Lee Chang-dong and Moon So-ri in New York: “Oasis”

Juli 1, 2008

Written by Samuel Jamier
Tuesday, 06 May 2008

Sol Kyung-gu and Moon So-ri: a scene from Oasis

Director Lee Chang-dong and actress Moon So-ri were introducing Oasis earlier tonight at Asia Society, and taking questions from the audience. This film, the first of the retrospective this week, is a bit of shocker and is many ways a very hard-to-identify film object. I first watched it quite a while ago, and felt its impact long after the screening. Of course, you can always pick up your conceptual tools and try to come up with something smart, do the critique job: You can adopt the “This works. This doesn’t… This is how the film should work” stance, if you are the journalistic type of reviewer, the type that writes fast (and loose),or adopt a “This is how it works” sort of discourse, if you are more of an analytic – and often academic – type. And yes sometimes it works, but sometimes you just fall flat on your face – overinterpretation, over- intellectualization they call it.

Oasis may not necessarily be the most sophisticated (such a simplistic term, come to think of it) film, but there is something in it that defies formal analysis, perhaps because of the way the story and the characters set in motion a fragile drama that walks the thin line between reserve/restraint and its opposite – exuberance, perhaps. This instable balance that Lee Chang-dong managed to reach with Oasis is probably what makes his film – and his work as a director in general – such a unique, compelling spectacle, pushing and takes it miles away from commercial “Sunday-afternoon-distraction” entertainment. I’ll come back to this at some point. Possibly in a more “constructed” format, a formal review – just so I can contradict myself – or something.

Anyway, so… the big thing about tonight, really, was that I had the chance to meet the director himself, and the actress… herself (Moon So-ri won the the Marcello Mastroianni award for best “first time” actress at the Venice Film Festival for her performance in this film). Ms. Moon was in New York for the first time, it turned out. The encounter with both Lee and Moon was certainly brief but intense, and an important personal moment for the film fan that is typing these lines. Little did I know, back in the days when I first watched a vhs copy of Green Fish in a tiny Tokyo apartment, that I would meet Lee Chang-dong in the flesh ten years from then.

with Ernest Woo, Moon So-ri, Yuni Cho, and Lee Chang-dong

with Moon So-ri

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