Bong Joon-ho

Barking Dogs Never Bite

Memories of Murder 57
[ Based on South Korea’s first recognized serial killer case, “Memories of Murder” follows a pair of bumbling police detectives as they try to find the man who’s strangling women with their own underwear on rainy nights. Park Du-man (Song Kang-ho) relies on his instincts and is not above planting evidence to support what his “shaman eyes” suggest, while his partner Jo Yung-gu (Kim Roe-ha) likes to force confessions out of suspect by dropkicking them in the head! When the country cops’ methods fail, a senior officer from Seoul is brought in and they’re soon following all kinds of leads concerning bald genitals, pop songs and outhouses, yet the killer keeps on striking… “Memories of Murder” is an odd duck, with uneasy tonal shifts between grimness and comedy. It can be pretty funny when it tries to be, but it’s surprising that it would, considering how it’s about women being raped and murdered. It also suffers from unnecessarily slow pacing; the investigation seems to go nowhere most of the time and, while the climax is intense, the ending remains inconclusive. Likewise, the hints of social unrest in Korea (the film is set in 1986 when the country was still under military dictatorship) are intriguing, but they don’t add up to much. There’s a good film somewhere in this material, but this is not quite it. ]

The Host 87
[ I’m watching this on Netflix a decade after its release and one marvels at the cleverly staged and shot attacks of the fish-lizard monster (and supposedly virus host, hence the title). Plus Bong Joon-ho deftly juggles melodrama and comedy with epic creature-feature sci-fi/horror, coming up with something quite unique. The great Song Kang-ho stars alongside Byun Hee-bong, Bae Doona, Park Hae-Il and Ko Ah-sung as the “infected” family we follow during this outbreak situation. The operatic climax is simply sublime. ]

Mother 78
[ Présenté à Cannes l’an dernier dans la section Un Certain Regard et soumis aux Oscars par la Corée du Sud dans la catégorie du Meilleur film en langue étrangère, ce long métrage de Bong Joon-Ho (Memories of Murder, The Host) épate par ses déconcertantes ruptures de ton, par ses images méticuleusement composées et, davantage encore, par la magistrale performance tragicomique de Kim Hye-ja dans le rôle d’une mère qui entretient une relation fusionnelle, quasi incestueuse avec son fils simple d’esprit (Won Bin). Lorsque ce dernier sera accusé du meurtre d’une écolière, elle fera tout pour l’innocenter, y compris tenter de démasquer le véritable tueur elle-même… Thriller hitchcockien mâtiné de touches saugrenues, Mother continue de déjouer nos attentes jusqu’à la toute fin. ]

Snowpiercer 80
[ Bong Joon-ho is pretty much a superstar among international genre filmmakers. 5 years after “Mother”, he’s back with his first English-language film, which has been hyped up a lot by critics since its American release this summer. An adaptation of Jacques Lob’s “Le Transperceneige” graphic novel, “Snowpiercer” takes place in a post-apocalyptic future in which all of humanity has been wiped out by a new man-made ice age, except for the passengers of a train that has been running non-stop for 17 years. It’s not quite clear how it can still have fuel for its engine, but it does make for a potent sci-fi allegory. You see, the train is firmly divided into classes, not unlike the Titanic. Rich people live it up in the front, poor people suffer in the tail. The great Chris Evans is the leader of a brewing revolution making its way from the tail to the front, going through gates and wagons like so many videogame levels. This leads to some pretty cool if at times confusing action scenes, but also to moments of beauty and some humorous bits, notably involving Tilda Swinton and Alison Pill (the winning supporting cast also includes Jamie Bell, John Hurt, Octavia Spencer, Song Kang-ho, Go Ah-sung and Ed Harris). Also very enjoyable is the production design, which impresses us thoroughly as we travel through the train along with Evans and his crew. So it is. ]

Okja 92
[ Reviewed for Extra Beurre ]