A Taxi of the Cold (2017) film review by Eye for Film

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“As Joonha Kim’s only credit, it shows talent in both writing and directing.”

It begins with a phone call in which the interlocutor can “smell the alcohol”. He points out that even though it’s 2016, they haven’t invented a phone that can do that yet.

The title of the film uses the neon sign above the car. It is reflected angularly in the glossy white of the roof, one of several excellent details in a film that feigns fear. From a mother lit by the flashing of the hazard lights, subtitles whose color reflects the reported language, the mirror and the monitor of the camera in the car.

Joonha Kim’s film takes place almost entirely in a Kia K5, the third-generation Optima. There’s a flashback to a mother’s sofa, apple and knife, and a folksy warning. There’s a parallel passenger having another bad time. There are also two train stations, but the distance between them is perhaps a moral one, a philosophical one.

There are credits before the title, cinematographer Junwoo Kim and lighting director Seongrok Hwang get legitimate nods. From the four-door sedan we get on board camera, domestic bliss, drunken crossing. The story (and by extension the stories within it) is about taxi drivers offering their passengers something laced with something else. It’s the discussion that a cab of the cold counts as a mode of transport after an offer for a late night cab.

Hoil Song’s music adds to the mix as screens aren’t split as much but are multi-exposed, giving the whole thing more depth. As Joonha Kim’s only credit, it shows talent in both writing and directing. Seunghoon Bak’s performance as a passenger is offset by Bonghag Maeng as his driver and Minae Oh as his mother. He gives different attention to both. There are and will be other voices, and something said in the credits sheds another, different light on the process. Screening as part of the multinational short film program at the 2022 Taiwan Film Festival in Edinburgh, this South Korean film brings together two Taiwanese and one Japanese works in a polyglot exploration of self and place. Inspired (according to Bumpf) by John Donne’s thoughts on people and islands, A Taxi of Coldness is defined by borders. Like “Can you hear me?” There is a coda that rebalances what came before, difficult enough in feature film but even more difficult in short film.

The fact that the song that plays over the credits is called Sweet Love doesn’t matter as much as the message on the box that reads “Charity,” which we get a closer look at at the very end. We’ve had discussions about trust, about society, about faith, but despite what’s being said about it, there’s more to chew on than meets the eye. A fresh take on an urban legend, A Taxi Of Coldness finds itself in mixed company, but its crispness, coolness, luster are all indicative of something as sharp and clean as a newly minted coin.

Reviewed on: 15 Oct 2022

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