A lingering example of the artistic narcissism at the heart of the cinematic artform is the habit filmmakers make of over-romanticising filmmaking; something noble in and of itself, born out of some nigh-on-divine necessity within the human spirit to create. While this can result in quite brilliant efforts (Stephen Chow’s The New King Of Comedy is an excellent recent example), which may omit the more melancholy aspects of the creative process – aspects that writer/director Kim Cho-hee digs deep into with Lucky Chan-Sil to unearth resonant gold.
The central performance of Gang Mal-geum as the titular Chan-sil, a film producer who finds herself without work after her close directorial collaborator suddenly dies, is one bursting with transitional malaise. The fear that all that time she spent devoted to her craft, rather than engaging with the other experiences life has to offer like love and family, has her in a fit of stasis that is heart-rending to see. And with auteur theory subtly playing into the reason why she is jobless in the first place, she serves as an alternative viewpoint of the industry.
From there, the way death and cinema wind around each other make for conversations and imagery that range from the smirk-worthy (Chun-sil arguing with her love interest about how he can possibly like Christopher Nolan more than Ozu Yasujirō), to the absurd (frequent visits from the ghost of Hong Kong actor and singer Leslie Cheung, played by Kim Young-min), to the immensely gratifying (Chun-sil giving the Internet some much needed advice in saying “Don’t judge someone on the movies they like”). And as framed by some very Ozu slice-of-life pacing, where the simplicity of the events ground the emotions within them, it emphasises that while art can enrich the spirit, relying on just film to do that can leave one feeling empty and unfulfilled.
As cinematic narrative, Lucky Chan-Sil exudes a respect for the artform, both on the local level as well as in context to cinema worldwide, but treats it with a fresh perspective that doesn’t fall entirely into the aforementioned romantic view of cinema and art in general; rather, it is naturalistic and without bombast, which may make-or-break it for some audiences.
But for those with the appetite for something slower and more meditative, interjected with moments where a ghost declares that “Ghosts don’t have menopause”, Lucky Chan-Sil serves as an interesting examination of the film industry and the creatives that dwell within it. And if lockdown continues to strip the industry bare, it also doubles as a commentary on questions that a lot of filmmakers and even filmgoers could be asking themselves soon.