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Lucky, Lucky Life

August 27, 2010

Lucky life isn’t one long string of horrors
and there are moments of peace, and pleasure, as I lie in between the blows.

– Lucky Life by Gerald Stern

Ringing true to the poem the film is inspired by, Lee Isaac Chung’s “Lucky Life” avoids the typical horrors of cookie-cutter narratives, and belies itself to moments of peace and pleasure that lull within its memory-shaped form.

Lucky I don’t have to wake up in Phillipsburg, New Jersey,
on the hill overlooking Union Square or the hill overlooking
Kuebler Brewery or the hill overlooking SS. Philip and James
but have my own hills and my own vistas to come back to.

Memory is a fickle thing. In movies, tragedies are always heightened, focused upon. The drama welcomed. The tears exemplary of human experiences. In reality, people don’t live that way. Most of us don’t want to remember the sadness. We can’t bear it. We prefer to focus on the brighter events that bracket tragedies. We forget our tears. Our memories are self-protectively selective. We live our lives in an air of normalcy. It is a defense mechanism thing.

And tragedies strike us all. In moments where we least expect them. In moments where we are utmostly unprepared. In moments of traditions, anniversaries, milestones, now forever altered by those small but irreparable breaks from normalcy. And as slowly as you are coming to grasp with the change, the change has undoubtedly come to taken a hold of you.

Each year I go down to the island I add
one more year to the darkness;
and though I sit up with my dear friends
trying to separate the one year from the other,
this one from the last, that one from the former,
another from another,
after a while they all get lumped together,
the year we walked to Holgate,
the year our shoes got washed away,
the year it rained,
the year my tooth brought misery to us all.

“Lucky Life” is created out of a longing for clarity in these moments of indescribable sadness, as stated by Chung in his Director’s Statement, who wishes to reflect processes of memory and lived experience. And so he does.

The film opens with a lingering shot of a home. Surveying through the rooms, it sweeps across tables, chairs, a vanity countertop, familiar spaces. The camera pans across photos encased in frames, moments of joy captured to last forever, eventually coming to a rest on Mark (Daniel O’Keefe) and Karen (Megan McKenna), a married couple. Along the way, loss is articulated before we even first set eyes upon the characters, and just as soon as we are introduced to the joy of these memories, we are simultaneously reminded of their fragility….

….Continue reading full article & 4-part video discussion with Chung on the Far-Flung Correspondence feature at

Along with all my FFC pieces.

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