“Gyopo”: a term used to refer to those of Korean descent who’ve lived abord. Gyopo is also the name of Smauel Kiehoon Lee’s feature debut, a series of vignettes loosely based upon his experiences of living in Korean for over a dozen years. The film could be best described as Nashville meets 60s Godard in Seoul; it’s filled to the brim with a sense of hipness that makes it a delightful watch, but it does unfortunately run out of steam.
Hyperlink narratives always have a sense of momentum, even at their worst. Thankfully, Lee’s film far outstrips the worst hyperlink narratives. This genre of filmmaking is almost entirely predicated upon the strength of the characters, a fact that Lee seems to be fully cognizant of. The first thirty or so minutes of Gyopo is truly delightful, a flowing cacophony of new souls you feel you understand. This is clearly a personal film for the filmmaker, but like all good personal first films, its grounded in the stories it’s telling.
Lee consciously uses innumerable cinematic flourishes throughout his film. Earlier, I jokingly referenced Godard, but the first thirty minutes are filled with so many jump cuts it feels as if the reference is pointedly apt. Some of these flourishes work great. The wide black and white is particularly used well. Gyopo is unquestionably hip, but all hip things can lose their lustre. Lee frequently uses the “Schindler’s List Effect,” and while it’s thematically imbedded, it does not land as hard as he would probably like. The film contains a sexual politics I’m still grappling with. Some of it is deeply icky and some of it is deeply touching, but it is all painfully real. This an undoubtedly personal debut, but is also one from the voice of a talent to watch.
- Genre: Drama, Foreign
- Release Date: 11/9/2019
- Directed by: Samuel Kiehoon Lee
- Starring: Bobby Choy, Chloe Lee, Eun-Young Jeong, Haeryun Kang, Jake Kwon, Kevin Kim, Nikki Webster, Paul Hwangbo, Sally Yoo, Samuel Kiehoon Lee, Seung-Hyun Chong, Young Joo Lee
Comments are closed.