Buzz Magazine, Film Reviews, Long Review

아가씨 [The Handmaiden] (2016)

Review of Park Chan-Wook’s wonderful The Handmaiden for Buzz Magazine

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Film Reviews, Short Review

황해 [The Yellow Sea] (2010)

2/4

A South Korean action thriller about Gu-nam (Ha Jung-Woo), an impoverished taxi driver in the Yanbian Prefecture (a part of China that’s majority Korean), who is forced to go to Seoul to perform a mafia hit whilst also looking for his missing wife, who herself went to South Korea to seek a better life, with things quickly falling apart from there. Whilst The Yellow Sea does admirable deal with xenophobia, social exclusion and migration (which domestic audiences are better equipped to understand than I), it ultimately fails as a thriller. Na Hong-jin directs almost every action sequence with plenty of shaky-cam, draining the violence of its gruesome impact, and the story very quickly devolves into utter incoherence (although I suspect this is partially the point, even if it is unsuccessful). There are some excellent scenes though; Na takes us through the planning of the hit step-by-step, and the first half of the film is crackling with nervous, outsider tension. Shame it isn’t sustained.

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Film Reviews, Short Review

돼지의 왕 [The King of Pigs] (2011)

3.5/4

This is some heavy shit. A strange, surrealistic animation about two old school friends who meet up to discuss the awful bullying they endured during their school days, as well as a mutual friend of theirs, a loner from a disadvantaged background who fought back against the bullies. The King of Pigs is almost never-endingly bleak, and although the animation doesn’t always work, it does come into its own during a few genuinely creepy later sequences. Furthermore, the film’s bleakness works because it allows us to understand why its characters are so hurt and damaged; their strictly hierarchical school world, in which the film openly connects the brutally arrogant well-off students with systems of capitalistic oppression, appears an environment that few would survive unscathed.

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