Tag Archives: Yi Ok-seop

YI OK-SEOP, KOO KYO-HWAN, & THEIR PET FISH, “MAGGIE”

Review of Maggie (2018)

I introduced myself to Yi Ok-seop (the director) and Koo Kyo-hwan (actor/producer) and handed over 366’s business card. Unfortunately, my handwriting in Korean is just as bad as my handwriting in English.

Yi Ok-seop

366: My name is Giles Edwards and I’m here for 366 Weird Movies. I may have written that incorrectly below…

Yi/Koo: “Dogs”?

366: Oh dear. My hand-writing is pretty bad, I was just looking that up before I got here… Not “dogs”—um, “movies”. But!… I want to ask about the choice of songs for the movie, as they were very clear and dominant from the beginning.

Y/K: When editing, we usual edit as we play music, and look through what kind of music goes well with this scene, this situation, and this line. And when we feel stuck when trying to explain the story in a better way, we look toward the music instead of hanging on to the problem we have in the story. So we look through music and try to find the solution by looking. We felt really empowered by putting the music and the scene together, because when they go really well together, it feels much more synergistic than when we tried to solve this problem as written, or when we couldn’t solve the problem at all, so it was a hint as well as a solution for us.

366: Last night, you both spoke about the nature of the catfish and the prediction of earthquakes. I was wondering if you might be able to repeat that again for this interview.

Y/K: The nature of “Maggie”, the catfish, is that they can sense, predict when there will be an earthquake in the next three or four days—it could be longer, it could be shorter—it’s not precise, but it can sense it and predict it. We thought the character of the catfish was like, when you were at school, in a classroom, and there are so many different people, but there is one group of people who are not really talking much, not really involved in any groups, or socializing with others, so you might think they don’t know anything, but at the same time they’re witnessing everything going on in the class-room, they know everything, every little story that’s going back and forth with other people. So we thought the character of Maggie, the character of those people on the streets in daily life that we think know nothing are kind of similar.

Also, the look of Maggie, there was this little… beard that would kind of make him look wiser in appearance. So the reason we decided to have a catfish was that we probably need little elements like Maggie, like a catfish in our everyday lives, where it just comforts us by just looking at it. And even if it’s not going to protect us in a precise way, it will let us know when things go wrong. It’s also a question about whether to “believe” or not—something might happen tomorrow, it might happen three days later, or a week later, but it is still there. Continue reading YI OK-SEOP, KOO KYO-HWAN, & THEIR PET FISH, “MAGGIE”

APOCRYPHA CANDIDATE: MAGGIE (2018)

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DIRECTED BY: Yi Ok-seop

FEATURING: Lee Ju-young, Koo Kyo-hwan, Moon So-ri, Koo Gyo-hwan

PLOT: Maggie the catfish acts as a piscine confessor for Yoon-yong, who’s going through some problems with her work and home life; the fish predicts the appearance of some troubling sink-holes springing up (er, down) around the greater Seoul area.

WHY IT SHOULD MAKE THE LIST: A psychic fish narrator, social commentary via sinkholes, and the appearance of a “manic pixie dream boy” all fuel this strange hybrid of dark Wes Anderson and light Quentin Tarantino.

COMMENTS: Many years ago, I was forced to take a seminar class for my degree and ended up enduring a semester-long trial entitled “Filmmakers with a Social Conscience.” It’s not that I don’t want awareness raised about society’s ills, but I had the suspicion before-hand that most of the movies would be heavyhanded and tediously paced. My fears proved correct at the time, but now, having seen Yi Ok-seop’s directorial debut, Maggie, I now must admit that lightning can strike even the smallest targets. And it strikes well, with humor, quirkiness, and pathos (a “p” word that seems to be cropping up a bit this festival).

A pre-penetration x-ray circulates among the staff of a small hospital in the outskirts of Seoul. Rumors fly about whose body parts were caught in the act of lovemaking, with nary a thought as to the who or why behind the snapshot’s existence. The following day, every staff member calls in sick except for the young nurse who’s “in” the photo and an osteopath who’s just about lost her trust in her fellow man. Subsequent events involving sinkholes, unemployment, and relationship dynamics proceed apace, all narrated by the omniscient titular character, Maggie the catfish.

There is a vibrancy throughout Maggie that weds the two dominant themes of whimsy and social commentary. There is brightness everywhere: the outdoor scenes, the well-lit hospital, and even the night-time streets illuminated by the colorful, flashing glow of warning lights surrounding the big holes in the ground that keep appearing. Chapter designations like “Everyone Likes the X-Ray Room” and “The Stairs of Death” act as synopses along the way while also providing wry counterpoint to the events. And though it has a cheerful, meandering nature throughout, everything gets wrapped up nicely—through the convenience of a key character who’s swallowed up by the ground at an important juncture.

Maggie‘s weirdness isn’t “in your face”, but more of a gentle squeezing of the shoulders from start to finish. There are definitely overtly odd things (the catfish, the eccentric hospital, and the ballad to “Maxine” around the midpoint), but it’s all very low key. What swayed me toward inclusion was the fact that all of this is being done for a purpose (and, I learned in a subsequent interview with the filmmakers 1, was funded not only sight-unseen, but script-unseen). My one criticism would be that when the story focuses on the slacker boyfriend, the movie rambles a little pointlessly—but even that’s apt, considering the character we’re following. And though I didn’t quite agree with another choice, I was impressed by the director’s decision to eliminate a character without allowing for an explanation. Director Yi Ok-seop and writer/producer/actor Koo Kyo-hwan strongly feel that violence has no excuse, and they make that point in a memorable way that really lets it… sink in.

WHAT THE CRITICS ARE SAYING:

“The director is riffing on the idea of how misunderstandings snowball, but, without a solid central idea to anchor the wackiness, the exuberantly nonsensical chaos of this movie is likely to have only niche appeal.”–Wendy Ide, Screen Rant (festival screening)