LOCARNO FILM REVIEW: Noh Young-Seok’s ‘Daytime Drinking’

DAYTIME DRINKING, (aka NOT SOOL), SONG Sam-Dong, 2008.By Ray Bennett

LOCARNO, Switzerland – The title of Korean newcomer Noh Young-Seok’s first feature, “Daytime Drinking,” clunks like a cracked glass but it’s a spirited concoction full of surprises and dry rewards.

It’s a wry tale about the perils that may befall a young man from the city traveling in wintry countryside with a habit of getting inebriated with strangers. Working with a reported budget of $10,000, Young-Seok did everything on the film from writing and directing to editing and scoring, and it shows.

But the film’s technical flaws are overcome by a polished cast, topped by Song Sam-Dong as the hapless boozer, clearly on the filmmaker’s side in making the film both observant and laugh-out-loud funny. Winner of the Korean Cinema on the Move award at this year’s Jeonju International Film Festival and destined for Toronto, it’s the kind of small but tasty libation festival audiences appreciate.

The liquor flows from the opening scene in which three pals are trying to roust Hyuk-Jin (Sam-Dong) from his gloom over being dumped by his girlfriend. He doesn’t drink much but the others do as they persuade the lovelorn young man to join them on a road trip to the countryside.

They are so drunk, in fact, that they forget about the whole thing and Hyuk-Jin finds himself alone in a wintry wasteland trying to find the place they were to meet. Instead, he meets a series of strangers whose convivial first impression turns sour after a few drinks.

Sam-Dong does a great job to convey the young drinker’s slow recognition of looming disaster as he is variously ignored, insulted, seduced, robbed and abandoned without his wallet and his pants. The others in the cast match his well-modulated off-kilter delivery.

Young-Seok treats daytime drinking as a natural indulgence of youth, taking a droll view of the pitfalls that ensue. His debut film demonstrates a sure touch that will no doubt be seen again.

Venue: Locarno International Film Festival, In Competition; Cast: Song Sam-Dong, Yuk Sang-Yeop, Kim Kang-Hee, Tak Seoung-Jun, Lee Lan-Hee, Shin Un-Seop. Director, writer, director of photography, music, costume designer, editor: Noh Young-Seok; Production: StONEwork; No MPAA rating, running time 116 mins.

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