Fearful Symmetry: The Films of Lee Changdong
Screening Dates
  • June 9, 2023 8:30
  • June 12, 2023 7:00
New Restoration

One of the boldest films I’ve ever seen … Lee Changdong is a living master.”

Sean Baker

Oasis stands alone. Lee Changdong’s powerful tale, the final film of his early period, is his most daring demonstration of the uses of melodrama. Jongdu (Sol Kyunggu), fresh out of prison, is his family’s scapegoat. Gongju (Moon Sori), abandoned in an ill-equipped apartment, is her family’s main source of income, via her disability housing allowance. The two meet by chance. While the able-bodied Jongdu passes as a potentially productive” member of society, and Gongju, who has cerebral palsy, is dependent on others, Lee’s direction, freely mixing fraught social interactions with realism-puncturing moments of fantasy projection, burns through these assumptions and the boundaries they impose in ways that are harrowing, yet also achingly tender. Social outcast narratives tend to polarize their effects: either pure recuperation or cynical downward spiral. Lee, without ignoring the weighty cost exacted from Jongdu and Gongju, transcends this double bind.

Advisory: Oasis contains a scene of sexual violence.

In Korean with English subtitles

Lee [understands] precisely which buttons to push … For those who can endure the discomfort, Oasis offers a kind of transcendent release.” Heinz Insu Fenkl, translator of Lee’s short story The Dreaming Beast”

Lee’s film has a generosity and bitter lucidity worthy of Fassbinder—equally attuned to the dreamlike textures of the couple’s secret life and to the petty cruelties of the fraudulent world that has no place for them.” Dennis Lim, Village Voice

“[A] watershed moment in South Korean cinema … One of the finest films ever made about the opposing forces of love and civic propriety.” Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, Cine-File

Co-presented with the Korean Film Festival Canada