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Part of this may be due to the inherent pessimism in the work, and its portrayal of a town where life is bleak and unlikely to improve.Yet on a cinematic level too, one wishes that there were just a bit more substance to the film.Set in a grim, ugly-looking town where the people seem motivated by boredom rather than any enthusiasm for life, the film is most memorable for its black humor and the great presence shown by its two lead actors.With vulnerability and steely determination reflected in his eyes, Jae Hee, best known from Kim Ki-duk's 3-Iron, is well-suited to the role of Byung-tae.The Art of Fighting is well acted and capably put together, with a mostly predictable but engrossing narrative.Yet the film leaves you with an odd sense of emptiness.Ultimately Art of Fighting is worth watching, but is unlikely to rank as one of the highlights of 2006.

Production reached its highest level in a decade and a half, with 108 films released in theaters, and many more which were waiting for release at the end of the year.The pacing is perfect, the images of the friends in arms racing through the city still stay with me, and there's a nice little placement of one of the symbols of capitalism that brought a bit of laughter to what is otherwise a short full of sorrow, even more sorrowful considering its partly based on a true story.Speaking of true stories, let me jump out of the order of this omnibus and mention the last short, Kim Dong-won's documentary about Korean-Chinese immigrants, "Jongno, Winter." Immigration laws in South Korea give advantages to diasporic Koreans from North America and Europe that are not afforded those from China, Russia, or the former Soviet States (the "-Stans").Nonetheless, people in the film industry were sounding alarm bells by the end of the year.With so many films produced, and with the budgets of many films having grown out of control, a very small number of Korean films from 2006 ended up turning a profit.

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