Hong Kong Digital is sponsored by Poker Industries. Please see the Hong Kong Digital home page for a special offer from Poker Industries to Hong Kong Digital readers.

Issue #111 HOME E-mail: mail@dighkmovies.com BACK ISSUES June 10th, 2002

The Quiet Family
(1998; Il Shin Pictures / Myung Film)

A Masterpiece
Highly Recommended
Very Good
Marginal Recommendation
Not Recommended
Definitely Not Recommended

Korean: Jo yonghan gajok

The Kangs buy an old inn and relocate from the city, hoping that the simple country life will bring them peace and tranquillity. After two weeks, The Misty Lodge has not had a single customer and this seriously dysfunctional family is starting to come apart at the seams. Finally, late one evening, an odd little man appears out of nowhere and becomes the establishment's first guest. Cement-headed Youngmin (JOINT SECURITY AREA's Song Kang-ho) goes up to his room the next morning, only to find that the man has topped himself during the night. Convinced that they will never have another visitor if the news ever gets out, Mr. Kang (Park In-hwan) orders that the body be dragged out and buried. This does not fully assuage Kang's fears, however; the victim arrived with a wallet full of money, which has since gone missing, and the last one to see him was Youngmin, who was previously in trouble with the law. A young couple arrives soon after but there will be no continental breakfast in their future as they proceed to enact a lovers' suicide pact. Disposing of these two corpses has unexpected complications but some long-delayed road work in the area is finally getting under way and this will ensure a steady stream of clientele. Business indeed picks up but the Kangs' troubles are far from over, thanks to a lecherous traveller (NOWHERE TO HIDE's Park Joong-hoon), a hostage in the storage shed, a nosy police chief, and a ridiculous murder plot cooked up by the man who sold Kang the property. The final straw comes when it is announced that the road in front of Misty Lodge is scheduled for development, meaning that all the corpses the family buried there must be hastily exhumed and disposed of in some other fashion.

This is a splendidly tangled comedy of fatal errors filled with accidental (and not-so-accidental) death, mistaken identity, and corpses that pop up at the worst possible times. Hollywood classics like ARSENIC AND OLD LACE (1944) and THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY (1955) have mined this vein before but writer/director Kim Ji-woon (who would later team up with Song for THE FOUL KING) makes it all seem fresh, thanks to stylish direction and some really unique touches, like having the macabre goings-on accompanied by up-tempo American music including, of all things, "Ubangi Stomp" and The Partridge Family's "I Think I Love You!". The actors (particularly rubber-faced Song) are all well-chosen but Go Ho-kyung is especially worthy of note as the Kangs' youngest daughter. Early on, Kim gives us a long, unbroken shot of Go in which she stares off into space, while expressing her boredom in voiceover. Are the events that follow merely something she has daydreamed? That might explain why two major occurrences in the final reel are not fully resolved but, since her character does this again at other points, one cannot be entirely sure. Whatever the case, this is a refreshingly inventive and entertaining picture that, while never graphic, is not afraid to stretch the bounds of good taste in search of ghoulish laughs. Choi Min-shik (SHIRI), Na Mun-hee, and Lee Yeon-sung co-star. THE QUIET FAMILY was a success on its home turf and apparently struck a chord with notorious Japanese director Takashi Miike, who remade it last year as THE HAPPINESS OF THE KATAKURIS. Miike's twisted sensibilities are a perfect match for material like this but you just know that some Hollywood hack is going to see THE QUIET FAMILY at a film festival and convince a major studio to produce a sanitized remake that will "preserve the wit of the original, while leaving aside the less audience-friendly elements." May none of us live to see it.

Cover art courtesy Modern.
Click here to see the inside cover art (courtesy Modern)

Go Ho-kyung. Image courtesy Modern.

Choi Min-shik (left) and Song Kang-ho (right). Image courtesy Modern.
Park Joong-hoon. Image courtesy Modern.
Modern #VED19024 (Hong Kong label)

Dolby Digital 2.0

Sync Sound Korean Language

Optional Subtitles In English and Traditional Chinese
6 Chapters Illustrated In the Menu With (Tiny) Stills Letterboxed (1.68:1)

Coded for ALL Regions

99 Minutes

Contains moderate violence and gore, mild sexual content, and coarse language

DVD menu courtesy Modern.

Hong Kong: IIB
Singapore: PG [Passed With Cuts]

Like most of Modern's releases, the disc is a mixed bag. The film has been transferred without video mattes, causing the opening credits to vault into the frame over the mattes. A few glitches and right channel dropouts pop up in the master tape and there is some digital instability notable at times. The disc has also inexplicably been split into two halves (signalled by a pause at 56:41), even though it is not a dual layer title. The English subtitles are uneven (though the person who did them deserves points for trying to translate the sound of someone spitting -- "Kaaack Tweiya!") and there seems to be a fair amount of paraphrasing. Words at the end of sentences are also occasionally missing and the timing is off in spots. These technical issues aside, the DVD offers a good transfer, with a sharp image and attractive, autumnal hues, and the sound is effectively delivered. A trailer for JOINT SECURITY AREA is the only extra, though a pair of postcards are tucked inside the clear keepcase and Modern has also included a cute double-sided cover. There are no time functions.

is available at Poker Industries.

Having problems printing this review with Netscape? Go to the File option in the Netscape Task Bar, click the Page Setup from the sub-menu and make sure that in the Page Options listings, the Black Text box is clicked. This should resolve the "no text" printing problem.

Click here for more information about The Hong Kong Filmography

Copyright © John Charles 2000 - 2002. All Rights Reserved.
E-mail: mail@dighkmovies.com