Bleak Night‘s Korean title is “P’asukkun” (파수꾼) which means “lookout.” P’asukkun is also the word used for the Korean title of J. D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye (호밀밭의 파수꾼). Three friends were supposed to be catchers for each other, but a crack in their friendship leads to irrevocable falls.
According to the media this indie film is likely the movie of the year. Lee Je-hoon who plays disturbed and pitiful Ki-tae has taken home hefty awards and is in for several new projects, one of which is Fashion King. Seo Joon-young, who was Sejong’s dear son in Tree with Deep Roots, plays Dong-yoon whose peace-maker role isn’t enough to hold their friendship together. Park Jung-min who is a promising actor from Korean National University of Arts plays Hui-joon aka Becky (Hui-joon’s last name is Baek, and sometimes Koreans call friends by the combination’s their last name and first syllable of the first name. Thus, Baek Hui becomes “Becky”). Park’s portrayal of Becky is so realistic that when you read Park’s humorous “Becky’s Diary” available through the official blog of Bleak Night, you may find it hard to match Becky with Park. More recently Park has performed in Kisaragi Miki.
Becky’s Diary in which Park writes about the filming experience and spills out stupid stories was just so hilarious that I felt obligated to watch the movie, which according to its title, had sounded too bleak for me. When I watch a movie, I tend to have a dream about it afterwards. This weird habit probably began with watching Doctor K when I was young. Waking up after being chased by mafias, losing family members to natural disasters or traffic accidents, and waiting by the phone to score a key piece of information is tiring, especially when a good night’s sleep is supposed to bring rest. I hesitated at the possibility of turning into a conflicted teenager.
The ending in which Dong-yoon reminisces Ki-tae during their conversation at the table and later at the train station is especially poignant. Although there are memories of wanting to become closer with certain friends and win their respect, I was never invested to the extent that Ki-tae was. Neither was I ever forced in Dong-yoon’s position which required him to embrace both Ki-tae’s fragility and Becky’s timidity. On a selfish note, I am relieved, but I am immensely sad for them. I remembered feeling sad after watching Take Care of My Cat.
Even though the two movies are very different, I was reminded of Take Care of My Cat which I had first watched in high school. I liked it so much that I tried very hard to find all the information I could get about the cast and crew on my very slow internet connection. I also got to know Byul (Byeol) whose music is frequently used in the film. Try “2” and “Has the era of true french fries passed?” Later I found another song by Byul in which he just counts numbers, and stopped listening because it was getting too creepy. Then in college, I found that my library held a DVD copy of the movie and watched it again. Three high school girls and a cat that switches home among the girls appear instead of the three boys and the baseball that travels from Ki-tae to Becky to Dong-yoon. Incheon is an important place in Take Care of My Cat, and there is a scene in Bleak Night in which the boys hang out in Incheon. Both are coming of age movies with stellar performance by young actors and direction by talented producers. DJ Soulscape worked as music director for Bleak Night, amplifying its bleakness and insecurity.
Coming of age stories are not always cheerful. I might dream that I’ve become Becky to get a good slap across my face, but it should be worthwhile because seeing Ki-tae and his buddies has made me want to become a better catcher for those around me.