With jarring grace and a chaotic simplicity, South Korea's 2008 smash Antique Bakery comes to DVD and Blu-Ray on this side of the world. Based on the 1999 manga series, Min Kyu-dong's live action vision follows reasonably close to the source, detailing the interconnecting and individualistic lives of four men running a small bakery.

While Jin-Hyeok (Ji-hoon) establishes the business out of obscurity with family money, he draws upon the flamboyant talents of former classmate Seon-woo (Jae-wook) as head patissier. The "Gay of Demonic Charm", Seon-woo holds history with his new employer, having confessed his love for him years earlier. The aggressive rejection of which led to years of self-doubt and a suicide attempt before he came into his own as an idol of the gay community. Folding in the erratic Ki-beom (Ah-in) and the socially awkward adopted brother of Jin-hyeok, Soo-yeong (Ji-ho), Antique narrates a collage of highly stylised aesthetics with a curious structure, veering from film noir to musical and back, all washed in a thick veneer of camp.

On the surface, the plot of Kyu-dong's film seems arbitrarily simplistic. Yet, with clever subtlety throughout, the audience are given hints as to the darker elements contained within. Unravelling carefully, it is revealed that Jin-hyeok was kidnapped as a child and held for months; being fed cake daily. While this is realised, it becomes apparent that there is still a similar kidnapper on the loose, albeit a distinctly more murderous one. Similarly, each of the other men retain a harrowing past, with two directly connected to Jin-hyeok's. What connects all four individuals is that none of them were complicit it their past. One was kidnapped; one was injured (Ki-beom); one's father died (Soo-yeong), and one was accosted for his sexual orientation (Seon-woo). In order to weave this maelstrom of characteristic drive, Kyu-dong would seem to create a pastiche of homage through spontaneous song-and-dance, akin to 1950s Hollywood studio musicals, and didactically introspective monologue, alluding to the disturbed protagonist of a Dashiell Hammet story. Furthermore, there are aesthetic and thematic allusions to Kieslowski's Trois Coleurs Trilogy throughout, layering emotive dissemination on fore grounded colour schemes in connection with characteristic tone.

Now, while this may seem academically tantalizing, the complexity of tribute and independence almost fails to stick the landing. At times, Antique's drive is questioned by its stretch for narrative cohesion. Kyu-dong attempts to mirror the connection of the four men's stories with comparative stylistic shifts. However, the pan-swipe editing from moment to moment results in a juvenile aesthetic of impatience. The saving grace of this criticism is between the lines. Antique redeems itself through a careful deconstruction of identity: picking apart a structuralist membrane that surrounds the politics of what makes up an individual's identity. The film presents a guiding (post)structure in how each of the four characters relate to one another as independently deconstructed identities; a composite of past and present realised through evident camaraderie. All throughout, each character pan-handles their way through a parable of realisation and stability in kinship. While Jin-hyeok struggles with the mystery of his kidnapping, symbolised in the 'Antique Bakery', Soo-yeong hides from his crushing lack of independence. Similarly, Ki-beom clings to Seon-woo as a 'Master', fulfilling his need for a mentor or superior, wrestling away like the rest at independent identity. This characteristic is shared to an extent by all four men - a latent subservience to a pseudo-identity.

At times heavily didactic with stunted deliveries from occasional over-acting, Antique presents the construction of the 'psychologically well-rounded' characters that a Western audience has come to expect. While the characteristic nucleus of Antique is comfortable in its sexuality, the audience are presented with a filmic public still wary of the Otherness inside the bakery. This subtle dualism in presentation becomes Kyu-dong's directorial strength as he leads an audience through loss, reliance, stability and independence, peppering his feature all the while with humour and playfulness, exuding the delightful performativity of Camp. What remains to be seen is whether or not he can realise this talent with the patience exhibited by his contemporaries. In many ways Min Kyu-dong could learn a lot from the aesthetic and tonal temperament of Park Chan-wook (Oldboy; Stoker) or Kim Ji-woon (A Tale of Two Sisters; The Good, The Bad, The Weird). Chan-wook and Kyu-dong certainly share a thematic space when interrogating the hidden darkness within the perceived innocence.

Quirky, complex and ill-defined, Antique retains an inexplicable charm that justifies its proud presence as part of South Korea and Asia's continuing cinematic canon.