Monday, February 21, 2011

I Saw the Devil and other things from Film Comment Selects

I went to today's sneak preview of I Saw the Devil at Film Comment Selects (FCS) at Lincoln Center.

I met Dave, aka Mondocurry and the lovely Shigeko. This was their second trip to this years FCS. They attended Friday's Hobo With a Shotgun. Their reaction was decidedly mixed. If he can find the time he'll try writing up the screening.

On the news front word has come out that a 13 film retrospective of the films of Takashi Miike will be occurring March 16-21st. It's a great selection of films including the New York premiere of 13 Assassins his current movie. I know I'll be at the film. The schedule should be up here shortly. (It's out in print but not yet on line. ) I have all the films on DVD except the new one and recommend them all.

The other big piece of news is that the dates are set for this years New York Asian Film Festival. It will be playing out July 1 through 14. You expect that I'll be there.

Enough with the news the point of this post is to say a few words about Kim Jee-woon's I Saw the Devil.

This little poisoned confection is a lead pipe to the head, the face, the chest and every part of your body. It's a mean nasty and ugly film that aims to upset the serial killer genre. It's a bleak film that leaves you depressed and unsettled. It's little wonder the film had trouble being approved for release in Korea (the film had to be trimmed to get approval and even then word is the authorities weren't happy- and considering the film imagines Korea to be full of serial killers it's not surprising).

The plot of the film has the fiance of a government agent becoming the victim of a serial killer. The agent goes after him, finds him and then lets him go so he can play a deadly game of cat and mouse. It's graphically violent and and as unpleasant as you can imagine, possibly more so.

I felt bruised and battered by the end.

I'm not sure what I think of it. It's extremely well done. Masterfully told... and as I said I have no idea what I think of it. Walking out of the film I thought a great deal of it. Talking to Dave and Shigeko after the film we both found a great deal to admire about it. However sitting on the train my enthusiasm waned. Sure I felt like I was tossed under a truck with a knot in my stomach but I don't know to what end.

Is this a good film? Yes. It undeniably affects you but to what end?

I don't know.

Part of the problem is the film wants very much to destroy the genre, and it almost does, except at one key point it has to use the very cliches it's trying to avoid. It doesn't stay with them long, but it's long enough to dull the edge. Somehow at that moment it becomes the thing it was successfully avoiding being, and somehow becomes less than it was.

Again, it's a very good film, I just don't know if I like it.

I have to think about it. Actually I have to think a great deal about it to the point that I'm considering going to see it again when it screens Friday at the Brooklyn Academy of Music with the director in attendance. Maybe seeing it again or hearing the director speak will make something click. (Then again I don't know if I want to go there again)

I'll be talking with Dave about this and depending on what we decide a fuller review may follow.

For now just know it's a film recommended for those with strong stomachs who don't mind being deeply disturbed.(and when one character suggests another cover her ears and and eyes, you may want to as well.)

The film opens on March 4th from Magnet releasing (which I suspect will mean it will also show up on Magnolia pay per view)

Proving that some people are gluttons for punishment Dave and I will be returning to Lincoln Center for Sion Sono's Cold Fish, another disturbing trip into serial killer territory. Hopefully this will be lightened up by the at home version of the FCS series with Robbery, Wundkanal and Our Nazi ( all of which are on import DVD) and a trip to the Korean Cultural Service's free screening Forever The Moment on Tuesday.

I now return you to your regularly scheduled blog posts.

(And apologies to the guy who sat behind me, who didn't like my shifting in my seat with each gruesome turn. Sorry about that, but I've never had any problems with hitting anyone's knees before, then again I've never had someone as tall as you sit behind me)

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