Breathless

Directed by Yang Ik-June
  • South Korea
  • 130 minutes
  • 2009

Gangster Soon-Hong’s life is a cycle of violence and self-loathing. When he meets schoolgirl Han Yeonheui, he not only meets his match, but his possible salvation. Is his lifestyle one he can transcend? Get ready for the gangster genre at its least glamorized: Breathless is all the more subversive in its wilful opposition to glamour and escapism. Stripping away the faux existentialism that encumbers most gangster films, actor-writer-producer Yang Ik-june’s unsentimental debut contains a power all of its own. Its verité feel owes much to the film’s crew starring in key roles – the director casting with a Bressonian eye for looks rather than acting experience.

One wonders exactly where the gangster film can go next; Breathless dismantles every single tenet and facet that gangster chic is predicated upon – this is Korean cinema at its most foul-mouthed, violent and absolutely vital.

Yang Ik-june,Kim Kkobbi,Lee Hwan