Rough and hard to connect to, but still decent story about urban malaise
Asako in Ruby Shoes is a film by Lee Jeyong prior to his more popularperiod Chosen retooling of Les liaisons dangereuses. While I find thisfilm to be uneven and it certainly starts off quite rough, there aresome charms to it's stories about urban loneliness that just barely wonme over in the end.
This film features two separate stories that are interrelated by themesand connections, but the characters hardly really cross. The filmstarts with Uin, a government clerk in Seoul, who lives a rather lonelyand bored life. He's also seemingly socially awkward and seeks (sexual)solace by viewing near-naughty pics on the internet. He also becomesattracted to a flippant and dismissive scarlet-dye-haired worker in hisbuilding. The second story follows Aya, a student in Tokyo, who is solost that she develops an obsession with committing suicide by holdingher breath. She also develops a fixation on the titular ruby shoes andpicks up a couple extra jobs, including as an "actress" for a rathertame internet site catering to lonely men.
Direction-wise, the film starts fairly rough. Some of the editing andframing choices are jagged, however, as the film progresses, theseproblems become less noticeable and a considerably appreciableart-house type style, somewhat reminiscent of French New Wave filmsemerges. The story itself is also fairly interesting, although I had ahard time sympathizing with Uin, due to his often creepy obsessivetendencies. Sometimes the "crossings" between the two characters becomea little contrived, especially as the film goes on, but the emotionalstories of the two characters (especially Aya) becomes so much moreenthralling that, while still thrown by it, I found myself appreciatingthe film all the same. The film also has several moments of humor,ranging from a few gags to the kind of awkward humor that makes me wantto hide behind my couch, but I wouldn't really call this a comedy.
Technically, the film is still a bit rough, but some of my critiquemight reflect the fact that the DVD transfer I have was quite wretched.Color is off and oversaturated and at times undersaturated and it lookslike the DVD transfer was taken off of a video master, giving it somerather ugly noise and interlacing issues. To add injury to insult, thefilm's original ratio was dropped for a 4:3 pan and scan for this HongKong edition that I received. Consequently, I found it hard to judgethe film's production values. In terms of craft, the actors do aremarkable job and while some of the supporting characters definitelyventured into caricatures, the leads held their roles well, consideringthat the themes they had to embody were rather subtle.
I have to say that while it was tough going at first, I found myselfactually enjoying Asako in Ruby Shoes. Unfortunately, being unable toconnect with Uin on top of the contrivances, combined with a ratherdismal DVD transfer, blunted my enjoyment quite a bit. Still, I thinkthat there's enough going on in this film to merit a viewing, forinterested parties. It's rough, but I like it okay. 6/10.