woman standing against windows staring out, looking skepticalalr

Peppermint Candy
(Bakha satang)

Screening on Film
Directed by Lee Chang-dong.
With Sol Kyung-gu, Kim Yeo-jin, Moon So-ri.
South Korea/Japan, 1999, 35mm, color, 129 min.
Korean with English subtitles.
Print source: FineCut

Peppermint Candy begins with a harrowing, unexplained suicide and then moves backward in time, in fragmentary memory-chapters, to reveal the sources of the protagonist’s despair. Novelist-turned-filmmaker Lee Chang-dong’s richly allegorical story follows one man’s hard journey from youthful idealism to complete disillusion during South Korea’s turbulent Eighties and Nineties, as the country lurched from police state to economic giant. Lee vividly fashions a trenchant and profoundly moving portrait of a society irreparably damaged by war, militarism, torture, civil strife and, finally, economic prosperity. The protagonist’s constantly reinvented life—first as a soldier, then a policeman, then businessman—aptly embodies the state of Korean society during this period of intense flux. In her first feature film, Moon So-ri appears as a radiant vision of the innocence and compassion that the protagonist only briefly glimpsed—and almost held—before expediently abandoning it under cruel peer pressure. Moon’s wide-eyed, earthy beauty haunts the film as a lingering regret.

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