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Brief film review: The Contact (Jang Yoon-hyeon, 1997)

The Contact - Still


Dong-hyun (Han Suk-gyu), a radio DJ, has recently been dumped by his girlfriend. Lovelorn and scorned his mood is lifted when he receives a copy of a vinyl Velvet Underground LP thinking that it is a gift from his ex. Since it holds a special meaning for his demised relationship, he plays Pale Blue Eyes from the record. Meanwhile, listening on the radio, Soo-hyun (Jeon Do-yeon), a home shopping telemarketer, becomes mesmerized by the song. Over the internet she contacts Dong-hyun requesting for the song to be played again. Dong-hyun obliges and replies, hoping that his mysterious emailer is his ex-girlfriend or someone she knows.

Brief discussion:
The Contact screened at the KCC as part of the Year of the Film professionals. The featured professional for this film was music director Cho Young-wuk, who assembled a sound-track which turned out to be a hot seller. Having a central character who runs a radio show is rather a gift to a music director who wants to showcase a particular sound, and the brooding, subdued sound of the Velvet Underground went rather well with the mood of the movie.

The Contact is an agreeable if slightly confusing film, full of restrained emotion and will-they-won’t-they anticipation. It’s not really made clear, at least to a Western audience, why Han Suk-gyu’s character waits so long before finally deciding to greet the Jeon Do-yeon character in person, although it might be perfectly natural behaviour to a Korean audience. In this regard the film seems to follow the familiar trope in Korean melodramas where a character is unable to express their feelings (see for example another early Han Suk-gyu film, Christmas in August). And another melodrama cliché – the extremely unlikely coincidence that binds two characters together, namely in this case that two people involved in the same car crash were listening to the same radio show when the accident happened. Everything is fated, but the individuals don’t realise it.

Having said all this, having seen The Contact this is the first time in a while that I’ve seen a Korean film and not thought that I have wasted two hours of my life. I don’t seem to have time to watch as many Korean films these days, and the other films I have seen recently, Face Reader (2013), Secretly Greatly (2014), and Antarctic Journal (2005), have been severely disappointing, while The Contact, though confusing and also slightly annoying, was one I’d watch again to see if I got it more the second time round.

Jang Yoon-hyeon (장윤현): The Contact (접속, 1997) score-2score-2score-2score-0score-0

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