Sunday, February 10, 2013

KCS Film Night: The House

Yuppies don’t get it.  Old homes have character.  That is because there are spirits intimately connected to each domicile.  Much to her surprise, one formerly affluent young woman starts to see the endangered spirits of her run-down new neighborhood in Ban Joo-young’s animated feature The House (trailer here), which screens this Tuesday as part of the Korean Cultural Service’s regular free movie night in New York.

After her hedge-fund was wiped out, Ga-young is forced to move into a school friend’s studio apartment and accept work as a tutor.  Not naturally inclined towards graciousness, she is a bit of a pill to live with.  Indeed, she is exactly the sort of shallow materialist who could stand to learn a lesson from supernatural beings.  An inadvertent encounter with an enchanted cat’s collar will do just that.  Suddenly, she can see the Shmoo-like spirits living amongst the studio units of her dilapidated building.

All is not well with the spirits.  One of their brethren is profoundly ailing, showing all signs he will soon share the fate of the recently deceased human occupant of his unit.  However, the dubious urban renewal project slated for the neighborhood poses an existential threat to all the spirits.  Making promises they do not understand, the spirits enlist Ga-young’s help petitioning the earth elemental now residing in that pesky stray for help.  Unfortunately, like most felines, the cat is not helpful by nature.

To judge from The House and the previous KCS animated selection, Padak, Korean animation seems to be on a collective mission to prepare children for all of life’s subsequent disappointments.  Both films end on rather heavy notes, even for unrepentant American capitalists.  Still, House also warns children to be skeptical of politicians and their promises, which is always a worthy lesson.

Somewhat resembling her character in real life, actress and voice-over artist Kim Kkobbi nicely expresses Ga-young’s wide range of emotions and awakening conscience.  Ban’s figures are not extraordinarily expressive, but House’s mixed-medium backdrops are often quite striking.  While not especially original looking, the spirits are nonthreatening and likably doughy.

For adults, House has a flashback sequence that is unexpectedly moving.  Although there is absolutely no objectionable material, for kids raised on Pixar and Disney, it might be a real downer, so parents should use their discretion.  Easily recommended for animation fans, especially given the price of tickets—free, that is—The House screens this Tuesday (2/12) in New York at the Tribeca Cinemas, courtesy of the Korean Cultural Service in New York.