I was getting worried that all my reviews lately were too positive. Then I saw 'Daisy/데이지' a 2006 korean film set in Amsterdam directed by Hong Kong filmmaker Andrew Lau of 'Infernal Affairs' fame (which is the film Scorsese remade as 'The Departed'). And now I have something to rag on.
'Daisy' is about a young painter, Hye-young (played by Jun Ji-hyun) who after an incident in the countryside in which she found a bridge built for her by a mysterious admirer, has been receiving anonymous pots of daisies in the post every day. When she is painting in the town square she is approached by Jeong Woo (Lee Sung-jae) who asks for his portrait to be painted. Little does she know but Jeong Woo is a detective who is using Hye-young as a cover so that he can keep an eye on the activities of some drug dealers (why the drug dealers decide to hang out in the middle of the town square, I don't know).
Things get increasingly more convoluted and unbelievable from there but I won't ruin any of the 'twists' before the characters have a chance to explain everything in detail to you themselves- which is what happens for the majority of the film. The three main characters, Hye-young, Jeong Woo and Park Yi, the admirer, (played by Jung Woo-sung) take it in turns to narrate throughout the film to the effect that everything that happens is explained away as it is happening. Probably the first thing that I remember being told in my film production course was the importance of (wherever possible) showing the audience a story rather than 'telling' it. This film is a prime example for why that is the golden rule.
It's not that I'm anti-narration either (I know many people who are) and I can see where it is really useful for giving insight into a characters thoughts and feelings. However with a story as convoluted as this it just gave me the feeling that I was being read a script proposal rather than seeing the story take place. I think I would have enjoyed this film a lot more if more of it had been shown without underestimating the audiences ability to read into different situations. Especially for a script where there are so many different twists, it was rather dull to have them all reveled by a character explaining what had happened.
plot-wise there were also a lot of holes. For example, every time someone got shot it was never really clear who had shot them and from where and which side they were on and why. All important questions when main characters are killed off I would think.
Whilst the acting was quite good, especially from Jun-ji Hyun and Lee-Sung Jae (Jung Woo-sung just acted quite creepy most of the time and I'm not sure if that was intentional or not), my other major problem was with the editing. Some of the cuts, especially in the action scenes, just jarred and there was a ridiculous amount of unnecessary, seemingly meaningless colour grading going on. Does one flashback scene really need to contain like 10 different colour grades?
The posters made it look really dark and action packed but this film is far from that. I've seen a lot of dark asian cinema especially from Japan and Korea but this was just a melodrama dressed up as a crime thriller. It was almost to the point of being funny when it would cut from over-graded fast cut action scenes to sweeping shots of daisy fields with a romantic song in the air. I actually think that if this film hadn't tried to be so serious it might have pulled off the eclectic nature of the script and editing styles. Especially in the scene where Park Yi walks over to Jeong-Woo who is a stranger at this point, and tells him a text book fact about Van Gogh before walking off again (that could have been comedy).
It's not necessarily a bad story, just badly told, leaving you with the feeling that you are watching high budget film written by a an over-dramatic, inexperienced, pubescent high school student.