"Life Is Cool'' is a rotoscoped film about three best friends ― from left, a heartbroken Romeo and a hopeless romantic and far right, a goofy playboy ― fall for the same woman. / Courtesy of CJ Entertainment
By Lee Hyo-won
Director Choe Ik-hwan (``Whispering Corridors 4: Voice'') brings ``Life Is Cool,'' South Korea's first rotoscoped film. In this HD film project by CJ Entertainment, local production company DNA, which whipped up animation and graphics for ``The Animatrix,'' creates hip visuals for a friendly love story.
Rotoscoping is a process in which animators trace over a live action sequence, frame by frame. It goes beyond computer-generated imagery for larger than life effects. By utilizing what's only possible in animation, it gives 3D action added dimension ― this ``4D'' film is tech savvy and digital but beams with life.
``Life'' took only a month of actual shooting but almost two years and 140 artists for rotoscoping. One may wonder, why go through the trouble, as leading lady Park Ye-jin said. The director said he was inspired by ``Waking Life,'' a rotoscoped film that captures human life despite being digital. Likewise, ``Life'' possesses a realism that computer graphics cannot achieve.
The movie takes full advantage of the beauty of animation, which enables ``cameos'' like the recently burnt down national treasure Soongnyemun and Hollywood star Jennifer Aniston.
``Life'' is fresh. As an animation, the constrained palette and simple silhouettes are markedly distinct from American or Japanese animations. While the subject matter ― complicated affairs of the heart ― is nothing new, its narrative approach is novel as it takes a ``4D'' look into life and love by delving deep into the male psyche.
In a press preview last week, Choe told reporters he was in trouble because the plot was inspired by a friend's actual story. It's basically about three buddies falling for the same woman and traces the respective dating styles of a goofy playboy, reckless Romeo and hopeless romantic.
In the movie, casting is key in establishing believable and amiable characters. Funny man Kim Su-ro draws laughs with his lax demeanor and ad lib-ridden lines as Il-gwon, a womanizing Ph.D student searching for the perfect wife. Kang Seo-jin capitalizes on his gentleman image as Tae-yeong, a disheartened teacher who violently refuses to forget his first love.
Comedian Kim Jin-su makes good use of his hearty laughter and beefy physique to play Seong-hun, the big guy with the sensitive heart who cooks like a veteran housewife and dreams about the woman of his dreams.
Il-gwon turns his suave playboy tactics into top gear as he contemplates between two prospective wives, a rich but silly young woman or a beautiful but poor and sickly one. Our conniving playboy slowly falls in love with the latter, Yeon-u. However, things get complicated when she turns out to be Tae-yeong's ex-girlfriend he never got over and the very manifestation of Seong-hun's dream girl.
What could have stopped short of being a lighthearted romantic comedy gains added depth through sophisticated character development and layered narrative. The characters have flaws, tics and talents that are annoying and endearing, and they reflect different degrees of people we know. ``Life'' paints a portrait of urban life in Korea, as young men weep about careers, love, sex and friendships over a glass of soju or splash around like schoolboys in a public bath ― in the latter scene, ``overexposures'' were conveniently solved by rotoscoping.
This is a seriously funny animation for adults that will make you crave a round of drinks with old buddies.
In theaters June 12. No English subtitles. 98 minutes.