I was driving home last night in West Los Angeles and saw what appeared to be fifty members of the Hessians Motorcycle Club attending Lee Chang-dong's perfectly-paced character study of a 66-year-old maid raising her only grandchild in Korea.
Had the Hessians been eagerly anticipating the film's arrival after it was awarded Best Screenplay at Cannes last year? Or do do they have a special place in their hearts for the Gwangju-born screen legend Yun Jung-hee? What did they think of her restrained, tour de force comeback performance after more than a decade off screen? I had to find out more.
It turns out that the bikers were exiting the premiere of I Ride, a new documentary by Daron Ker about The Fryed Brothers Band, which had taken over Laemmle's Royal Theatre for the night.
I tracked down the band's guitarist, Tommy Fryed. "We travel all around the United States and these camera guys followed us and filmed some of our gigs and we just brought it back to share with everybody," he told me. "Some of the people [here] are in it and some of the people know of other people in it."
Fryed described the band's music as "country rock and boogie woogie swinging." "It's a little bit of everything," he said. "That's why we don't really know." Their main influences are the Allman Brothers and Wilie Nelson, who's featured on one of their three albums, though Tommy also grew up on Led Zeppelin and learned guitar from watching Jimmy Page. His brother Harry plays the fiddle -- that's where the country comes from. "A lot of our songs are about biking, driving on the road and just having fun," Tommy said.
So how did the screening go? "Everybody loved it," he says. "This movie will make you laugh a lot and it'll make you cry at the end. I had to leave just so I didn't cry." Uh, what about the movie made you cry? "It's just -- you just have to watch it," he said. "It's sad."
Part of the movie is about Harry and Tommy's brother Mark, who was killed on his motorcycle more than three decades ago. The film ends at his funeral. According to The Fryed Brothers Band website, the band was started in 1980 as a tribute to Mark, who wrote the movie's title song "I Ride."
"The song is really a letter that he wrote to me when I was a little kid," Tommy told me. "'I ride' -- that's what this song is, the theme of it is. It's just real touching...and I think everybody here had a tear at the end. It doesn't matter how big or bad they were -- everybody had a soft spot at the end. The lights stayed low so you don't see all the tears of these bikers that you didn't want to see."
Minutes later, Tommy, Harry and the rest of the attendees got on their motorcycles and rode away. I couldn't help but think: maybe they'd also enjoy a small Korean film called Poetry?