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Saturday, 25 October 2008

A couple from Korea...

My film festival festivities continue apace. On Thursday we had planned to watch some free open-air silent screenings celebrating London as imagined from the past. However after a droll short, "The Fugitive Futurist" from 1924, the heavens opened. Discretion proved the better part of valour and I therefore did not stay to see "High Treason" from 1929. Neither a cold bottom from sitting on stone steps in Trafalgar Square nor soggy clothing mix well with moviegoing appeal!

Hansel and Gretel (2007): It was back to a great cinema treat with this Korean fairy-cum-horror tale. A distracted young man wrecks his car and lies dazed until he is found by a strange girl. She takes him back to a handsome house deep in the woods where she lives with her older brother, younger sister, and superficially cheerful parents amidst a riot of colourful toys and succulent cakes. Not only do the telephones not work, but when our hero tries to find his way back to the main road, all paths lead back to the enchanted house. Then the parents disappear and other adults arrive to fill out the family or so it would seem. The movie plays with the power of wish fulfillment and the fractured dreams of childhood in strange, mysterious, and occasionally bloody ways. This is not a film where logic can be used, but if one gives oneself to the fantasy, it is both moving and surprising.

I'm a Cyborg, but That's OK (2006): As luck would have it, I found this film in my needs-to-be-watched backlog and decided to make it a thoroughly Korean day. It was director Park Chan-Wook's follow-up movie to his fantastic vengeance trilogy (Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy, and Lady Vengeance), but it could not be more different. Our heroine here, who comes from a long line of neurotic females, is committed to an institution after slashing her wrist and connecting herself to the electric supply in the factory where she works. She is convinced she is a cyborg and her only source of nourishment is licking battery acid, while a roly-poly fellow inmate wolfs down her meals. She is surrounded by other colourful "loonies" (I use this word advisedly since this seems to be what the director intended), one of whom befriends her and finds a way for her to take in nourishment. The one thing this movie does share with the previous three films is that she yearns for her new friend (a consummate thief) to steal her sympathy so that she can gun down all of the "men in white" -- a recurring fantasy throughout the picture. The movie is wildly imaginative and colourfully rendered; however I did feel that Park was trying just that little bit too hard to give us this fey story.
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