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by Elaine Perrone

"A Tale of Two Seoulmates."
5 stars

FIRST SCREENED AT SEATTLE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2003. Hong Jong-du and Han Gong-ju are damaged people, ostracized by society and shunned by their own families. Upon his release from prison, after being incarcerated for two and a half years for vehicular manslaughter, Jong-du (Sol Kyung-gu) returns home to find that his family has moved and left no forwarding address. Gong-ju (Moon So-ri) is a prisoner of her own body, severely disabled by cerebral palsy, barely able to express herself, her limbs contorted and shaking. Gong-ju's brother and sister-in-law have used her name to secure for themselves a lovely apartment in a building that caters to the handicapped, and then dumped Gong-ju in a tenement, in the custody of neighbors who look in on her occasionally.

In a stunning demonstration of the insensitivity and lack of common sense that have plagued him his entire life, Jong-du attempts to make a social connection with the family of the man killed in the hit-and-run accident who, it turns out, was the father of Gong-ju and her brother. Then, in an unnerving scene that is as far from meeting-cute as is imaginable, Jong-du tries to express his attraction to Gong-ju by raping her.

Still, the neglected Gong-ju, whose mind is sharp in spite of her ruined body, recognizes that Jong-du's behavior is not motivated by malice but by his inability to comprehend boundaries. She invites him back into her life, and, to the horror of both their families, the two misfits form a deep attachment, complementing and completing each other. He becomes her limbs; she opens his heart so that he is finally able to perform a perfect, selfless act of love for her.

Challenging and often brutal to watch, Oasis is still essential viewing for filmgoers who regard movies not just as entertainment but also as an art form. Moon So-ri is astonishing, turning in what amounts to two separate performances one as the painfully contorted, grimacing Gong-ju whose perfectly normal emotions and desires are not dampened by her crippling affliction, the other as the gracefully lovely, lighthearted, and able-bodied young woman who inhabits her fantasies. Likewise, Sol Kyung-gu (Peppermint Candy, Public Enemy) is a remarkable actor, almost unrecognizable from one film to the next as he transforms himself completely into whatever character he is portraying. Here he seems not to be acting at all, as he "becomes" the simple-minded, aimless, and socially inept Jong-du.

Oasis was the second collaboration of Mr. Sol and Ms. Moon with each other and their director/screenwriter Lee Chang-dong, a novelist-turned-filmmaker who is now South Korea's Minister of Culture. Their first joint venture was Peppermint Candy, another brilliant study of the secrets and hypocrisy that lie beneath the surface of family relationships. It, too, doubled as a wildly unconventional love story. Beautifully audacious and unsettling, Oasis is also a pointed indictment of how society treats its marginalized members.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=11331&reviewer=376
originally posted: 12/16/04 19:17:13
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Directed by
  Chang-dong Lee

Written by
  Chang-dong Lee

  Kyung-gu Sol
  So-ri Moon
  Nae-sang Ahn
  Seung-wan Ryoo
  Kwi-Jung Chu
  Jin-gu Kim

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