Film Review: The Korean Wedding Chest

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Berlin International Film Festival -- Forum

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BERLIN -- Ulrike Ottinger, a 40-year veteran of the further reaches of German cinema whose many films are virtually unknown in the U.S., has given us in "The Korean Wedding Chest" a lovely documentary (though it's nowhere listed as such) about contemporary Korean culture and mores.

Centered on the uneasy but fascinating marriage between old and new wedding customs, the film is by turns revealing and hilarious. Some of the best moments come when professional guardians of the ancient rites fuss over the clothing and posture of recalcitrant fathers and bridegrooms. Everything must be perfect!

Other aspects, related to the commercial context of these elaborate weddings, are relentlessly tacky, yet the director never seems to be laughing at her subjects, merely conveying non-judgmentally what she has observed.

Happily, it's all presented in a straightforward manner with no explanatory voiceover other than a lovely myth, written by Ottinger herself, which bookends the film. Near the beginning of the film we are treated to an explanation by a wedding chest maker of exactly what the chest contains, as she lovingly packs and unpacks it before our amazed eyes. It's exactly the method of Ottinger's delicately-observed film.

Production company: Ulrike Ottinger Filmproduktion
Director: Ulrike Ottinger
Screenwriter: Ulrike Ottinger
Director of photography: Ulrike Ottinger, Lee Sun-Young
Music: Kim So-Young
Editor: Bettina Blickwede
Sales: Ulrike Ottinger Filmproduktion
No rating, 82 minute