Sunday Video Essay: Memories of Murder

Adrian Martin and Christina Álvarez López wonderfully elaborate on the visual motifs and themes of art-house procedural (and my personal favourite South Korean film) Memories Of Murder. They sagely compare it to Zodiac, even though, in fact, Bong Joon-Ho’s film came out half a decade prior. Obviously there are spoilers in here, nevertheless, much like David Fincher’s film, the film is a difficult one to spoil in conventional ways. Want to know why I always point out and highlight (on the Cinecast) that Song Kang-Ho as a brilliant actor, you can see it even in the short snippets and contextual clips presented herein.

A very Magnificent Red Band Trailer for Snowpiercer

Snowpiercer, Bong Joon-Ho’s post-apocalyptic ‘society on a train’ action movie based on the French Graphic Novel (“Transperceneige”) has been released in pretty much every market except for USA/Canada at this point. There is even a uber-complete Blu-Ray in France if you have 40 Euros to spare. It is getting a proper (un-cut, original South Korean version) release at the end of June here in North America, and the powers that be have made, by far the most elegant, accurate and enticing trailer for the film that I’ve seen in any language or territory.

This is how you market a high-concept film folks, offer the big images, but do so in a clear, concise and well articulated fashion. And it certainly helps to have Tilda Swinton doing the talking. (“Precisely 74% of you shall die.”)

Cinecast Episode 346 – …And then Christian Slater Shat Himself


Kurt Halfyard boards a plane to Minneapolis specifically to talk face-to-face with Andrew about his two favorite things: his Doppelgänger, Russell Crowe and The Bible. Sex is everywhere with Lars Von Trier’s Nymphomaniac (vol 1). We skip 1984 this week but will be back next with Purple Rain and Part II of the sex movie. Fifteen years have passed, yet we still love to talk about the mind blowing nature of The Matrix. And we cap it off with Noah’s double bill, Snowpiercer (sorry about the *MILD SPOILERS* on a film that has not played domestically yet – Kurt gets a bit carried away – but really what is said in this episode does not dent the number of turns/revelations in the film, which we suppose, is itself a spoiler…)

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!

 


 

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Trailer: Bong Joon-Ho’s Snowpiercer

After fellow Koreans Kim Ji-Woon and Park Chan-Wook launched their English language debut films (The Last Stand and Stoker, respectively) the most nuanced of the trio of directorial superstars, Bong Joon-Ho is delivering the largest in scale, the nuclear-winter bound science fiction flick, Snowpiercer. He has brought along the magnificent Song Kang-Ho for the train ride, alongside a sampling of Brit and American character actors including, Tilda Swinton, John Hurt, Ed Harris, Jamie Bell, Octavia Spencer, Steve Park, Ewen Bremner, Allison Pill and Chris Evans. You may not be able to recognize many of them covered in dirt, grease and facial hair.

Bong’s Memories of Murder and The Host are two of my favourite Korean films, thus, I have high expectations for this one, Inception soundtrack and all…

A train-trapped version of Alien3 with Orwellian grace notes and a lots of axes, this hopefully, will be my The Hunger Games! Set in a future where, after a failed experiment to stop global warming, an ice age kills off all life on the planet except for the inhabitants of the Snowpiercer, a train that travels around the globe and is powered by a sacred perpetual-motion engine. A class system evolves on the train but a revolution brews. The film is an adaptation of Jean-Marc Rochette’s French graphic novel series Le Transperceneige.

Cinecast Epsiode 167 – The Quick and The Head

 
Nottingham and its denizens are a changed place. For the better or worse is the question which our bickering board of bloggers hash out to vastly different conclusions. Fortunately the consensus for movie of the week is The Good, The Bad and the Weird; of which we all agree is awesome in a Big Trouble in Little China meets Raiders of the Lost Ark by way of the Leone Spaghetti Westerns. Andrew and Matt also got to catch a screening of Spike Jonze’ short, I’m Here on the big screen. DVD releases this week are slim pickings, so instead we take a little more time with the recent viewings segment including Gary King’s latest drama, as well as the 2009 Bill Kunsler documentary, a little tangent on animation and dubbing Miyazaki films, in particular Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, and a minute or two on Zombieland… which still, more or less, sucks.

As always, feel free to leave your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!




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Vampire Double Bill: “Thirst; Vampyr”

Thirst (Park Chan-wook, 2009)

With New Moon madness now upon us here in North America, I thought the best way to put an end to my recent hiatus would be a fresh attack against the Stephenie Meyer-penned, dreamy teen boyhunk vampires ‘n’ werewolves phenomenon, hitting it with a double-shot of alternatives for the jaded, sick and tired vampire fans of the world. Of course, avoiding vampires altogether is an effective option that many have probably taken at this point – and I don’t blame you. But reconsider giving up the fanged figures completely if only to give these interesting works a chance. Without further ado…

I’m a huge admirer of Park Chan-wook’s work. He is one of those filmmakers who truly knows how to use and develop his own cinematic style, resulting in films that are visually splendid, thematically fascinating and quite often downright brilliant. Ever since “Cut,” his segment of the Asian horror omnibus film Three…Extremes which opens with a film crew shooting a vampire film, fans have been teased with hints and rumors of his full-length, fully-fledged horror film. Now we have Thirst, which just recently came out on DVD (in Region 1) and tells the tale of a priest (Park regular Song Kang-ho) who volunteers for a medical experiment and ends up receiving blood from a transfusion that turns him into a vampire. As he adapts to his new “condition,” he meets the sexually provocative Tae-joo (Kim Ok-vin), with whom he forms a complex and dangerous relationship while grappling with feelings of guilt from the evil deeds he is driven to do.

I have yet to see Park’s eccentric comedy I’m a Cyborg, But That’s Okay, so this was essentially the first new film of his I was seeing since the excellent Lady Vengeance – and boy was it good to come back to his world. All of his recognizable visual trademarks are there – creative transitions and camerawork, vivid colors, beautifully grotesque displays of violence. However, the mood of the film was something that occasionally threw me. There are, of course, moments of real dramatic weight and horror, but every so often, Park takes a swerve into comedy, the most obvious (and disappointing) example being Tae-joo’s husband who, after being drowned by the vampire-priest, haunts the couple by appearing on their bed, sopping wet, grinning a huge, dopey grin. It’s hard to believe this is from the same Park who used another drowned ghost – that of a little girl – to such chilling effect in Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, a film so stark and hard-hitting that one wouldn’t imagine there being any room for visiting spirits. Thirst also sports some of the dark, deadpan humor that Park used so well in certain moments of his Vengeance trilogy, but it ultimately lacks the driving focus that anchored his previous explorations of the dark side of the soul, instead going from intriguing to sexy to funny and back again.

While not one of Park’s best, Thirst still has plenty to good stuff to sink your teeth into (pun not intended), including sumptuous visuals (the film is a blue- and white-hued wonderland), an excellent performance by Kim Ok-vin and a quite satisfying conclusion.

Vampyr (Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1932)

 

I now jump from 2009 all the way back to the last days of silent cinema for one of the very first vampire films ever made – and still one of the finest. For what better filmmaker is there to combat the wave of inept filmmaking that the Twilight film series is producing so far (I’m hoping David Slade doesn’t hit strike three with Eclipse, if only because I like Hard Candy so much) than Carl Theodor Dreyer, the Danish master who gave us The Passion of Joan of Arc? For Vampyr, he applied his unique style to the horror genre for the first time – are you detecting a pattern here? But unlike Chan-wook Park, Dreyer just about pulls it off flawlessly, producing a truly eerie atmosphere of misty fields, isolated houses and shifting shadows.

The narrative follows a young student of the occult named Allan Grey (Baron Nicolas de Gunzburg AKA Julian West, who also helped finance the film) who becomes enmeshed in sinister goings-on surrounding an old man and his two daughters Gisèle and Léone who are tormented by a vampire named Marguerite Chopin and her servant. Yet the plot is only secondary (and in fact leaves a number of things unexplained) compared to the mesmerizing realm into which Dreyer draws his audience. Just in the opening moments, with Grey’s arrival at his strange inn and the sight of an old ferry rider carrying a scythe, the film begins casting a spell through its imagery alone. The cinematography by Rudolph Maté seems to carve the shapes and figures out of pure ebony, and Dreyer, with a barrage of wallpaper patterns, silhouettes that move on their own and painting-inspired compositions, fashions a purely Gothic visual scheme (helped along by Rena Mandel’s black dress-clad, heavily eyeshadowed Gisèle). The film’s events are brilliantly accentuated by Wolfgang Zeller’s ominous score.

While containing certain elements that anyone familiar with vampire movies should recognize, Vampyr certainly belongs in a class of its own, not a film so much as a strange, surreal fever dream bound to linger in viewers’ minds.