Far East Film Festival 20

Udine Italy April 20th/ April 28th 2018
The Film Festival For Popular Asian Cinema
Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da Udine
Sunday, April 23, time 9.00 AM

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Derailed

Newspapers spill rivers of ink to fill their crime pages with dark tales that pique the morbid curiosity of their readers – stories which will be immediately forgotten as soon as the next in the succession of gritty portraits comes along. The story of Derailed, the debut film by Lee Sung-tae, is one of these. A nocturnal tale of the forgotten, of fallen angels to whom Derailed restores dignity and gives an almost epic dimension. A gang of four young small-time delinquents make ends meet by thieving and running out of restaurants without paying. The gang’s leaders are Jin-il (K-pop star Choi Min-ho, also in Canola) and his beloved Ga-young (Da-eun, also a star in the group 2EYES). When the gang steal the wrong car, however, they find themselves in debt to local crime boss Hyung-seok (the great Ma Dong-seok from Train to Busan), who forces Ga-young to work in his karaoke bar as a payment. But a desperate Jin-il will go to any lengths, how­ever extreme, to obtain the money he needs to buy Ga-young’s freedom. The real danger, though, is not Hyung-seok, but an enemy who emerges from the past.
A crime story light-years away from the big money and the bright lights: the lights here are the neon ones in dingy little restaurants and 24/7 convenience stores, and the money is barely enough for survival, never mind climbing the ladder to success. Here, stealing a scooter or a car means having a place to sleep, a meal and a break from the never-ending running away. These kids’ souls might be black, but it was life that made them that way – being orphaned, or having a mother who doesn’t even care when her daughter is in the hands of a gangster. In a terrain like this, how could anything sprout except for rotten plants whose only way of communicating seems to be violence. Violence which, in De­railed, is never glamorised or extreme but realistic and bluntly portrayed. In this world where young people are as vicious as chained dogs, even small-time boss Hyung-seok becomes a paternal figure, possessing values, which, though distorted, at least represent fixed points. The result is an ambiguous, almost father-son relationship between boss and protagonist.
Letting his camera follow them closely, first-time director Lee Sung-tae demonstrates a knack for creating characters, giving them a soul and letting them inhabit their own stories with considerable intensity. A sober style, stripped of the inessential, which gets straight to the point, a rare quality in a debut. What Lee Sung-tae sets out to prove, he proves with the faces of the characters, the faces of pop stars one might struggle to imagine wearing the masks of criminals but who are, instead, desperately credible in their flashes of anger and emptiness. Only the maps of their bruises remind us that their lives are lives of violence that lead exactly nowhere. They would be like fireflies destined to fade in the dark were it not for the love that is the driving force behind the film and which, however desperate and obstructed it might be, still has the power to redeem. In the end, violence, drama, love and passion are nothing more than a derailment. Derail­ment, output from the rails, deviation.
Luca Censabella
Film director: 
Lee Sung-Tae
Year: 
2016
Running time: 
91

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