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Five Movies, Five Countries 
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Post Re: Five Movies, Five Countries
#1

Memories of Murder (2003, South Korea)

The tonal shifts between humor and drama in The Host doesn't sit well with me. It works far better in Snowpiercer when it is matched well with the over-the-top kitchen sink of the film's dystopian world. And it is controlled with terrific precision in Memories of Murder, a film about one of the first serial murders in South Korea. Apart from eliciting rich performances from the cast, Bong's technical brilliance is on full display, from the stunning cinematography and direction to how he subverts the darkness of this genre with his kind of twisted humor. It works both as a way to alleviate the narrative from unrelenting gloom and as a social commentary on the state of Korea at the time. He shifts the tone deftly, increasing dramatic stakes and tension as it moves towards the ending. The last scene is ambiguous and terrific - a perfect final shot filled with unanswerable questions as the lead gazes on in shock for that one person among the film's audience.


The film really challenges A Tale of Two Sisters as my favorite South Korean film. And makes me want to watch The Host again to see if my opinion changes after appreciating the director's style more now.


Thu Feb 13, 2014 6:02 am
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Post Re: Five Movies, Five Countries
peng wrote:
#1

Memories of Murder (2003, South Korea)

The tonal shifts between humor and drama in The Host doesn't sit well with me. It works far better in Snowpiercer when it is matched well with the over-the-top kitchen sink of the film's dystopian world. And it is controlled with terrific precision in Memories of Murder, a film about one of the first serial murders in South Korea. Apart from eliciting rich performances from the cast, Bong's technical brilliance is on full display, from the stunning cinematography and direction to how he subverts the darkness of this genre with his kind of twisted humor. It works both as a way to alleviate the narrative from unrelenting gloom and as a social commentary on the state of Korea at the time. He shifts the tone deftly, increasing dramatic stakes and tension as it moves towards the ending. The last scene is ambiguous and terrific - a perfect final shot filled with unanswerable questions as the lead gazes on in shock for that one person among the film's audience.


The film really challenges A Tale of Two Sisters as my favorite South Korean film. And makes me want to watch The Host again to see if my opinion changes after appreciating the director's style more now.


Oh I liked this one a great deal too. Rather than The Host, watch Mother if you haven't seen it. It might even be better

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Thu Feb 13, 2014 10:04 am
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Post Re: Five Movies, Five Countries
peng wrote:
stuff about South Korean movies


At one my more profitable times on this forum, I saw The Chaser, Mother and I Saw The Devil in about a two or three week period. I look forward to seeing Memories of Murder. Thanks for the tip.

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Thu Feb 13, 2014 4:55 pm
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Post Re: Five Movies, Five Countries
Hmm that has me intrigued. I will watch Mother next after finishing this thread.

I did see The Chaser out of that bunch. It's good, but has one of those endings where I switch from "being into the story" to "appreciating the director's intention" instead. Pretty much how I feel about the ending of The Mist.


Fri Feb 14, 2014 5:06 am
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Post Re: Five Movies, Five Countries
#2

Persona (1966, Sweden)

My third, and now favorite, Bergman. The Virgin Spring is strangely beautiful, and Cries and Whispers is grueling, but both have a certain distance that keeps me from embracing them fully, although I still consider them very, very good. Persona, however, is visceral; the film throbs with an undercurrent of psychological horror that makes it completely gripping, even in stretches where it gets mindfuckery obtuse. "Fascinating" is not a word I use to describe films often (right now only A Tale of Two Sisters and 3-Iron come to mind) but it applies to this one. Also haven't been overwhelmed by a performance like Bibi Andersson since maybe Maria Falconetti from The Passion of Joan of Arc.



Weirdest choice for a Valentine couple viewing ever, btw. I was lucky she ended up liking it.


Fri Feb 14, 2014 10:16 am
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Post Re: Five Movies, Five Countries
peng wrote:
#2

Persona (1966, Sweden)

My third, and now favorite, Bergman. The Virgin Spring is strangely beautiful, and Cries and Whispers is grueling, but both have a certain distance that keeps me from embracing them fully, although I still consider them very, very good. Persona, however, is visceral; the film throbs with an undercurrent of psychological horror that makes it completely gripping, even in stretches where it gets mindfuckery obtuse. "Fascinating" is not a word I use to describe films often (right now only A Tale of Two Sisters and 3-Iron come to mind) but it applies to this one. Also haven't been overwhelmed by a performance like Bibi Andersson since maybe Maria Falconetti from The Passion of Joan of Arc.



Weirdest choice for a Valentine couple viewing ever, btw. I was lucky she ended up liking it.


I find Persona to be more of a film school experiment than an actual narrative film

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Fri Feb 14, 2014 10:22 am
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Post Re: Five Movies, Five Countries
But there is still a clear, tangible narrative through to the end, no? Characters are also realized in full, and I feel the experiments rather add to the overall atmosphere and story of the film. Well, maybe except the prelude. That was a bit too weird to begin the film with, at least in that immediate moment on first watch, but I imagine I might find it flow to the story better on rewatch.


Fri Feb 14, 2014 10:30 am
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Post Re: Five Movies, Five Countries
I've seen a few of the movies from South Korea over the last few years: I Saw the Devil, The Man from Nowhere, The Chaser, Mother, A Tale of Two Sisters, The Yellow Sea. I rank them in that order although I think the repetitive style is wearing me down. After The Yellow Sea I decided I needed a break from the style, but have now relented in search of challenge material. A note about The Man From Nowhere: I never see this one mentioned. It has a man/girl relationship similar to Leon: The Professional. The story is quite different, but is every bit as effective in my opinion.

#4 New World

I saw the buzz about this crime drama last year, but decided to pass after wearing myself out on the above movies. This movie is different - the pace a bit slower and the violence less frequent. It is a broad touch on an assortment of characters surrounding a cop embedded in the largest syndicate in the country. The film centers on the cop, but the story is not told from his point of view. It is more of a look at him and his associates in their activities for a period of time after the boss is killed and the power struggles that result. I found the viewing to be continually interesting though not particularly compelling or deeply involving. The central character appears detached for much of the movie. I think that was intended, but the ending failed to stir me to appreciation. 7/10.


Fri Feb 14, 2014 12:04 pm
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Post Re: Five Movies, Five Countries
I really liked The Man from Nowhere, my #4 of 2010. So glad I got to see that in theater because it's the kind of film that got cheers easily and the experience was so fun (the crowd went wild that one take of a jump from a window to the ground). Strangely, even though their plots are not alike at all, it reminds me a bit of Collateral; both are thrillers that exude so much style and I loved them for that.

If you are burnt out by the genre, Korean rom-coms and dramas are the perfect antidote. I got into Korean cinema through them since they were ubiquitous over here for about 3-4 years. Their rom-coms are mostly very fun.

I have heard about New World but missed that in theater. Hopefully it gets home release soon.


Fri Feb 14, 2014 12:39 pm
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Post Re: Five Movies, Five Countries
I do need to branch out into other genres from South Korea!

I found New World on Netflix Instant. That is the only streaming service I've signed up for. Also have the mail service from Netflix, but my wife has me locked out of that queue! I wish I had access to Korean films on the big screen - I really appreciate the vibrant and sharp cinematography vs the darker visual style that is so prevalent in Hollywood productions.


Fri Feb 14, 2014 1:02 pm
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Post Re: Five Movies, Five Countries
peng wrote:
But there is still a clear, tangible narrative through to the end, no? Characters are also realized in full, and I feel the experiments rather add to the overall atmosphere and story of the film. Well, maybe except the prelude. That was a bit too weird to begin the film with, at least in that immediate moment on first watch, but I imagine I might find it flow to the story better on rewatch.


There are shades of a clear narrative, but also that sequence where they repeat the exact same scene again, word for word. Or random images in the beginning. Hard to make heads or tails of half the movie

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Fri Feb 14, 2014 1:07 pm
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Post Re: Five Movies, Five Countries
JamesKunz wrote:
peng wrote:
#2

Persona (1966, Sweden)

My third, and now favorite, Bergman. The Virgin Spring is strangely beautiful, and Cries and Whispers is grueling, but both have a certain distance that keeps me from embracing them fully, although I still consider them very, very good. Persona, however, is visceral; the film throbs with an undercurrent of psychological horror that makes it completely gripping, even in stretches where it gets mindfuckery obtuse. "Fascinating" is not a word I use to describe films often (right now only A Tale of Two Sisters and 3-Iron come to mind) but it applies to this one. Also haven't been overwhelmed by a performance like Bibi Andersson since maybe Maria Falconetti from The Passion of Joan of Arc.



Weirdest choice for a Valentine couple viewing ever, btw. I was lucky she ended up liking it.


I find Persona to be more of a film school experiment than an actual narrative film


I'm not in love with Persona by any stretch (although I appreciated it for what it was), but I dislike the use of "film school experiment" when referring to movies like this. It implies that there's an amateur element to the movie, which I don't think is the case. Non-narrative based, experimental movies don't necessarily equate to the idea being amateurish.

Also, if we're considering film as an artform, forcing a traditional narrative on every film is obviously really constricting and ignores a ton of non-American movies.


Fri Feb 14, 2014 1:19 pm
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Post Re: Five Movies, Five Countries
PeachyPete wrote:
I'm not in love with Persona by any stretch (although I appreciated it for what it was), but I dislike the use of "film school experiment" when referring to movies like this. It implies that there's an amateur element to the movie, which I don't think is the case. Non-narrative based, experimental movies don't necessarily equate to the idea being amateurish.

Also, if we're considering film as an artform, forcing a traditional narrative on every film is obviously really constricting and ignores a ton of non-American movies.


Experimental isn't necessarily amateur. I mean, quite literally, that it seems that Bergman is experimenting with different ideas.

And yes on the face of it forcing a movie to have a narrative is restricting, but on the other hand...name me one good non-narrative movie

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Fri Feb 14, 2014 1:44 pm
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Post Re: Five Movies, Five Countries
JamesKunz wrote:
PeachyPete wrote:
I'm not in love with Persona by any stretch (although I appreciated it for what it was), but I dislike the use of "film school experiment" when referring to movies like this. It implies that there's an amateur element to the movie, which I don't think is the case. Non-narrative based, experimental movies don't necessarily equate to the idea being amateurish.

Also, if we're considering film as an artform, forcing a traditional narrative on every film is obviously really constricting and ignores a ton of non-American movies.


Experimental isn't necessarily amateur. I mean, quite literally, that it seems that Bergman is experimenting with different ideas.

And yes on the face of it forcing a movie to have a narrative is restricting, but on the other hand...name me one good non-narrative movie


Experimental may not necessarily imply amatuer, but when combined with film school it does.

As for a non-narrative movie that's good, I think Man with a Movie Camera is a flat out masterpiece that's exhilarating in how it shows what the medium of film is capable of.

Orson Welles' F For Fake is also pretty damned amazing. There's a bunch more, but off the top my head those 2 are probably my favorites.


Fri Feb 14, 2014 1:54 pm
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Post Re: Five Movies, Five Countries
JamesKunz wrote:
peng wrote:
But there is still a clear, tangible narrative through to the end, no? Characters are also realized in full, and I feel the experiments rather add to the overall atmosphere and story of the film. Well, maybe except the prelude. That was a bit too weird to begin the film with, at least in that immediate moment on first watch, but I imagine I might find it flow to the story better on rewatch.


There are shades of a clear narrative, but also that sequence where they repeat the exact same scene again, word for word. Or random images in the beginning. Hard to make heads or tails of half the movie


Ah, but the scene, which is repeated word for word, is shown from another perspective the second time round, which is the point of the scene.

I liked 'Persona' and think it is great, but I won't claim to understand it. I don't even think that there is a clear narrative, but there are a lot of very interesting ideas and great images. peng's quite right when he points out that 'Persona' feels a bit like a horror movie. It has a very disturbing atmosphere.


Fri Feb 14, 2014 3:37 pm
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Post Re: Five Movies, Five Countries
So much of the richness that I found in Persona comes from the confusion of images, making the experience a bit like being jostled on a rollercoaster. It isn't entirely clear why the film starts off with some religious imagery, a brief animated sequence and so on though the movie appears to reflect the mindset of its creator (just like, for better or worse, Sucker Punch (please fight the urge to start a debate or even opine on Sucker Punch)), just as any movie will though, with this one, almost unfiltered.

Beyond the confusing imagery, there is the mystery that is the relationship between these two (or possibly not two) women: what silences one, what inspires confession in the other. The sense of conflict between the two women, of each woman individually is very real -- the lack of clear narrative highlights the relationship between the director, the audience, the women, the medium. Though the movie is somewhat incoherent, it remains comprehensible -- the emotion of the characters never gets lost in the jumble. There are some films that feel like a space that can be visited. Dawn of the Dead (1978) feels that way to me, Persona the same. It feels like so many dreams in that it's unconnected, just barely out of reach and very familiar.

The previously-released DVD (it may be ported over to Criterion's release; I haven't checked) has a good commentary track that attempted to reconcile much of the imagery, figuring in Bergman biography along the way. Although it didn't clear up the mysteries of so much of what I'd seen, it did confirm that another had felt a sort of psychological parity with what they saw. That, to me, is the success of Persona: it had thoughts and emotions that I have known and, really, the characters are just as much in the dark as the audience. Trying to find little mirrors of ourselves isn't maybe the best way to appreciate art but (a) it can hardly be helped and (b) Persona makes it so easy.

Still one of the great finds of my movie-watching life.

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Fri Feb 14, 2014 4:29 pm
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Post Re: Five Movies, Five Countries
PeachyPete wrote:
.

As for a non-narrative movie that's good, I think Man with a Movie Camera is a flat out masterpiece that's exhilarating in how it shows what the medium of film is capable of.



Okay, fine, but that's a documentary. I meant to exclude those. If we're counting documentaries I'd also throw in the Atomic Cafe as an excellent film.

But otherwise, narrative is rather essential

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Fri Feb 14, 2014 4:35 pm
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Post Re: Five Movies, Five Countries
JamesKunz wrote:

But otherwise, narrative is rather essential


That depends entirely on the intent. And: essential for what? Nicholson Baker's great novel The Mezzanine is a close examination of a man's everyday pathology; while it has shades of narrative, it is largely informal and so unconstrained by story or narrative. Persona, The Mirror... there are movies that seek to do something other (or, arguably, something familiar using a more indirect route). I wouldn't argue that it works all the time, of course. Persona isn't exactly Hollis Frampton Takes A B.M., is what I'm saying.

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Fri Feb 14, 2014 5:05 pm
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Post Re: Five Movies, Five Countries
JamesKunz wrote:
Okay, fine, but that's a documentary. I meant to exclude those. If we're counting documentaries I'd also throw in the Atomic Cafe as an excellent film.

But otherwise, narrative is rather essential


I'm not sure why you'd exclude documentaries, as they are movies. Many of them even have clear narrative structures and follow narrative arcs.

At any rate, what about something like Un Chien Andalou (and other Bunuel films)? Or viturally anything that can be considered surrealist? Now, obviously some surrealist films have a clothesline sort of narrative that they use to explore certain things, but you'll note I said traditional narrative.

I also think it's fair to say a large portion of well regarded European cinema (and some American) forgoes traditional narrative and uses other means to express whatever it is the particular movie is trying to express. Lots of films from Godard, Fellini, and Tarkovsky have nothing resembling what you'd call a traditional narrative.

Your initial point was that Persona is more experimental than narrative in nature, as if that in itself is a criticism. It's accurate, sure, I'm just not convinced that alone is a valid reason to criticize the film.


Fri Feb 14, 2014 5:13 pm
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Post Re: Five Movies, Five Countries
PeachyPete wrote:
JamesKunz wrote:
Okay, fine, but that's a documentary. I meant to exclude those. If we're counting documentaries I'd also throw in the Atomic Cafe as an excellent film.

But otherwise, narrative is rather essential


I'm not sure why you'd exclude documentaries, as they are movies. Many of them even have clear narrative structures and follow narrative arcs.

At any rate, what about something like Un Chien Andalou (and other Bunuel films)? Or viturally anything that can be considered surrealist? Now, obviously some surrealist films have a clothesline sort of narrative that they use to explore certain things, but you'll note I said traditional narrative.

I also think it's fair to say a large portion of well regarded European cinema (and some American) forgoes traditional narrative and uses other means to express whatever it is the particular movie is trying to express. Lots of films from Godard, Fellini, and Tarkovsky have nothing resembling what you'd call a traditional narrative.

Your initial point was that Persona is more experimental than narrative in nature, as if that in itself is a criticism. It's accurate, sure, I'm just not convinced that alone is a valid reason to criticize the film.


I don't MEAN to be reductive, or constrictive, or limited in my critical scope...I just find non-narrative films to be unfocused and, frankly, boring. And why shouldn't films have narratives? It sounds like such a bourgeois, middle-American desire, but I think it's a valid one.

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Fri Feb 14, 2014 5:50 pm
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