4 Stars
Year Released: 2000
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 127 minutes
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The haunting second feature from South Korean director Lee Chang-dong(probably best known on these shores as the screenwriter behind Park Kwang soo’s “To the Starry Island and A Single Spark”) opens by documenting the final minutes in the life of Yongho, a middle-aged businessman whose unsettlingly disruptive presence at a reunion of his former youth collective comes to a tragic end in the path of an oncoming train. From there, “Peppermint Candy” goes backwards in time, in increasingly larger leaps from days to years, to chart Yongho’s downward spiral — financial ruin, a failed marriage, stints in the police and military, and the loss of true love — before concluding (or, more precisely, beginning) in the same physical locale where the film first touched down, a moment made all the more heartwrenching in light of the sensitivity and innocence which make the young Yongho virtually unrecognizable from the man he will become.
The reverse-time structure of “Peppermint Candy” is hardly revolutionary — Harold Pinter’s “Betrayal” most famously managed the feat, as did the ambitious but ultimately unsatisfying episode of “Seinfeld” that satirized it – but to its credit, Lee’s intricate narrative possesses none of the showiness or arch cleverness of its antecedents; in documenting Yongho’s decline from finish to start, the film instead poses troubling questions on the inevitable erosion of humanity in the face of destiny, doubling as both a devastating character study and a scathing indictment of a generation’s betrayal at the hands of its own society.

Posted on October 11, 2000 in Reviews by

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