Park’s followup to The Handmaiden doesn’t reach the same heights as Stoker, his other English-language movie, held back by the writing and the six hours of buttoned-up spies underplaying to survive. Big actory dialogue though – by episode three I decided I wasn’t buying any of it, but it’s pretty fun so I watched to the end. On the plus side, cool sets and costumes and cars. Park can really throw light exactly where he needs to, is excellent at photographing multi-level architecture. Michael Shannon has a wonderful laugh, but we maybe hear it once, given he’s playing a tormented Israeli agent on a convoluted revenge mission. Most importantly, Florence Pugh has the most openly expressive face of any actor right now, so what’s she doing in a spy movie? Well, it’s complicated, but she plays an actress hired by Shannon to get caught up with the Palestinian bombers so they can eventually be trapped or killed. Kidnappings and love letters and multiple fake relationships as she becomes a terrorist-in-training… as far as U being who U pretend to be, I wonder if Mother Night is out on blu-ray.
Pugh dances with Alexander Skarsgård:
Pugh practices with evil mastermind Khalil:
Couldn’t enjoy this as much as I should because I was in a weird state of mind, but it’s supremely entertaining, recalling Bound in its story of fortune-seeking men double-crossed by crafty female lovers.
The first half is told from the perspective of Sookee (Tae-ri Kim), a pickpocket working for handsome Jung-woo Ha (Ki-duk’s Time), who has his eyes on bigger marks, posing as a Count and getting Sookee hired as handmaiden to Lady Hideko (Min-hee Kim of Right Now, Wrong Then). The plan is to convince the Lady to marry the Count, then commit her to an institution and share her wealth, but Sookee is double-crossed and committed instead. The second part follows the Lady, who lives with her book collector uncle (Jin-woong Jo, only 40 but given gray hair and mustache) at his increasingly sinister estate, revealing her own moments and motives, some of which I’ve now forgotten because it’s been a very long month, but it’s an audacious and elegant movie and when it comes out on video I’ll happily get lost in it again.
Well-presented to English speaking audiences with Japanese and Korean dialogue in different colored subtitles. This is the year of Hokusai – first the animated biopic, then his wave appearing in Kubo and his porno octopus in this movie. I double-featured this at the Alamo with a 35mm screening of Possession, which was completely incredible and now cemented as one of my favorite movies, and which also features a porno octopus.
July 2021: Watching this again. I get the sense from twitter that as a reaction to the joyless superhero movie landscape, an interest in pervy horny movies is back in style, just doing my part.
The “Count” is hired to forge rare books so millionaire porn collector Kouzuki doesn’t have to part with the ones he sells. Now I recognize The Lady Kim Min-hee from the Hong Sang-soo films – the other woman is Kim Tae-ri, who has since starred in a historical drama miniseries and a sci-fi movie, both on netflix.
The Count with Tae-ri:
The Count with Min-hee:
The Count being tortured to death by pornographer uncle Kouzuki:
Kind of your standard family-secret homicidal-maniac twist-ending thriller, but Park makes it great. Every scene is amazing looking, not just well-shot but with attention-drawing effects like seamlessly transitioning Nicole Kidman’s hair into a field of grass.
Mia W. is our vaguely Rogue-looking heroine whose dad died the day she turned 18 – killed by his maniac brother, it turns out, who killed their youngest brother as a boy, then kills Mia’s would-be-rapist school acquaintance (Alden Ehrenreich, Bennie in Tetro), then almost kills her mom until finally Mia pulls out the hunting rifle that the movie has taken care to mention and blows him away. Then she drives off, killing a sheriff on the way out of town, having inherited her uncle’s taste for murder.
Other victims include family maid Mrs. McG (hidden in the freezer) and Auntie Jen (Jacki Weaver of Picnic at Hanging Rock) – great discovery scene as Mia calls auntie’s cell and hears it ringing underground. The shooting (by Park’s usual guy Chung-hoon Chung) and editing (by Nicolas de Toth, son of the House of Wax director) are thrilling. Matthew Goode (Firth’s dead boyfriend in A Single Man, kinda has a George Clooney voice) is crazy uncle Charlie, Mia Wasikowska is currently starring in Only Lovers Left Alive, and this is the first Nicole Kidman movie I’ve seen since Birth. Shoot, Harmony Korine was in this and I didn’t notice him.
Not a vampire thriller with comic parts, but an all-out comedy. I used to think Park was someone to take seriously with his vengeance trilogy, but after this and I’m a Cyborg But That’s Okay, I’m not sure he was ever serious. Maybe it has always been dark humor, and he never had anything to say about revenge – there’s nothing I can remember, anyway, and surely nothing to match K. Kurosawa’s Eyes of the Spider. Complaints aside, this was entertaining as hell and the sparse crowd was laughing and yelling in horror and delight.
Great to see the star of The Host again on the big screen, and just as good (if not better) was his 20-year-old costar Ok-vin Kim. Anyway, a priest volunteers to be injected with a painfully fatal disease in the name of science, but during a blood transfusion on his deathbed, accidentally gets turned into a vampire. Still a priest, he’s trying to be the most humane vampire he can be, killing nobody and drinking blood from coma patients through their feed tubes. But then he falls for wild young Tae-joo and leaves the priesthood to have an affair with her behind the back of her husband (Ha-kyun Shin, father of the dead girl in Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance). She’s messed up and amoral from the start, and our man begins to fall – killing his blind friend and the girl’s husband so they can be together. But then she becomes a vampire and starts killing everyone in sight, so he drives them out to the middle of nowhere and waits for the sun to come up…
No messing around with stakes through the heart, garlic or other vampire business – we never even see the original vampires who infected these two. Their super strength adds to the comic-book atmosphere, jumping across rooftops, denting lampposts, tearing apart a car with his bare hands.
This died at the theater with hardly anyone hearing about it. Weird that foreign action/horror movies don’t seem to stand a chance in theaters here, while talky family dramas do fine. I’d think The Good, The Bad & The Weird, Sukiyaki Western Django and this could pull a bigger crowd than Summer Hours and Revanche, but I guess that’s why I’m not paid to book theaters.
Steve McQueen’s Hunger was playing last week, and I meant to catch it so I could watch Hunger and Thirst back-to-back, but sadly reality prevailed over gimmickry and I missed it.
“Sympathy is the worst of the seven deadly sins.”
Title credits built into the opening scene shout: “I Know Where I’m Going!,” but the cartoonish situations, lively editing and bright colorful cinematography reply: “Amelie!” Maybe Park was afraid of being typecast as a grim downer of a filmmaker, a Korean David Fincher, and so like other grim young typecast filmmakers before him (Danny Boyle, Robert Rodriguez) he set out to make something light and lively to prove that he can – but maybe not as light as conceivably possible since it’s set in a mental institution.
Our girl Young-goon is a bit of a sociopath and likes to talk to machines. Cute boy Il-soon is a thief, but steals intangible things: a ping pong serve, someone’s appetite, Thursday. Other colorful patients include a fat girl obsessed with her skin, a super-polite guy who walks backwards and spends all day apologizing, a girl who only looks at her hand mirror.
Park includes a violent kill-all-authority-figures fantasy into his light mental-illness comedy when the girl (who is, of course, a cyborg) fantasizes her hands becoming guns, blowing away all the nurses. She very nearly starves herself to death (cyborgs do not eat human food) but she’ll be okay in the end, thanks to the cute boy who truly understands her.
In true Amelie style this has got wonderful visuals so those who aren’t enchanted by the story and characters can delight in the cinematography (and accordian music, hmmm) – Park’s got all his bases covered. His filmmaking genre versatility proven, the typecast of dark sadistic violent films safely behind him, it sounds like Park has just turned in a dark sadistic violent vampire movie at Cannes 2009, heh.
Recommended listening: Become a Robot by They Might Be Giants
Short b/w movie. Girl died in a public park or public something, and grieving parents (entitled to big payoff from the city) are there to identify her before the funeral. Funeral director suddenly says he recognizes her as his own missing daughter. Argument ensues, until earthquake knocks everyone down and turns movie to color. Weird.