The following is a blog (of sorts) where I discuss movie-related and site-related thoughts that I can't express within the confines of a normal review.  Some of them may be responses to e-mail I've received, trailers I've seen, or just an overall theme not specific to a movie.  Most of these writings are meant strictly for me, but I do consider them of potential interest to those of you that love movies or are just interested in the running of the site in general.  I welcome any feedback you might have on any of the subjects listed in this (or any other) section of my site.

6/1/2006 -- Personal perspective, from someone not of the brotherhood

This is an interesting bit of mail I've received from a reader of one of my reviews, and I felt that he made some valid, interesting points.  I do have some points of my own I'd like to make, but first, I'll let you read the e-mail from Charles.  I should state that I've edited the e-mail to make it a little easier to read grammatically:

"I came across your review for Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War, and I feel
you have some good points in it. However, I feel unless you are Korean
yourself, and know the Korean culture, you won't know how we Koreans value honor
and respect (i.e. respect for elders and such) in such a way that I feel is
not understandable to those who come from other cultures. I can say this, because I have lived in America now for half of my life and seeing things around here, people do not value loyalty, honor, and respect as much as people did in Korea.

You said "and some of the more sentimental scenes dip a bit too deep to seem particularly real". Yet you are not Korean and do not know of what true sentiment in our culture means, we are a very strong, prideful, and deep group of people who revere loyalty, yet you make a biased statement from your mere opinion. Obviously being Korean, I was moved by the sentimental scenes in this movie because I have a brother and I know of the Korean culture.

Yes, you are entitled to your opinion, however being on a review website and the way you put things you make it sound like direct criticism and not opinion.

Also for Matrix you say to "lighten up" ? Let's see you make a better movie than that... shoot."

Charles, I thank you for the perspective, and it has given me quite a bit to think about.  You are correct, I am not Korean, and can't claim to speak as to how many of the scenes of the film speak to Koreans about things I , being an American, couldn't possibly understand.  I would like to make a few points regarding my own perspective, and that of film criticism in general, that should be clarified.

First, I'll state something obvious.  The vast majority of films that I see and review on my site are made by people that aren't like me for people that aren't like me.  On my site you'll find reviews for films about children, about women, about Catholics, about the military, about the exploration of space, about surfing, about married life, about living in New York, about being African-American in the 1950s, and an endless array of other things that I have never experienced in my life and which says something to people that have experienced them that I will never, no matter how long I'm alive, will ever understand fully.  Every film critic is, in some form or fashion, not going to be 100% in tune with the messages and perspective of any one particular movie, since all movies feature people that aren't exactly like us, doing things we may not have ever done, talking about things we may be hearing of for the very first time.  My opinion will always be trumped by someone out there more in the know in terms of life experience, and I know full well that not every review or opinion I have can possibly be above reproach.

That said, I do speak, perhaps not 100% accurately, but nevertheless still with the semblance of implied kinship, for the majority of people out there that view movies despite the fact that they were made by and for people unlike them.  Regardless of the fact that certain scenes, characters, and political statements made in a film aren't meant for me, ultimately, the film as a whole is a story that is being told and which I can glean a certain admiration and/or disdain for, because, at the core of my very being, I enjoy watching a good movie, reading a good story, or listening to interesting dialogue, just like nearly every other person out there that might ever stick a DVD into their player and press play.  In fact, many times I enjoy these very things merely because they are saying things that I, in my limited life experience, would never know or think of growing up in a world completely unlike the one depicted in the film.

That the scenes of pre-war Korea may have much more emotional and sentimental impact to a person from Korea, I have no reason to doubt.  However, as you seem keenly aware, I am writing my review from a non-Korean perspective to a predominantly non-Korean readership, and my assessment of these scenes stand as such because of this fact.  From a storytelling standpoint, again from a non-Korean perspective, these scenes are filled with an idealized vision of a world without troubles or trace of malevolence, and from my admittedly limited viewpoint, these scenes appear to have been made precisely because they will contrast much more starkly with the horrors of the war scenes.  Yes, they are, not unlike many other scenes in American films about the strife and evils of war, manipulative to the audience as a whole because they represent more of an idealized state of mind than they do an accurate representation of people the way they really are.

I suppose it should go without saying that if one really wants a Korean assessment of this film, they should probably seek out a Korean film critic.  If they want to hear what a critic they generally agree with feels about this film, regardless of his personal background, they should go to that critic.  I would be a fool to think that I have the ability to speak for all people about all things with complete authority.  However, after 2000 films reviewed, I still feel that I can speak to people about almost any film I see in a broad, general sense, and give them my perspective, and they know that that perspective is that of my own, and my own alone, subject to being disregarded , or proven totally irrelevant, by anyone, for any reason, as they see fit.

By the way, my review of The Matrix is an incredibly positive one.  My statement of "Lighten up" speaks merely to people that view that film, as I mention in the review, as an "exalted religious experience", instead of the intelligent piece of entertainment it so clearly, from its very inception, was designed to be. 

Now I'll just wait for someone from Zion to tell me I don't know what I'm talking about.

2006 Vince Leo