Motel Cactus

Director: Park Ki-Yong
Screenwriters: Bong Joon-Ho, Park Ki-Yong

Institute History

  • 1998 Sundance Film Festival


Motel Cactus chronicles the loves of four motel patrons at four different times of the year. Each of its distinct episodes profiles a relationship at a different stage of growth or disintegration. Using a single motel room as a metaphor for the transiency of emotions, Park Ki-Yong’s feature debut offers a mesmerizing yet devastating portrait of the fragility of human love.

“Summer,” the first episode, follows Hyun-Ju on her birthday. Sentimental about celebrating the occasion here with her lover Min-Gu, Hyun-Ju discovers that Min-Gu regards her affection as a burden. “Spring” tells of two film students, Jun-Ki and Seo-Kyung. While waiting for their cameraman, they have unintentional sex which disrupts their relationship. In “Fall,” the nostalgia-plagued Hyun-Ju returns to the motel, where she has a meaningless sexual encounter with a stranger, Suk-Tae. In the final episode, “Winter,” Suk-Tae brings his old lover, Hee-Su, to the motel for a reconciliation attempt that fails. To all the lovers who rent the room, the motel is a place for instant consumption and pleasure, but it also intensifies their loneliness and longing.

Shot in luminous primary colors, Motel Cactus powerfully conveys both the ecstasies and the anguish of those who pass through. Cinematographer Christopher Doyle’s hand-held camerawork subtly mirrors the film’s emotions, while the subtitles, translated by Tony Rayns, brilliantly capture the poetic simplicity of the screenplay. Under Park Ki-Yong’s skillful direction, Motel Cactus presents a world in which lives converge for fleeting moments only to leave behind painful memories.

Park Ki-Yong, Director
Born in 1961, Park Ki-Yong graduated from Seoul Institute for the Arts and the Korean Academy of Film Arts. After graduation, he worked as an assistant director for TV commercials, documentaries, and feature films. He acted as executive producer on the film To the Starry Island, which played at the 1995 Sundance Film Festival. Motel Cactus is his first feature film as a director.

— Lisanne Sklyer

Screening Details

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