Thursday, January 31, 2013

Padak (2012)

The free screening at the Korean Cultural Service screening was the animated film Padak. The film has been described as a kind of Korean Finding Nemo, but that really isn't fair, since this is much different and much darker, I mean neither Disney nor Pixar wouldn't make a film where characters die graphically. This isn't meant to give anything away only to say that this isn't your typical Hollywood animated film.

Ted Geohagen, writer, producer, director and host of the current series of KCS screenings said the film is akin to the work of Don Bluth since Bluth left Disney because they wanted to take death, danger and violence from their films. Bluth wanted to keep it in and went off on his own to make films his way, and made some money in the process. I think Ted was right, though this film is much darker than even Bluth's work. Ted also said that a friend of his compared the film said that the film is what you might get if Pink Floyd made Finding Nemo. I think in some form the statement is right on especially since some of the musical numbers resembled some of the animation used in Pink Floyd The Wall.

The plot of the film has Padak caught and brought to restaurant that serves sea food. As Padak tries to escape she butt heads with the fish in the tank who are all under the sway of a flat fish who lives under a steel grate in the floor of the tank. As Padak refuses to give up she begins to change the fish in the tank with her.

Okay if you're looking for friendly animation look elsewhere, this is a dark film where we watch as characters are pulled from the tank, cleaned and eaten. You will feel their fear...hell in many ways this is a horror film. This is not for most kids and many adults who would prefer not to have their characters served for dinner.

For my money this is a wonderful film. Once you get past the opening human world animation which looks like old school computer animation, this film really takes off. Actually the film begins to set a dark tone with Padak being caught and moved from boat to delivery van to tank. Its a wordless sequence that has more dread than most recent horror films put together. From there the story spins out in unexpected ways including dreams, flashbacks and a couple of musical numbers. The film also uses a variety of animation styles depending upon where we are in the story.

Don't kid yourself there is a complexity here that Disney, Pixar and all of the big American animation houses never ever approach. How complex is the film? It deals obliquely with cults, the notion of how to live, life in a concentration camp, pecking orders, nihilism and several other themes. You probably could do a dissertation on the film.

I know at the top I compared the film to Finding Nemo, but that isn't right.Its a lazy statement on my part, even if there are clown fish in the film. It's lazy because the film is, outside of the dream and human sequences is set entirely in the aquarium outside the restaurant. We only see the sea at the end, it always remains just out of reach for most of the film.

I don't know what to say. I think this is a brilliant film I know the film has low regard in some circles (IMDB has it rated under 5 out of 10), but based on what I've read it seems that the audiences have been expecting yet another happy Disney film not a mediation on life and death. The fact this is a complex mature animated film messes with their heads as much as the film itself. Personally I think they are really wrong and I'd say i's probably the first "great" film I've seen in 2013.

Track this film down.

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