Thursday, August 13, 2009

MIFF 2009 - part 3

... so after the fact, I know.

From the director of The Host, this Korean murder mystery follows a devoted mother as she investigates death of a local girl whom her son, who is a little 'slow', is accused of murdering.

There are many movies which alternate between tragic and comedic from scene to scene. Somehow, Mother manages to combine humour and poignancy into singular moments, which verge on bizarre, but are utterly believable. Brilliantly staged and acted, you can't help but become engaged with the mother's almost frenzied search for the truth. Hard to say much more without giving anything away, so I'll just say this was my favourite movie of the festival for the year.

Eden Log
The blurb said 'post-apocalyptic' and it was a French production. Immediately, I thought of movies such as Avalon, Tetsuo, and the Matrix. And in a sense, I was right. In that it was as monochromatically boring as Avalon, as incomprehensile as Tetsuo, and as much of a let down as the latter two Matrix films.

Basically, the film follows a man who pulls himself out of a primordial mud, and from there he works his way through some sort of abandoned industrial plant, heading up to the surface of the planet. The concept underlying this film is rather contrived - yet another Hero with a Thousand Faces archetypal myth, so derivative you can pretty much sum it up by saying, "Resident Evil meet the Matrix", and I can't help but wonder if it would have been more engaging in French - because the scripting in English was appalling.

It seems every year I choose a dog of a movie at MIFF, and Eden Log was the dog of 2009. Avoid at all costs.

This was on my shortlist originally this year, but scheduling meant I took it out at the last cut. Then, quite foruitously, I had to cancel one of my sessions, and a friend highly recommended Breathless after seeing an earlier screening. I'm glad I missed Sauna, which in hindsight was probably going to be another ill-advised choice, to see this fine film instead.

Written up as a gritty Korean gangster movie, I was expecting brash punks in black suits, with guns and fast cars. The write-up should have said petty thugs, however, not gangsters. But don't let that stop you from seeing this movie. It's brilliant, as long as you don't mind the violence.

Sang-hoon is a petty thug for hire, mostly collecting debts for loan sharks, but also breaking up the occasional student protest. He's anti-social and has a strange relationship with his family. He
accidentally spits on a teenage girl, Yeon-hee, walking in the street one day. After an altercation, the two strike up a strange friendship, which isn't so strange once you see what their lives consist of otherwise.

The characters in this film may seem a little cliche, but are still excellently rended, and well acted. Their circumstances are depressing, but they themselves are charming. It sounds like something of a Ken Loach film, I know, but it's much more engaging, I promise. As the tale unravels, it's clear that Ik-Jun Yang (director, writer, and lead actor) has created a movie which deals with male violence, as it exists both in public Korean society, and more domestically within the family home. Various cycles of violence are drawn, some more deeply etched than others, but each revealing its own consequences.

Not for the faint-hearted, but definitely worth seeing - don't let the fact it's over two hours long put you off. It doesn't feel slow in the least.

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