Stasia Burrington (born Stasia Kato) is a freelance illustrator, sequential and fine artist who is currently living in Seattle, WA. Her passions lie in the visual arts – in all forms, experimental cooking, camping, theology and science fiction, among others. Washy drawings covered in flowers… flowers that happen to be hand-cut from quilt fabric, which are then glued on, resembling tattoos, gardens, or scars. Needless to say, her work is gorgeous. I had a chance to catch up with her to discuss a variety of topics. Read below for the full Q&A…
How does theology translate in your art and vice versa? Are their religious undertones in your work?
If anything, I lean towards Zen Buddhism. I can’t remember where I read it, but I stumbled across the words: “Love and Curiosity are enough,” and that sounds good to me. I believe in personal religion, in seeking out your own truth, and for me, creating work and seeing the work of others is a way of exploring, recognizing our patterns and shedding our skins.
Taking it one step further, some of your pieces contain hand-cut quilt fabric which is then placed over an illustration. Will there be eventual branching out or will you stick to a feminine look and feel?
On a recent trip to the fabric store, I was feeling adventurous and bought some swatches covered in bacon and hotdogs. I cut some out and arranged them on a drawing, and – wow. It was really bad. But I love both bacon and hot dogs, and am going to find a way to incorporate them!
Now, I know there’s a way to make work less feminine without going whole hog [laughs], so I’ll take it slowly. I am starting to incorporate more male models into my work, but I still love the delicate feel of the fabric and the flowers.
What brought upon using multiple mediums in one piece?
Originally, my frustration with paint, and my desire for more color and texture. Now, because it’s an interesting constraint with which to work, and lets me focus on composition.
Your store front provides a rich assortment of goodies. As a creative how do you achieve balance tackling so many projects? Shirts, cards, art, etc! How do you find the time?!
Besides creating, I don’t many hobbies [laughs], so my work is my life, and making things is what I do for fun. Also, I get special requests all the time, and I live to please.
What are some of your favorite Asian films or anime?
Oh, it’s a long list: Films: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring. OldBoy (and Lady Vengeance, and Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance), Dolls, A Tale of Two Sisters, Lust Caution, Grave of the Fireflies, Nausicca of the Valley of the Wind.
As for anime, I did love Sailor Moon and Dragonball Z growing up. I don’t watch a ton anymore but Mushishi is pretty good, and pretty pretty. I also have a sweet spot for these TV series: Nodame Cantabile and Suika. So romantic and bittersweet!
In 2014, you came out the gate strong! What was is like participating in so many group shows so early into the year?
Crazy, really. Though I can’t complain! Deadlines are very motivating for creating new work. That’s why I wait till the last minute! Early January 2014 sucked, actually – as busy as I was, I came down with the first flu I’ve had in over… 20 years? Yikes! So for a few days I was really crabby and miserable but still really psyched about the amazing shows in which I got to take part.
As an artist how do you evoke a viewer to feel inspired by curiosity and allow themselves to reflect on themselves by looking upon your work?
Most of my work figures a single figure, either with her face obscured or very simplified. The figure is an invitation for the viewer to step inside and inhabit the space for a moment. I mimic childrens book illustration, though don’t include a complete story, encouraging you to put the pieces together, or make up part of the story yourself. That way, you are also the author.
As a freelancer, is this lifestyle what you prefer over the stability of a full time illustrator? What luxuries does this afford you?
I love being my own boss! I enjoy not having to run things by anyone else before making decisions. I can take the day off if I feel like it, and choose which projects I want to take on. I sleep in and stay up late, and meet and get to talk to and work with the most interesting, creative and passionate people.
Your floral tattoo patterns are quite amazing. Any tattoos yourself?
Ah, thank you. No, not yet. I’m saving up for a full bodysuit – and those are expensive [laughs]!
I really love your Double Amputee piece. Has there ever been a piece that you started that was so emotionally hard hitting and draining that you weren’t able to complete it? Or perhaps you had to go back and revisit it at a later date?
Those usually don’t make it out of my sketchbook. One of my more recent pieces, “Twice” – I created specifically for a group show about love and heartbreak. All pieces were meant to be titled after a song, and the song I chose is by Little Dragon and is a sad, lonely one. I put off even starting on the piece for a long time. When I did, I painted the back of a woman’s body, and left an empty gap behind her. I hung the piece up on the wall and stared at the absence for a long time. My habit is to fill up the space with flowers or pattern, but for this piece that didn’t feel right – I really wanted to show how bad it feels to miss someone. I was running out of time and could have stared at the emptiness for ages, but I finally grabbed my Xacto and started cutting strips out of the space, and into her body. I was pretty emotional and felt like this decision might ruin the piece, but so what. While cutting I realized how missing someone is deeper than a merely them being gone, it’s like a vacuum – it’s more active than passive.
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In the film, the main female character is not in anyway involved in pornography but has sexual interest in her old friend which happens to be a porn star. He though isn’t able to express his sexual attraction to her because he has absolutely no interest in sex. Sex being his profession and not his pleasure. So he escapes into surreal fantasy of musical sequences. Which happen to be some of the funniest dance sequences I’ve ever seen. That said the film is slow, poetic and completely captivating. That is to say, don’t bring your kids to see this — but adults will be able to see that it is not porn, but rather a critique of porn. This is a simplification, since the main theme of the film is general alienation.
On the other hand it’s also outrageously funny (some memorable scenes including watermelons and crabs) and includes half a dozen absolutely insane musical scenes. Apart from them, the film is completely without music, which adds to the comical power of the musical scenes. The disconnection of humanity from humanity, the isolation in the modern world, shows up as Shiang-chyi and Hsiao-Kang are unable to find any meaning in their lives beyond base existence.
It veers between the common and the theatrical so organically it stops feeling strange when the sing-along, follow the money shots, which flow into images of watermelons floating down a river. As for what “Wayward Cloud” means, I would say it’s a love story. The two lead characters, I later read, were in a previous Ming-liang Tsia’s film called, “What Time Is It There?” and this is their “Before Sunset” second chance at love. It would have been simple for Ming-liang Tsia, to make a moody little film, about an alienated women infatuated with an alienated man, doing alienated things, which is basically what the film is. However like a true artist Miang Liang imbues the proceedings with a cinematic spirit, through editing, cinematography, MUSIC, and subdued/wildly theatrical performances that becomes transcendent of the films run-of-the-mill social yearnings for genuine connection in the cold, cruel, world. I can’t think of any film as repulsive, arousing, beautiful, fun, and sad, at least not with all those gears running at once like they are here. In a way I thought it was a happy ending. The couple has come together right?
I understand the perspective of those who argue that Tsai doesn’t have a clear point here, as he does in his other films. I would argue, though, that the film is more challenging because it does not offer the glimmer of hope found in Tsai’s previous films (the woman pulled up in The Hole, May’s dignity even as she cries at the end of Vive L’amour). The viewer has to piece together any hope from various parts of the film, as the shocking finale is not at all uplifting. Tsai has some real insights into the human condition here. Xiao Kang’s autoerotic sexuality has a lot to say about loneliness and insecurity. Also, the flirtation between Xiao Kang and Shiang-chyi is very charming, even sexy (I’m thinking especially of the way Xiao Kang leans against the elevator after their date.) I think this film’s vision brings to light the way sexuality has become a commodity, and I find it tragic that Xiao Kang and Shiang-chyi find that there is great difficulty in overcoming that commodification.
Written by Paul Schrader and Robert Towne, The Yakuza shows us a different side of the Gangster world than we have been privy to before. This is not a movie of good vs. bad; it’s a movie about loyalty and honor to friends and family. We follow Mitchum as Harry Kilmer on a mission to save a friends daughter. For most movies made these days, that premise would be enough, but The Yakuza is deeply layered and far more interesting than that. It turns out that Harry had been in Japan after WWII and had fallen in love with a beautiful woman, Eiko. 30 years later Harry is back in Japan, much has changed, but his feelings haven’t. Harry teams up with Ken Tanaka, Eiko’s brother, to find the kidnapped girl. Samurai swords slash and guns blaze, adding intense, well-choreographed action as the plot thickens and Harry realizes that this is no ordinary rescue.
It is not a film that wears its emotions on its sleeve, and is all the more affecting for that the awkwardness of Mitchum’s meeting with Ken and the hesitancy of his reunion with Keiko (and the subtle re-enactment of the old photos in her album) – everything is in the pauses and between the lines. It’s these emotional undercurrents that make it stand up to repeated viewings. The early seventies was a last golden age for the eternally under-rated Mitchum, with outstanding performances in The Friends of Eddie Coyle, Farewell My Lovely and Ryan’s Daughter, and this is one of his best. His ‘strange stranger’ and Takakura Ken’s ‘man who never smiles’ (“He’s been unhappy ever since he lost the war. I keep trying to tell him it’s not his fault but he won’t take my word for it”) is a match made in casting heaven. Their screen presence is remarkably similar, exuding a lifetime of world-weariness and personal loss that attracts both empathy and respect for their characters. Both give superbly understated performances, with the great Takakura Ken getting his best English-language role to date. Jordan gives a nicely unassuming performance in the juvenile lead, making the most of his romantic subplot by showing the least, and there’s an added poignancy to his fate since the actor’s death.
Then there is the long expositions of back story and how Japan is different; and also the dreaded Western perceptions of Japanese myth and ritual. All that Asian mysticism bound up with warrior culture is well beyond its use by date now. It was new in 1974, but that dates the film and its sensibility very strongly. Then there is Mitchum and Keith. Mitchum was a straight up no nonsense actor and worked well as a tough guy, but here he is too stony faced; too much like a dead fish and wooden that it drags on the film. He stands, speaks and reacts but hardly acts. Keith is not much more interesting and a lesser presence. It’s not helped by direction that is sluggish, lacking dynamic energy and close to a “Starsky and Hutch” episode.
Another of the film’s quality points, mentioned earlier, is that this is a movie that exists to examine obligations, the “burden hardest to bear” as a Japanese word has it. Pollack gives us a well-constructed story in which to help us make our own examination. For those who enjoy things Japanese, another plus is the care Pollack took to capture the look of Japan. The Yakuza never becomes a travelogue, but there is much of Japan to see in the movie, from a game of hanafuda to all those pachinko players, from a quiet temple to a narrow Tokyo downtown street, from a hostess nightclub to a bathhouse. It all looks right. And finally, the movie works so well because Mitchum gives an excellent performance. At 57 when he made this movie, he brings the authority of experience to the part. He is matched by Takakura Ken. The two actors both are heavy-weights. Mitchum doesn’t dominate the movie so much as he shares it equally with Takakura. The secondary characters all do fine jobs, too. The Yakuza is a fine and unusual action movie.
You’re confronted with a story starring a strong cast of characters that are (for the most part*) well developed that you come to care about. My favorite part about the characters that they all had something more to them. None of them were one-dimensional. You could never grasp everything about a character from face value. The more you saw of them, the more a new dimension appeared about the character, making you second guess who they were and their motivations. Also the romance that did occur in the show wasn’t the focal point, but it was well done. It felt genuine. The romance wasn’t about star-crossed lovers who are smitten because cupids arrow struck them in the heart and the plot demands it, it happened because the cast felt like real people, who really cared and grew to love each other. Unfortunately one of the main characters in the show never really gets fleshed out and remains a one dimensional character, and to be honest the show never really got me to care about the character. It’s not really a spoiler as you’ll tell who it is pretty early on. This character is pretty much the only character in the show that didn’t live up to my description of the show’s characters.
The plot started off establishing our characters and the setting, sucking me into the world. Once it felt I got comfortable, it took off into an engrossing plot. The show spreads the plot across years of the casts lives, and does so by jumping years every so often. Unfortunately this sometimes is slightly jarring, as you have to readjust to what is going on in the new “present time” The show does slow down a couple times when this happens, but it makes up for it by picking up straight after and going strong until the very end. But by no means were the slow points bad, or not entertaining. On the contrary they were good. It’s just that they weren’t as memorable in comparison to the parts of the show that were fantastic.
The author knew extremely well how to turn tables around and show how the world is not black & white. It is extremely – extremely – rare that an author can create a villain who you seriously feel compassionate to and understand the motives. Unlike in most cases, there simply was no option. It brings our the question “what is a human?” in one of the most eloquent ways I have yet witnessed. You sympathize and even understand the horror that is enacted by characters, while at the same time your sense of morals rejects it. You come to understand why each character makes the flawed choices they make, the fear they experience, and how they manage to keep going.
To pull off an anime that is dark and mature is not an easy thing to do and in many cases they do not deliver. Thankfully this isn’t one of them. There is a lot to love about this anime. The setting is engrossing and makes you want to learn more about it. None of the characters necessarily feel fake and you cannot help but sympathize with them considering the burdens they carry along the way. The animation and art style are just beautiful. There is a good natural flow throughout the story without any one episode feeling like filler. The plot twists that arise in this show are some of the most clever that I have seen in a while. The ending has a good chance of surprising you too. If there were any gripes about this anime (and there are very few) its that the beginning may come off slow to some, and sometimes the animation stays dark to the point where I just want to see clearly what is going on. Lastly the characters (besides one) can take a while to build themselves up and by the time they do, they are most likely killed off. Still it is a wonderful anime and you owe it to yourself to check it out.
Da-eun lives a happy life with her single father, a man who sacrificed everything in his life for her. She was a daughter who loved her father very dearly. However, their relationship is about to take an unexpected turn. Da-eun becomes suspicious that her father might be a monstrous kidnapper. Even though she wants to believe in his innocence, she finds herself searching for evidence to the contrary. Blood and Ties” raised disturbing thoughts in me after watching it for the reason that the killer was drawn in a very positive character. A very effective role that really strengthened the depth of how the heroine tried to resolve the conflict, because it was a really perplexing decision and ordeal to cut ties with a person who has been good to you because he did something evil to another person.
So, is there any real reason for watching ‘Blood and Ties’? The ultimate destination of the narrative will likely be figured out in advance to those paying attention during the conversation between her and the murdered boy’s father but the ongoing inclusion of character Shim does tend to be more forced than it should: When he’s unwelcome, he turns up like a bad penny, violent and demanding money, but when Da-eun tries to approach him he absconds at speed on a motorbike; his constant threats to reveal ‘everything’ to Da-eun when he’s so obtuse it’s obvious he never will serving only to feel like Gook Dong-seok is deliberately withholding information from Da-eun and viewers alike simply to allow an expositional reveal in the film’s final stages. And frankly, that’s exactly what he’s doing.
The true brilliance of “Blood and Ties” is hidden in the intricate details sprinkled throughout the film. Director Kook Dong Seok is strategic in his choice of detailing, carefully building up to an ending that leaves viewers on the edge of their seats until the closing scene. To no one’s surprise, Kim Kap Soo’s compelling performance as a typical doting father Soon Man also deserves a standing ovation. Kim Kap Soo perfectly portrays a mysterious figure whose behavior becomes more and more eccentric, leaving viewers confused as to whether his innocent appearance is just for show.
The suggestive influence of mass media is a theme made subservient to the dynamic of trust between father and daughter. While not especially revelatory, further exploration of the topic would have given Blood and Ties a sorely needed layer of substance to pad the otherwise thin, mostly predictable melodrama. Dong-suk’s vision is as scattered as the script, artlessly and jarringly leaping between footage types and perspectives in order to clumsily cram in expository information. Much of the dialogue is repetitive, and the translation is graceless and outright spotty in places, making it that much harder to appreciate what is already essentially the plot hole-ridden stuff of made-for-TV movies.
The film’s plot centers on rival lion dance troupes in Singapore — a liberal-looking faction of a traditional troupe, Tiger Crane (led by Wang Wei Liang), breaks away from it to form a new one called Storm Riders (led by Tosh Zhang), which advocates a new style of lion dance with more modern influences of hip hop dance and more flashy acrobatics. Meanwhile, the male stars of the show clash with a third rival troupe called Black Hawk, competing in wushu, love triangles and of course, lion dance. Five of the well-loved “Ah Boys To Men” cast headline the film, joined by 23 “unknowns”.
With The Lion Men, he brought the neglected art of lion dancing into pop culture consciousness. In Singapore, only the director of the second most-watched film in Singapore last year (Ah Boys To Men Part 2) has the clout and resources to do that. Neo is no ordinary Singaporean director. He won the Public Service Medal at the Singapore National Day Awards 2004, for his achievements in filmmaking. He is our 2005 Cultural Medallion winner. Which is the reason why many felt that he can do better with this movie. His awful melange of genres (comedy, drama, romance, action) and his inept handling of lion dance action sequences do the traditional maritial-art dance an injustice that is more egregious than if he had left it alone.
Wang isn’t the only one who had to step out of his comfort zone for “The Lion Men”. His co-star Zhang plays the highly skilled lion dance performer Wang Wei Cheng in the movie, and performs numerous acrobatic stunts many metres above ground, without a moment’s hesitation. But it turns out the young star actually has acrophobia in real life. “I am afraid of heights. I can’t even go on roller coasters!” said Zhang. “When I first went for lion dance training, I thought lion dance was simply about moving the lion head around and make the eyes blink a few times.”
One of the worst things about The Lion Men is its absolutely awful attempts at product placement. In recent years, it’s become an unfortunate hallmark of Neo’s work. In place of artistic integrity, he is now better-known for showcasing his sponsors in so brutally blunt a way that it’s actually a distraction within his film’s narrative. And yet, he somehow manages to take that to a new low in The Lion Men: every other scene flings another product at the audience, from beer to canned drinks, pre-paid cards to bakery chains. It says something when an audience of film critics – long ago rendered cynical and inured to the ways of the movie business – collectively groan when one last blatant commercial turns up and tries to pass itself off as a legitimate part of the film. By the time The Lion Men clangs and clatters to its abrupt and yet very welcome end, audiences might find themselves wondering what story there is left to tell. The trailer for Movie #2 that Neo adds to the credits only adds insult to injury, suggesting that his non-plot will dip even further into the realm of melodramatic soap opera. In fact, it plays like a warning for anyone who has fond memories of I Not Stupid and its thought-provoking social commentary.
Pat Lok is a man (producer) of great taste but he is also a musical wizard. His tunes are right up my alley and I just had to feature him on the website today. He has unveiled the accompanying video to his track ‘Move Slow’, which we talk in-depth about and also we get his take on the new Oldboy (but we end up just talking about the classic), and the types of women he likes. Yup, it gets feelsy up in here. Read below for the full Q&A…
Ok let’s talk production. What is your mindset when collaborating, making sure your style and another artists style blends together?
When working with others creatively the first thing you need is a large bottle of Jameson. If no whiskey is available, a pot of tea will do, just steal the good stuff from your roommate. It’s important to get on the same vibe, give and take a bit, and be open to whatever happens. Kind of like your first time at an orgy I guess. After I record the vocals, such as on Move Slow and Same Hearts then I just screw around with various effects and chop the samples up to make them fit more cohesively.
Could you tell us a bit about the ‘Move Slow’ video and how the topic of superstitutions interested you enough to surround the basis of the video around it?
The visual concept behind Move Slow was suggested by this amazing dancer/choreographer/director named Jen Oleksiuk. I’m totally butchering this story, but she was involved in a theatre production that had some unlucky mishaps on the first night of performance. To cleanse the theatre of bad vibage (or whatever the technical term), the cast members sat in a circle and conducted a seance-type interpretive ritual with roses and suddenly the idea came to her, like a thunderbolt or the apple dropping on Sir Isaac Newton’s head I imagine… I’m very happy with how the video turned out, everyone involved in the production was so talented and professional.
A standout point for me was listening to your song with Bear Mountain where in the middle of the song you change up the tempo and introduce a breakdown. It sounds like a simple beat but I hear complex sounds and instrumentals in the background. How do you achieve such a balance?
You could say I like my music like I like my women, a little weird, quirky… and loud. Kind of like experimental film scores minus the wanky artsy aesthetic. Anyway, Ian (Bear Mountain) has such a unique and bright vocal tone I wanted to offset that with something distinct that still made sense musically. The instruments I used in the breakdown are actually fairly commonplace (hint: think 90s) so maybe what you’re describing is how the sounds were processed and layered with pitched claps.
Producers like Will.I.Am, Pharrell and others are using their success to create clothing lines and other things. Do you see the BIG picture in the same vein or are you just focused on your music?
It’s a shame but I am myopic and can’t see past finishing a tune and choosing what snacks to stuff in my face. My goal is just to write music that doesn’t make me want to jump off a bridge. But it is interesting that you mentioned one of my heroes and one of most loathed people in music in the same sentence! Did you know that Pharrell has a songwriting (or producer) credit on everyone’s favorite booty track Wreckx-N-Effect – Rumpshaker? I think he was in high school at the time when Teddy Riley (of Blackstreet) discovered him.
What did you think of the Oldboy remake versus the original South Korean version?
I knew you were going to ask about this! I haven’t seen the Hollywood version. Strangely I re-watched the original a couple days ago for the first time in years, and it was still so fresh and hilarious. My friend hadn’t seen it before and she thought it was the greatest movie she’d ever seen. I don’t have high expectations for the remake. That reminds me I need to rewatch Lady Vengeance from that trilogy too.
You had some birthday woes a few months ago about getting older and still people proclaim you to be an ‘up and comer’. What struggles do you face with that notion and do you feel you are behind the curve?
Woah, it’s getting all feelsy up in here. Put it this way, James Murphy is 87,000 years old and still pretty much on top of the game, and he released his first album LCD Soundsystem at the young age of 59. #neverforget
Your original tracks have been awesome, but you’ve gained so many fans and media attention based on your remixes…. What is your process in deciding what song you want to remix & why?
Thanks for supporting the originals! That means a lot to me, because for original stuff there’s no famous celebrity like a Beyonce or a Katy Perry or a Lance Bass to piggyback off. Those bootlegs were the fastest tracks I have ever written, maybe because they were just fun DJ versions of songs that I already loved. I guess that’s my criteria when picking something to remix, a song that I listen to on repeat anyway. The positive feedback you mention was totally surprising and I’m very grateful, but I’m not going to sit down and try to replicate that.
Who would you love to remix one of your own original songs?
This one changes year to year but right now I’d say Cashmere Cat. Him or C+C Music Factory. Those guys were awesome and made a lot of great house records outside of the songs most people know.
Do you have any advice for aspiring producers?
Make shit every day. Other than that, figure out what you’re good at and how you like to work… don’t worry what other people are using, hardware vs software, that’s a waste of time. Creatively, listen to all kinds of music and figure out what you like or why it works. It can be very helpful to have a couple people to give you critical feedback (not “this shit is amazing”) although others will disagree. Don’t be scared to Google how to do things you don’t understand. Make friends with people smarter than you and put your ego away. These are kind of overarching life lessons, I guess, maybe I should become a life coach?! Do you know anyone that needs one?
[Laughs] OK, to wrap things up, do you feel there is a bias in EDM music today where people favor vocals over straight production tunes? Do you have a particular stance on that?
I read that vocals are the most relatable instrument, maybe your listener never played the violin or guitar but everyone has hummed their favorite song. So it is definitely easier to make something memorable with lyrics or at least a vocal hook. That said, all respect to producers and musicians who can write killer instrumentals. My track “Remember” was kind of an attempt in that regard.
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I love Japanese horror as it so often blends a sophisticated story into some of the most frightening cinematic moments in the genre. This collection is slow, boring, very cheaply produced and not in the least bit scary. Let us dive into what stories they present, shall we? Crevices, in my opinion, is the very best short on the DVD. It’s about a man who has to go to an old friend’s apartment due to the fact that the friend has not paid rent in three months. When the manager shows him the apartment, the man is shocked to discover that the room is covered in red tape. He takes the tape down and looks around for clues to his friend’s disappearance, but it’s not long before strange things begin to happen. Crevices is all about the horror and the fantasy present in the mundane. Zombies and elaborate curses certainly have their place, but what could be scarier than danger attributed to something that is all around you, something you don’t even give a second thought on a normal basis? The way the camera is handled really adds to the creepy factor. There are several wonderful shots that really add to the mood. The filming method is simplistic and not at all flashy, which adds to the feeling that there is much to be feared in normalcy.
Some people complain about Presentiment’s slow pace, but I think the film is very suited to it. It allows the tension to gradually rise and for the viewer to get more and more suspicious about the three passengers right along with the man. It also gives the viewer a sense of what the man must feel- that time in the elevator is stretching out and running in slow motion when he needs desperately to be on the fast track. I also really enjoyed the acting. The three passengers made this short shine, for me.
Thirdly, I’ll talk about Blonde Kwaidan, because there isn’t really a lot to say. Ironically, the Shimizu film that prompted my friend to purchase for me is the one that stands out as the worst. I didn’t even manage to find much humor in this one, aside from one or two lines. It’s about a Japanese man on a business trip to America; he is to stay in the house of an executive director from his work because the executive director is on vacation. The man has a great obsession with blondes, and is beside himself with jealousy to see a photo of a beautiful blonde girl he assumes to be the executive director’s girlfriend. Soon enough, though, he starts to see things out of the corner of his eye and get the feeling of being touched.
The last film is called Sacrifice. This is about a woman who is asked out by a co-worker. She declines him, but finds out that another girl also turned him down and what he told that girl was this: “I’ll put a curse on you.” Interestingly, the “cursed” girl quit a short time after that. The protagonist starts to find mutilated bugs on her desk and one night arrives home to see a shape in blood (and the fake blood they used was a terrible quality- bright lipstick red) outside her door. The story’s plot isn’t too bad, and the special effects aren’t terrible, but it just drags on and in the end hasn’t much substance to it. The apparition was really very unnecessary and just seemed to be added for extra “scare” value (though I really didn’t find it scary… just ugly). The funniest thing about this one is Fukuda, the man who puts the curse on the girl (whose name, you probably have gathered, I have forgotten). He’s probably the creepiest guy I’ve ever seen. If I turned around in the light of day on a crowded street and saw him behind me I’d probably still scream. He almost looks like he would be very mild-mannered, yet he is so obviously a stalker, and obsessed with curses to boot.
Won-joon is a bona fide movie star, and knows how to carry himself in the industry, without being a dickhead to people. His manager is Tae-sik; though it feels like Koreans have a different definition of a manager than, say, Hollywood, where the term PA/runner would be more fitting. Tae-sik harbours dreams of becoming an actor himself, but his background isn’t exactly perfect. However, when Won-joon accidentally knocks a commoner down, Tae-sik takes the fall and in return for his unyielding loyalty, Won-joon rewards him with a role in a TV series, and soon enough, Tae-sik’s star begins to rise, to the point that he will become Won-joon’s rival in a couple of years.
But Tae-sik needs more than opportunity, comically he also needs acting lessons and Won-joon finds that he must keep Tae-sik employed, groomed and supported if he is to keep himself out of prison. As the film proceeds, Tae-sik develops his talent, begins to believe his own publicity and supersedes his former master, Won-joon, who begins his descent from the apex of the star system regardless. Then the film cuts to two years later, and my, what a transformation. It is remarkable because we see that Tae-sik is at core still the same man.
If Top Star had come from an outspoken rising novice director, it wouldn’t be a poison pen letter but a suicide note. While no one – not even Park – is untouchable, his long and successful career gives him a degree of immunity. The rest of the film details how he increasingly loses touch with that core and finally becomes a destructive movie star, a process that’s quite depressing to watch. he other characters don’t fare as well. Won-joon’s personality seems over-nice for a movie star most of the time, and treats Tae-sik almost like a brother, except when the plot required him to be a dickhead to Tae-sik, which is the final straw that drives Tae-sik to abandon the restraints of his conscience and commit a despicable act; soon after that, tragedy strikes, and then suddenly Won-joon is a saint again. Most of the other characters are fairly one-dimensional, though perhaps it just reflects the shallow world of the film and ad industry, except maybe Tae-sik’s fat friend, who plays the standard sidekick role you see in Hollywood films, that is, he’s the comic relief, until he’s required to deliver the moral lesson to the protagonist because the protagonist has forgotten who he is.
Those things aside, I really felt taken in by the way the film charted the journey of a simple, good man who gets sucked into a world he’s always wanted but from which he couldn’t escape from the inevitable change of behavior that world would elicit from him. We want him to realise his mistakes, even as we start to dislike the person he has become and one by one the people around him start giving up on him. Perhaps it’s not a great film, yet I think I will remember it in years to come. Perhaps that’s partly because I feel like I can relate to Tae-sik, if only a little.