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Expensive 3D effects for cheap melodrama

2010/10/24 | Permalink | Source

By Lee Hyo-won

Sex sells, and gratuitous breast shots of a gorgeous woman in 3D certainly have marketing appeal.

One is reminded, however, that a good movie is first and foremost based on a good script. "Natalie", the first homegrown live-action 3D movie, offers rather novel bedroom scenes, but the lack of dimension in the storyline makes it seem like it's only a dummy run for an upcoming 3D epic. What an expensive project for cheap melodrama.

"Due to the lack of 3D filmmaking technology in Korea, I had a lot of problems preparing for (my upcoming 3D movie) 'String Song'. Fortunately I was able to direct "Natalie" in 3D beforehand and gain a lot of know-how about the new medium. "Natalie" was a great challenge", director Joo Kyeong-joong said in Seoul last week following the press preview.

"String Song", which stars "Natalie's" lead actor Lee Sung-jae, will finally go into production this week in South Gyeongsang Province after many years of delay due to technical problems, said Joo.

The post-"Avatar" box office has been flooded with 3D animations, fantasy epics and action flicks from Hollywood, and a melodrama in 3D may at first seem unwarranted.

Actually the medium of choice works in many ways. In the opening sequence, the film shouts "I'm 3D" quite loudly, with the curves of the female form protruding ostensibly toward the audience.

While the film tones down the 3D depth script for the rest of the film to keep viewers from straining the eyes too much, explicit sex scenes with catchy 3D effects recur over strategic intervals. Also quite impressive is a scene featuring the lead actress dancing onstage, which establishes spatial designs with the added dimension.

The film, however, feels devoid of depth. Due to technical limitations there are no close-up shots or variety in camera angles, so there seems to be something missing in the sequences, including the sex scenes which are supposed to serve as important expressions for the dramatic tension between the characters.

This is the first venture of its kind, and such shortcomings could have been lightly overlooked if only the script was engaging. The real problem is that the superficial dialogue and cliched storyline make the void even more apparent which is particularly more disappointing since Joo has been internationally acclaimed for his previous piece "A Little Monk".

Mi-ran, a beautiful dance student (newcomer Park Min-kyung), becomes the model, muse and lover of her philandering sculptor-professor Jun-hyeok (Lee). When Mi-ran realizes that she will never be more than a model for Jun-hyeok (in fact, this one-note character actually seizes to be nothing more than just a sexual fantasy in this male-centric film), she leaves him for her stalker-cum-fellow student Min-u (Kim Ji-hoon-I).

The story takes place 10 years later, when Min-u and Jung-hyeok reunite as art critic and interviewee, and the two compare their conflicting memories of Mi-ran, who, as typical of femme fatale tales, seems to have since disappeared.

For Lee, "Natalie" marks a comeback after a three-year hiatus as well as the first time to take on nude scenes.

"I decided to take on the role because the script was good; it was originally supposed to be a small independent production, but once I decided to star in it and it became a 3D venture, the script was altered accordingly. That is a bit regrettable but it was nevertheless an interesting experience", he said, not without an air of disappointment.

On the other hand "String Song", he said, will feature epic battle sequences that make full use of 3D effects. The director agreed, saying "I'm determined to challenge 'Avatar' with 'String Song"'.

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