PALM SPRINGS SHORTFEST REVIEW! Despite the cease-fire and tensions, the heat has never been higher in the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. When the air conditioning falls into disrepair, a local technician (Kim Cheol-hwan) is caught between the warring sides as he attempts to bring sweet A/C to one of the most hostile places on earth. Air Conditioner in Panmunjeom brings physical comedy and lighthearted quirkiness to a subject of global concern.
The film opens with a South Korean captain (Kim Dong-hyuk) telling the A/C technician the dangers of his job and that North Korea will watch him at all times. As the two enter the UN building that houses negotiations between the countries and the faulty air conditioner, the technician discovers that the problem lies not with the A/C unit but in North Korean territory. He then ventures where few South Koreans have gone before, with standoffs, explosions, and visual gags ensuing, all in the name of cooler air.
“When the air conditioning falls into disrepair, a local technician is caught between the warring sides…”
Throughout the film, writer-director Lee Tae-hun brings a tremendous visual comedic style and humorous over-the-top antics to a stern and serious backdrop. The film presents the conflict between the two countries as a perfect foil for the comedy on display. Kim Cheol-hwan brings a fun sincerity to his role, and Kim Dong-hyuk does an excellent job of balancing subtlety and overt humor in his performance. One of the biggest standouts is Tae-hun’s use of shifting tones throughout, allowing jokes to flow freely before snapping the viewer back to the reality that is a still-waging war.
I thoroughly enjoyed my experience viewing Air Conditioner in Panmunjeom. Tae-hun displays an excellent eye for visuals and tone throughout the film, and the performances enhance the material in every subtle joke and intense standoff. There are a few moments when the message gets a bit unclear, but I legitimately watched this film several times and still found it hilarious. If you love the recent South Korean movies that have come stateside and the quirkier moments of Community, this film is worth the watch and future viewings.
Air Conditioner in Panmunjeom screened at the 2020 Palm Springs Shortfest.
"…brings a tremendous visual comedic style and humorous over-the-top antics to a stern and serious backdrop."