Young-seok Noh's "Daytime Drinking" is a droll minimalist comedy with major insights that has been understandably heralded as a breakthrough in independent filmmaking in Korea. A great-looking film made for a mere $20,000, with Noh also serving as cinematographer, editor, composer and art director as well as writer-director, "Daytime Drinking" turns upon the Korean custom of never turning down a drink, which greatly complicates its feckless hero's escalating misadventures in a chilly off-season resort region.
At a Seoul bar, where Hyuk-jin (Sam-dong Song) is nursing his sorrow over a breakup with his girlfriend, one of his pals suggests that their whole group take a trip to a small town, where a festival is underway. It's supposed to cheer up Hyuk-jin, but when he arrives at his destination the next day by bus he discovers his pals have gotten so drunk they entirely forgot their plan -- and that the festival was over weeks ago. Trudging off to the mountain hostel where the group was supposed to stay, Hyuk-jin ends up at the wrong address, at which point his woes start piling up.
If his friends are sensationally unreliable, even worse, in a comical way, are the people Hyuk-jin is about to encounter, starting with the couple in the room next door to him at the hostel.
Others are a loud, aggressive and finally downright crazy young woman and a big, crude truck driver who looks to be Hyuk-jin's savior only to put the make on him. "Daytime Drinking" is a wonderfully idiosyncratic gem with universal humorous appeal.
Kevin Thomas --
"Daytime Drinking." MPAA rating: Unrated. In Korean with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour, 56 minutes. At the Music Hall in Beverly Hills.
A daughter pining for absent dad
Like its central character, Henry Jaglom's 16th feature is gangly and graceful, awkward and tender, a jumble of astute observation and clunkily heightened reality. In "Irene in Time," the indie auteur's ongoing exploration of the female psyche reaches into the charged relationship between daughters and dads. If the melodrama is less than convincing, the film's emotional truth packs a wallop, and the wise humor clicks.
Tanna Frederick, Jaglom's on-screen muse since 2007's "Hollywood Dreams," plays a thirtysomething little girl, a skilled singer-songwriter so emotionally raw, it's as if she has no skin. She'll wax nostalgic about "my daddy," a long-gone gambler, with anyone she meets and uses the word "magical" with alarming frequency -- and dwindling conviction.
Irene's exuberance is both lovely and excruciating. Living with a family friend (Karen Black), she hangs on every word of the cronies who knew her father while striking out with men and amassing a library of dating advice books. The story's variously lying, cheating and just-not-getting-it males don't come off well, but Irene too is capable of insensitivity.
Her mother (Victoria Tennant), understandably, wants her to grow up. With her calm clarity, Tennant more than holds the screen, as does Andrea Marcovicci, representing a more fevered brand of womanly self-knowledge. Harriet Schock's literate songs are characters in themselves; the harmonizing voices of Irene's recording sessions provide eloquent counterbalance to the soul-searching dialogue.
Even as the story enters telenovela territory, Frederick makes Irene's neediness matter, and Jaglom orchestrates a stirring crescendo.
Sheri Linden --
"Irene in Time." MPAA rating: PG-13 for thematic elements and some sexual content. Running time: 1 hour, 34 minutes. In selected theaters.
On a one-way road to trouble
Although sexy and scenic, the Peruvian road movie "Mancora" lacks the heart and soul required to fully invest in its central trio's free-floating journey of self-discovery. Director Ricardo de Montreuil ("La Mujer de mi Hermano"), working from an often-episodic script by Oscar Torres, also never infuses the film with sufficient energy to propel its potentially loaded emotional and physical conflicts.
When flunking college student Santiago (Jason Day) learns of his estranged father's suicide, he decides to escape wintry Lima for Mancora, a laid-back beach town north of the city. Joining "Santi" on his drive there are his attractive, slightly older, photographer stepsister Ximena (Elsa Pataky) and her rakish, narcissistic husband, Inigo (Enrique Murciano), who've just arrived from New York for a visit. By the time the three reach Mancora, the stage is set for some not-unpredictable sexual tension that, when mixed with heavy-duty doses of partying, may have life-changing consequences. What happens in Mancora doesn't necessarily stay in Mancora.
Gary Goldstein --
"Mancora." MPAA rating: R for some strong sexual content, drug use, language and violence. Running time: 1 hour, 41 minutes. In Spanish with English subtitles. At Laemmle's Sunset 5, West Hollywood and Laemmle's Playhouse 7 in Pasadena.
Not what Mike had pictured