I think it's easy to live without poetry
and easy to forget about it once you graduate from school.
But you still need it. It's something that can bring out
things you can't see with your eyes. . . .*
~ Lee Chang-dong
A new film — Poetry, by the South Korean filmmaker Lee Chang-dong — premiered last month at the 63rd Cannes Film Festival, held May 12-23. It is described in its official synposis as "[a] profound story of an elderly woman in search of the fundamental poetry from her life. Aside from being sentenced with Alzheimer's disease, she faces another dilemma when her teen-aged grandson who is under her care is found to be one of the assaulters of a girl from his junior-high school who had committed suicide." Though poor and living on a government subsidy, the lonely but curious protagonist finds a certain happiness in such things a floral-print dresses and hats and when she enrolls in a poetry-writing class, which exposes her to the beauty in even the common and the mundane, makes it her goal to write poems. Her discovery about her grandson forces her to look at a darker, uglier side of life.
Considered one of Asia's finest, most talented directors, Chang-dong (b. 1954) began his professional life as a novelist and then moved on to screenwriting. His first feature as a director was the 1997 Green Fish, which won an award an the 16th Vancouver International Film Festival. His next, the award-winning Peppermint Candy (2000), had its premiere at the 4th Pusan International Film Festival and, after being screened at Cannes, was shown at more than 30 film festivals around the world. Chang-dong also directed Oasis (2002), which tells the story of a man with mental disabilities who falls in love with a woman with severe cerebral palsy, and Secret Sunshine (2007), deemed an existential drama. He is the producer of A Brand New Life (2009) and Never Forever (2007).
Below is a trailer for the film, which stars 65-year-old Yoon Jeong-hee, who has been absent from acting for nearly 20 years. (The audio is in Korean. I think, however, you can get a good sense of the film's sensibility without understanding the language.)
*An interesting interview (in English) with the director and the beautiful veteran actress is here.
Hancinema, The Korean Movie & Drama Database
Awards for Lee Chang-dong
Chang-dong YouTube videos (Included here are film trailers, Chang-dong's recorded appearances at various film festivals, and interesting interviews with the director.)