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Action Boys (2008)
Director: Jung Byung-gil

Only eight out of 36 boys pass the rigorous training at Seoul Action School. They all have different dreams but all wish to become stuntmen. Despite frequent accidents and injuries, they never give up their dream, and the movie follows their hopeful desperation.

Action Boys (2008)

Dorm Room Trifles

I saw this at the Melbourne International Film Festival. It was fantastic in large part because it was new. I saw it paired with “Theater of War,”, whose idea was that little people enable unhealthy societies. That film presumed that structure in film and theater was what powered narrative in individuals and societies. It was a powerful notion: Top-down long form narrative influences individuals whose individual actions and commitment aggregate into societal impulse. Top to bottom, bottom to top.

This is the opposite. It is purely all bottom.

It is a documentary, about the making of a documentary by some stuntmen who participate in the making of movies. These movies are Korean action films where chaos is the baseline, and the illusion of chaos involves the stunts that these guys do. The form is that we have a female narrator, who also produces and is the girlfriend of one of the stuntmen. She gives a meandering account of the history of four stuntmen from the day they audition for stunt school. One of these guys — her boyfriend — has his history start at birth.

The charm of this is that it has no narrative structure whatever. There are some notions introduced: the danger, the personal incompetences, the nature of the film business, the unevenness of the lives… But it is essentially a bunch of episodes and skits put together from what appears to be their actual unrehearsed lives, and stuff that is clearly fabricated. Its all the stuff of dorm room horsing around, a sort of nerd macho meets illusion. The lives are aimless. The movies they help make are aimless and the film we are watching is so aimless we keep waiting for it to either develop structure or end.

And yet, it is so guileless, so human that there is enough that we follow. It could have been edited down, maybe a half hour or more removed. It could have been structured even. But that would have defeated the effect, which is a profound empty centre worthy of — and in some ways superior to — Goddard.

Posted in 2009

Ted’s Evaluation — 3 of 3: Worth watching.


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