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Youth Is an “Aggressive” Storm Hurtling toward the Sun

Youth Is an “Aggressive” Storm Hurtling toward the Sun

Posted May. 27, 2005 03:44,   


It is truly “cool.”

“The Aggressives” provides a thrilling, overwhelming experience just for looking up at the screen. Such power comes not from mere pretensions to coolness or profundity. The movie, like the line taken from it, renders “this very moment of skating” into a powerful image and etches it like a clear mark in the viewer’s heart.

“We did not regret the days gone by, nor did we worry about tomorrow.” (Voiceover by the main character, So-yo)

“The Aggressives” may appear childish and unsophisticated, but it asks a single crucial question. “You, do you find life exciting?” If this coming-of-age film seems to leap over the impulsive giddiness of youth and speak about life itself, that’s because none of us who see it find our current lives exciting.

Top-rate inline skater Mo-gi (Kim Gang-wu) is a devil-may-care kind of guy who doesn’t mix with society. That’s why his girlfriend Han-ju (Cho Yi-jin) loves him. So-yo (Cheon Jeong-myeong), who is introverted but nurses a burning passion for inline skating, follows Mo-gi around and hones his skill day and night. Gap-ba (Lee Cheon-hee), Mo-gi’s close friend and the team’s leader, urges him to fit in with reality but it’s not as easy as it sounds.

So-yo: Han-ju, what is it that you like about Mo-gi?

Han-ju: His drinking, and his smoking.

So-yo: No, I mean your real reason for liking him.

Han-ju: The fact that he has no ambition.

The events in the movie are rather bland, in a way. There is no rousing conflict that penetrates from the outside, no mad love, sex, violence, or even reconciliation. The conclusion is open-ended, in perpetual present tense. Nonetheless, “The Aggressives” possesses a powerful cohesiveness thanks to its beautiful “attitude.” The film doesn’t try to summarize, organize, and interpret youth, but scoops it up and flings it into the sky. Youth itself is the incident, conflict, mad love, sex, violence, and reconciliation.

Gap-ba: I told you to wear a helmet because it’s dangerous!

Mo-gi: We’re not doing this so that we won’t get hurt. I’ll get hurt as I see fit.

The reason why this film seems to radiate a constant light is because even the darkness of youth is portrayed in an infinitely “cool” manner. Gap-ba’s finest “invective” against Mo-gi is: “I don’t know what you’re thinking, but I’m with you all the way.”

In “The Aggressives,” many things are in mutual “dialogue.” The characters regard the curb, the subway railing, the bridges crossing the Han River, and other precarious edges they skate over as friends, adoring them and yearning to speed along them. Instead of showing off their accumulating scars as medals, they view them as pathways to serious conversation with their own heady lives. This is why the perilous antics of “aggressive inline skating” go beyond mere instant entertainment and busily carry the film’s themes over to the audience. The heart-pounding music provided by Dalparan and Park Min-joon adheres closely to the action and creates a fresh and chewy cinematic rhythm.

Mo-gi: Nothing is fun if it becomes work. If you find something fun, that’s as far as it can go.

Even if it ends up missing on all other points, “The Aggressives” is a success because of its four main characters. Their bodies and thoughts are so dazzling that just looking at them brings a tear to one’s eye.

Kim Gang-wu—gulping down water straight from the bottle as he challenges, “Have you got something against society?”—exudes a magical power that thrills the viewer. Cheon Jeong-myeong’s gaze, which is 60 percent fear, 30 percent curiosity, and 10 percent rebelliousness, inspires a protective instinct even as it gives off a tantalizing whiff of masculinity. Cho Yi-jin, who can start a conversation just with the adorable spot on the bridge of her nose, is surely the most irresistible ball of attractiveness among all the actresses without double eyelids that the Korean film industry has recently discovered. Lee Cheon-hee is worthy of gratitude for making us realize that being honest, upright, and honorable can be a source of attractiveness in men, even in this day and age.

Directed by Jeong Jae-eun, whose previous hits include “Take Care of My Cat.” Opens June 2. For ages 12 and over.

Seung-Jae Lee sjda@donga.com