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COLORS OF WIND (2017) review

March 13, 2018



written by: Jae-young Kwak
produced by: Yongsoon Hwang
directed by: Jae-young Kwak
rated: unrated
runtime: 119 min.
U.S. release date: March 13, 2018 (AMC River East, Chicago, IL)


From South Korean writer/director Jae-young Kwak comes “Colors of Wind” a film  that focuses on identity, using magic tricks and doppelgangers to tell a melodramatic love story. But describing it in such a way almost feels like a disservice to this unique and complex tale that opens the sixth semi-annual season of the Asian Pop-Up Cinema Film Festival here in Chicago, which runs from March 13th through May 16th at the AMC River East 21. In total, nine new films will see their stateside premieres, some of which will be exclusive to Chicago and many of the screenings will be followed by post-film discussions with actors or filmmakers involved in the film. “Colors of Wind” may come across like a slow-burn for some, but it’s a film that’s worth the time spent experiencing it, one that has an unexpected nod to Luc Besson.

The story takes place in modern-day Tokyo and winds up traveling to Hakkaido, the large island just north of the Japanese mainland, as we follow twenty something Ryu Nishimura (Yuki Furukawa), who sets out to find a woman who looks exactly like his girlfriend, Yuri Kawaguchi (Takemi Fujii), who recently committed suicide. Ryu is grieving, but he also seems to be preoccupied with existential thoughts and feelings for his own mortality and identity. Before Yuri died, she had this feeling that there was someone identically like her out there, only more beautiful, smarter and happier. Is that her own malaise or depression talking, or is she on to something maybe even without knowing it?

There are many questions that come up throughout the runtime of “Colors of Wind” there are questions about the storyline and characters that draw us in, pulling us closer as we try and figure out what exactly is happening. One question is whether or not Yuri dies. Certain characters are convinced, but Ryu has a feeling she just disappeared. Nevertheless, he’s quite shocked by the mystery and resolves to quarantine himself for 100 days. Afterwhich, the shock has worn off a bit and he sets off to Hokkaido to determine if what Yuri said is true. Sure enough, Ryu finds a young woman who looks exactly like Yuri, only her name is Aya Mogami (also played by Fujii)  and when she sees him, he reminds her of a magician she was in love with named Ryo, which then leads to another question that comes up – are doppelgangers real?

The topic of doppelgangers indeed comes up more than once in the film. In fact, a mentor (Naoto Takenaka) of Ryo’s, who works as a bartender and admits to having his own doppelgänger who specializes in magic tricks and escapism antics. Ryo revisits this character as the story unfolds and some of my favorite scenes involve conversations they have, which delves further into the film’s philosophical leanings in an easy-going manner. The doppelgänger theory isn’t just in the notion of an identical person out there for everyone, but also in life situations. It turns out Aya also lost a former lover, that being a that genius magician in Ryo (also played by Furukawa), who went missing two years ago after an accident. She is still hoping to reunite with him.




Considering the surmountable loss that comes with the death of someone you love, seeking out someone who looks (and potentially acts) identically like him/her is certainly an interesting prospect. Kwak’s screenplay is quite fascinating and the different tones he and his actors manage to convey is impressive. There’s an absorbing and curious balance of comedy, romance and mystery here, with a generous concentration on characters who examine who and what they are and how they impact others.

The two lead actors in “Colors of Wind” have to portray two personalities, exploring the differences and similarities of the characters they inhabit. It takes some time to warm up to their work here and that could be because we’re just not sure what to make of them – or the film, to be honest – until almost mid way through the story.

Is she Aya or is she Yuri? Is he Takashi or is he Ryu? At times, it’s hard to tell, but there somewhat of an explanation that touches on the theme of identity. It’s something you don’t necessarily have to by, since whatever theory you come up with should suit you just fine while watching “Colors of Wind”. Past traumas play a factor in the identities we follow, adding a sense of grounded realism to the fantastical element of the story. At times, during the third act, it almost turns into a trippy psychological thriller.

Kwak populates the film with one too many montages and it all gets a tad over-complicated (almost convoluted), but it’s never uninteresting and it maintained my curiosity the whole way through. However, it does gets a little goofy tonally speaking, specifically how hyper the self-proclaimed “dumb and autistic” brother of Aya’s, Ryoma (Tomoya Ishii), which proves to be kind of jarring and borderline offensive. It’s a character loud and broad for this melodrama, one that ultimately serves no purpose.

At times, Fuji’s Aya comes across like she’s really flipped her lid, but her portrayal offers some subtle yet strong nuances that may indicate she knows more than she lets on, especially when she delivers one of the most potent, relatable lines, “Don’t we all have someone living inside us?” to Furukawa’s Takashi. That may be true, as are some of the other contemplations touched on in “Colors of Wind”.

Kwak is perhaps best-known for his Asian love story “My Sassy Girl” from 2001, a film which broke box-office records in his home country of South Korea and became a media phenomenon in nearby Japan. He made his first Japanese-language film in 2008, casting Haruka Ayase as the heroine in “Boku no Kanojo wa Saibogu”. Then in 2014, he came out with his first Chinese film, a sequel to “My Sassy Girl” called “Meet Miss Anxiety”. With “Colors of Wind”, Kwak wanted to pay tribute to the traditional melodramas that have come out of South Korea for decades.

The ideas of a double or a doppelgänger has been around forever and has come up in movies often, usually in a genre horror or thriller. Thankfully, Kwan isn’t concerned with crossing off tropes and instead focuses on Ryu/Ryo and Yuri/Aya amid the beautiful backdrop of Hokkaido’s famed ice floe and snow-capped mountains. There is a whimsical, playful nature to the picture, but at its heart “Colors of Wind” is delivering something on a deeper level about connection, loss and love.






Actor Yuki Furukawa, who can also be currently seen on the Netflix series “Erased,” is scheduled to appear at the opening night screening. For more information on opening night and the rest of the films featured in the festival, click here.

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