on a career behind the lens.