Revivre 화장 (2015) Korean Movie Review: A art-house movie that failed to be art!

Revivre 화장 (2015) Korean Movie Review: A art-house movie that failed to be art!

Keyword: #Revivre #화장 #KMovie # ImKwonTaek #AhnSungKi #KimGyuRi #KimHoJung

Hello. This is Prof. AKIA & I am here to review the Ahn Sung-Ki starring art-house movie “Revivre 화장(2015).

First, I’ll say that this is an art-house movie. Thus, I expect many to not actually see this movie. In addition, there is not much plot in this movie. So, I’m going to spoil when I need to talk about the movie. In a lot of ways, it may be better to actually know what is going to happen before hand with this kind of movie.

How do I describe “Revivre화장 (2015)?

It is like a mixture of the male detachment and male day dreaming/fantasy from “American Beauty” (1999) minus the black humor, and the basic plot of the 3rd act of “Million Dollar Baby” (2004) and its fun bubbly attitude minus the suicide.

I’m just making a joke with the fun bubbly attitude.
“Million Dollar Baby” (2004) is depressing.
“Revivre화장 (2015) is more dry and stale.

You could add the stoicism/repression  of Anthony Hopkins  in “The Remains of the Day” (1993) and you will get “Revivre화장 (2015).

Sounds fun!

The Plot
There is not much to the plot of “Revivre화장 (2015). It starts with Ahn Sung-Ki’s character’s wife passing away from brain cancer in the hospital. It ends with the funeral and Ahn Sung-Ki taking care of her affairs.

In between, most of the 94 minute run time is filled with flashbacks starting from basically when the wife gets sick until the events catches up with opening of the movie. During this, there a few instances when the movie shows us what happened in the present time. This includes funeral and the cremation. However, this happens only about 3 times.

The bulk of the flashbacks can be divided into 3 categories. The first is him at work where he is a successful high level manager at cosmetic firm. This is where he is lively and confident. In other words, he is basically “Don Draper” from “Mad Men” (2007-2015) but with far less drinking and womanizing.


Since womanizing came up, you have the second category of scenes where Ahn Sung-Ki is either interacting with Kim Gyu-Ri who is the sexy new employee or fantasizing about her in the vein of Kevin Spacey fantasizing about Mena Suvari in American Beauty” (1999).

The third category of scenes is where you see Ahn Sung-Ki painstakingly taking care of his sick wife with all the meticulousness that you would expect from a devout loving husband. However,   Ahn Sung-Ki seems detached for all of this. He does not actually seem like a devout loving husband.

What is this movie about?
This detachment is interesting as the movie has no scenes before the wife got sick and Ahn Sung-Ki never says that he loves her through the movie. He just takes care of her. Even his daughter does not think that he liked his wife that much.

What is this detachment?

At the end of the movie, the wife is dead and cremated. All of the wife’s stuff is discarded or burned as per the wife’s wishes. This includes all personal mementos and pictures. The only thing that the husband seems to keep is an old picture of himself that he found in her old purse.

It is an old picture of himself and not of his wife.
Thus, there is nothing really left of her in the world.

And the movie ends in a manner that all dog lovers will hate! The wife had a beautiful dog that she and their fully grown daughter loved. Before she died, she asked her husband to “destroy” the perfectly fine and not even that old dog because it would be cumbersome for the husband to take care of once she is gone.

So, the last scenes of the movie is the husband bringing the dog to the veterinary hospital  and putting it to sleep even though the doctor said that he could find the dog a home. After the deed is done, the husband walks out of the veterinary hospital and takes a business call like nothing really had happened.

As if His wife did not die!
As if He just did not kill is dog!

What do you think this movie is about? If American Beauty” (1999) hated middle class married life in the 90s, “Revivre화장 (2015) seems to hate the Korean married life of men in their 60s. The movie seems to point out the this kind of life is just filled with obligation and thus, until this life is cremated (e,g, the literal movie’s title) and turned to ash, you are not done or free.

I think it is telling this…?

The problems with not being as artistic as you think you are
With this type of movie in which the plot is not the center of the movie, you have to have something creative to capture the audience. “Revivre화장 (2015) does not have this.

In a lot of ways, I do not think there was a clear idea what to do with this movie creatively. It is not packed with visual symbolism or meaning. It is not impressively or creatively directed. In fact, the direction seems pretty old fashion circa late 80s with long scenes with minimal/static camera movement.

Talking about this old fashion feeling, a lot of areas of this movie oddly feel old fashion.  This goes for the editing, the set design, and costuming which some of the time feel like it is the early 90. Even the lighting direction feels old with the use of more natural lighting techniques that stopped being used in the early 2000s.

I have not seen that many actually brown faced Korean people on screen for decades now. I do not see that many brown faced Koreans on the street now as they are more white than many Caucasians.


I cannot make my mind up if this was intentional or not as it becomes less noticeable in the latter parts of the movie.

It feels adhoc!

Even the structure of the movie feel adhoc as there is no real logic to why and when the scenes set in the present pops up in the middle of the movie. Even the second category of scenes with Kim Gyu-Ri feels erratic in how they fit in with the rest of the movie.

The cast
 Among the cast, most of cast just do okay jobs with the scenes they have. However, this movie is meant to be Ahn Sung-Ki’s acting vehicle since he is in almost every scene except for about 2.

The movie is his story.

And I think Ahn Sung-Ki is the weak link in the cast.

A lot of the movie relies on very subtle reactions of the part of the protagonist and I do not think Ahn Sung-Ki knows what to do the detachment of the character which just muddles the themes of the movie.

In a very lessor role,  Kim Gyu-Ri does some interesting stuff with a role somewhere in-between a dark haired “Marilyn Monroe” like bimbo and a career women. As a man, her character can be very intoxicating. It is sad that there is not much to her role as it is just a minor subplot.

You actual see a full nude scene of her in a fantasy scene.

As an art-house movie, “Revivre화장 (2015) simply is not artistically interesting enough. It could have been something more if the concept had been better developed and if it had a better director. However, in its current form, a lot of the themes are muddles by the lacking script which is lacking in structure and is oddly clunky and awkward when the writer needs something to happen. This is not helped by Ahn Sung-Ki’s lackluster performance that clearly shows he was miscast.

You may want to see this movie for the adult diapers, an old couple having sex through the magic of Viagra, seeing a little glimpse of a sick female cancer patient’s bush, and one scene of  Kim Gyu-Ri naked. If not, there is not much to this dry and muddled art-house movie.

I give it a C-.

Score: C- or 3.75/10

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  1. You actual see a full nude scene of her in a fantasy scene..does that mean she go full frontal for the lovemaking scene with ahn sung ki?

    1. see a full frontal scene but that is basically it

    2. see a full frontal scene but that is basically it