Simple stories told beautifully can have a great impact. 38–39ºC is such a story. It’s a film that fluctuates between narrative and experimental elements to tell the story of a rocky relationship between a father and son.
The son visits a Korean bathhouse where time seems to stand still as he slips into a deep dream. In this dream, he meets his father (who shares an identical birthmark), and what begins as a cordial bathhouse scrub becomes a violent struggle to break free from his family roots. In the end, the therapeutic nature of the bathhouse prevails and all troubles are washed away—for now.
The film’s flat paper stop-motion aesthetic is not new (Going West). But the level of texture, detail, and control in the film is astounding and makes 38–39ºC a clear showpiece of Kangmin’s focus on hand-crafted media. His level of craft and ingenuity in blending various techniques is inspiring. I think the drawn graphical elements (action lines) are a particularly nice touch.
38–39ºC has had quite the festival run already with screenings at Sundance and Annecy this year. Kangmin Kim is showing with this thesis film from CalArts that even with plenty of runway left, he’s ready to take off. I’m excited to see where he goes.
Check out a Behind-the-Scenes video