Although we try our best at the Den of Sin to make our schedules in advance, every once in a while something happens to make us change our plans. Whether it be home repairs, getting swamped at work or plain old nonexistent prints, events have occurred that resulted in program changes. However, this week’s screening marks the first time we’ve bumped a program because it wasn’t cool enough.
Those who read my last column will recall (if you can think back that far) that we had planned an “Orca” / “Jaws the Revenge” double bill, but scrapped it so that we could watch two Chinatown finds by our new favorite director, Chan-wook Park. This was met with some dissatisfaction by the Peanut Gallery. In particular, our friend Owen who had been planning his month around “Orca”. However, to appease our guests I offered, against my better judgment, to forego one of our off weeks next month and add an extra program just so that we could see it. This was also prompted by the fact that Sinister Sam had recently gotten hold of a copy of “Grizzly” from 1976, a film which features a 15 foot tall grizzly bear and Christopher George. This seemed like a much better choice than “Jaws the Revenge”, which most people still don’t consider bad enough to be good, so everyone was pretty happy.
Our program change also ended up being appropriate since it fell the day before the start of Cinemuerte and the opening film was the Korean chiller The Uninvited. I had billed the night as the unofficial Cinemuerte pre-party hoping that would boost attendance, but sadly there were only 6 people to start and once again I was the only girl. We decided to start off with the older and arguably more commercial “JSA”. Released in 2000 and financed largely by the South Korean government, “JSA” seems pretty standard on the surface: military whodunit with a troubling amount of emphasis on male “friendships”. However, while watching it one is struck by how tense the situation on the Korean border must be, leading to a less Western-centric view of world politics. Sure it gets pretty sappy and it’s a little zip-zip buzz-buzz for what we would consider an emotional film, but Park seems to have done a pretty good job of making the often ugly side of a real issue for Koreans palatable to the general public.
However, most of the peanut gallery did not enjoy it. I think it was a combination of high expectations (my fiancé forgetting how “Hollywood” Korean films could be) and the general listlessness of the crowd (pre-show banter included a reference to how I lust after Billy Zane, an outright lie I would like to clear up right now). The main source of ridicule, however, was poor Yeong-ae Lee as the Swiss born Sophie E. Jean. How she was able to pass as a native English speaker has me seriously questioning the quality of English schools available in South Korea. Honestly, it seemed as though someone off screen was feeding the lines to her phonetically and every time she spoke we wanted to throw things at the television.
Also amusing was the fact that the Swiss camp in the Joint Security Area looked much like a Giant Swiss Army Knife and there were numerous Swiss jokes pilfered from “Futurama” and “The Tick”. It was around this time that Brenda showed up with some much needed U-Bru merlot and a package of coconut Ruffles. We laughed extra hard when Brendan, upon witnessing one of the whooshing scene changes, made the same “star wipe” joke that Owen and my fiancé had made earlier.
Brendan also amused us by making little “poli-sci woot” noises whenever he got to explain the situation in Korea for the rest of us ignorant slobs. Nick startled us with his eerily accurate plot predictions including the suicide that served as the marker of when the film picked up. I was most excited by the presence of new Den of Sin favourite Kang-ho Song (Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Memories of Murder), although he had a significantly smaller part than I would have liked.
At the hour and a quarter mark my sister arrived, just as we were beginning to believe that the film would never end. We were mightily impressed by the game of jax with bullets, but were confused by the late breaking revelation that Sophie’s dad was a closet commie or something, leading to her being pulled off the case for reasons that never really made that much sense to us. We were further thrown by the gut-wrenchingly gory final scenes, set off with a particularly insipid K-pop ballad. Yes, it was melodrama, but all things considered I at least thought it was good melodrama.
Time for a break. Get “Old Boy” in part two of ENTER THE DEN OF SIN: THE KOREAN DAVID FINCHER?>>>