March 23, 2017No Comments

Train to Busan, Yeon Sang-Ho, 2016

Best thing about zombie movies is that they get away with murder. Nothing is out of place, out of the realm of possibility. Want 300 zombies hooked and dragged on a running train and almost stopping it? Done. Zombies have no rules of functioning and no rules to follow. They just follow you. 

The only variations inside established genre films following genre conventions come with the touch of their point of origin. Just take a look at the brilliant 2008 Swedish vampire-movie Let the Right One In

So when I heard of Train to Busan, a South Korean Cannes selected zombie extravaganza, expectations rose, popcorn’s been bought. Plus, every plot set on a train ads a simple layer of nice intensity. 

The bad part about expectations is that they actually work against us. With no South Korean particularity to linger on (what did I expect actually? Teenagers with facial aesthetic surgery and k-pop hystericals? Maybe.) I soon found myself daydreaming about whatnot. On the screen, the zombies did their job of following, outside it I didn’t do mine that well. 

There are highlights. The film doesn’t push towards finding a cure for the madness, its origins are almost completely ignored, and (almost) all characters are rightfully and enjoyably killed. The tone is not melodramatic and there’s a fair share of enjoyable violence. 

December 2, 2016No Comments

The Handmaiden, Park Chan-Wook, 2016

From the director of Oldboy comes The Handmaiden. Expectations lined up for two blocks. The Handmaiden, two pretty ladies, two gentlemen, one great production designer, a mystery thriller story where the audience is denied information. Of course it’s gradually revealed, what did you think?

Three chapters present the triangle of conflicts between the characters.
1 woman is rich, unconsoled and about to get married to her devilish uncle. The uncle is old, and has a thingy for porn literature, which woman #1 is forced to recite to him & his equally devilish buddies. A young man comes into scene - he’s a thief, out to seduce woman #1 into marring him instead, and thus get her fortune. For that, he uses woman #2 as a smoother, a trojan horse into the fried psychic of woman #1. We see her side of the story. Plan works, and part one is over. For part two, we go back to the beginning and see the same story from a different character’s perspective, and here I stop for fear of spoiling (it to) you. 

Trouble is not in the narrative structure, but in the way it changes the tone of the film, from serious thriller to a farce. This has a rather confusing and distracting effect, where now you’re supposed to get satisfaction from the shifting charades and no longer from the mystery of it all. A comedy thriller of errors. Carlo Goldoni. 

The film is visually distinctive, the rich sets and costumes create a beautiful harmony. The women’s erotical interaction creates a motif throughout the film, and their beauty, make-up and pale skin tone becomes an integral part of the production design. 

November 25, 2016No Comments

In Another Country, Hong Sang-soo, 2012

In Another Country is a film set in South Korea, an experimental comical narrative divided in 3 parts, where the only constant is a hilarious male lifeguard looking to charm Isabelle Huppert’s character using a most funny English language. Three different short stories in one feature film, where we see Huppert impersonate first a famous French filmmaker, then the wife of a Korean man on an adultery rendezvous with a Korean filmmaker, then a divorcee looking for answers. Characters are quasi-drunk. They are immature and comical. Humour abounds from the clumsy interactions between the western woman and the asian men. Cultural mixups all over. 

The film feels like a breath of fresh air because of its playful form, its shifting characters and Huppert’s moods (she’s simply exceptionally talented). 


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