Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Memories of Murder (2003; Bong Joon-ho)

It is about time for me to cover another of my current top ten, Memories of Murder. This review is going to contain many more stills than I normally use because this is one of the most beautifully shot films ever, and it just so happens that a lot of the scenes I was going to talk about happen to have images I could find.

At a time when South Korea was desperately trying to claw it's way up to match the modern, leading first world countries, a killer arose to take advantage of the confusion and chaos that was enveloping the criminal justice system. As young women start to wind up murdered across a small province, local "detectives" Park and Cho are forced to team up with a professionally trained detective straight from Seoul, Seo. As the crimes continue, the three men desperately dig for any sort of connections between the murders that might help them get one step ahead.

The thriller tones sound obvious, but I assure you that this is nothing like the garbage you see coming out of the US. Several important aspects are at play during the film, all of which play a major role in the development of the case and of the characters, themselves. Park and Cho are from the small province they watch over, and thus have not yet become part of the rapid development that Seoul has been put through. This leads to complete differences in styles that make Park and Cho come off as idiots and almost neandrotholic. However, as the film progresses and the characters evolve, you see that the truth is completely different. You begin to understand the motives of the three men and why they act the way they do.

Right from the start you are shown the lack of organization that Park, Cho, and Seo have to try and work with. They are not taken seriously by the citizens around them, which leads to a lack of containment at the crime scenes and results in the destruction of valuable evidence. As the film develops, you start to witness the full extent of Bong Joon-ho's eye for the camera. The still above represents one of my favorite scenes in which a reinactment of a crime goes wrong. The shot and the one that takes place after it are truly awe-inspiring. As far as the score goes, it melds perfectly with the mood of every scene, further dragging us into their desperation and hopes.

The true extent of the desperation, and a major turning point for one of the detectives is the still above. We witness a truly heart-wrenching scene that connects to a part earlier in the film that makes you want to break down and cry with them. However, not all of the movie is as emotionally draining, as interspersed throughout the piece we find some truly fabulous humor, but never enough to ruin the overall tone that lurches over the film. The performances are spectacular, some of the greatest I have ever seen. As discussed earlier, the detectives transitions and our opinions of them were only possible by the spotless performances of all involved.

The point I am trying to get at? That this movie is damn near perfection. I could continue to go on and on, but I rather not give anymore away than I already have. The only thing I could see bothering people is the pacing. I have witnessed this first hand, that when people go into a thriller they expect slick, fast paced action. However, I think that those people are fools and should go back to their Fincher films and leave the real masterpieces to people like us.

Score: 5/5

Notes: I wish I could score it higher, The film with the same title being released this year is NOT a remake (I was so happy to find that out).

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