Humidity Alert is the latest film from Korean director-writer-editor-cinematographer Bong Soo Ko and his ninth feature in only five years. It is showing at the BFI London Film Festival as part of the ‘laugh’ strand
July 2020 and one of the hottest days of the year in Seoul, South Korea. Usher Charles – the last remaining employee of a struggling arthouse cinema – is having a hard time preparing the cinema for the premiere of new movie ‘The Youthful You’ amongst the intense heat and humidity plus the added pressure of covid safety guidelines. The one thing he doesn’t have to worry about is customers, as there aren’t any.
It’s an absurdist satire that follows a host of ridiculous characters who turn up and try the patience of the poor usher. There’s the vain star of the movie who’s over dressed and over hyped for a film no one is interested in, the snooty film critic who demands things for free, the handsy American superfan, the eager extra who’s brought his whole family to see his ‘big break,’ and the too cool for school director who think’s he’s too much of a celebrity to play by the rules.
Humidity Alert’s farcical characters are piercingly well caricatured versions of real people that anyone familiar with the cinema industry, be it from usher up to exectutive, will recognise. Having watched the film at a press and industry screening there was raucous laughter at the puffed up movie critic in particular, but there’s a great deal of crowd pleasing comedy on the whole with some very silly dialogue to boot.
Whilst Humidity Alert may purport to be a film about the movie business struggling during covid, (and I internally groaned about having to watch another film about covid in a year still awash with it) the virus restrictions are but one of the many things going wrong, and the challenges will be wincingly familiar to anyone who has worked in any area of customer service. There’s Charles’ unsympathetic manager who hides in the back to avoid customer complaints, bland excuses given to cover up broken equipment, and the cheerful upselling of one product (pineapple fanta, yuck) because you’ve run out of everything else. I had plenty of flashbacks to my own time in retail trying to placate customers and cover mistakes.
Really my only complaint about Humidity Alert is that it showed too much of the movie within the movie, ‘The Youthful You,’ which is abominably, excrutiatingly bad. Of course it was necessary to include a bit of ‘You’ so that we realise the absurdity of all cast and crew at the premiere who are so invested in such a terrible film – but having to watch large chunks of a fake film which is terrible but not entertainingly so took away from the fun of the whole picture at times.
Reminiscent in some part of the customer service apathy of Clerks, Humidity Alert is absurd, cleverly observed and has a very funny cast. Not just a covid comedy, there are several scenes well worth a chuckle in it’s short run time.
Humidity Alert is playing at the BFI London Film Festival (6-17th October 2021) and awaits a general release. Tickets for the festival are available here