Wednesday, January 28, 2009

I'm a Cyborg But That's Okay

Park Chan-wook has given us some unforgettable films, going back to 2000’s political thriller-masterpiece JSA. Then immersing himself in the internationally acclaimed vengeance trilogy (Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy, Lady Vengeance). Now we get to see a different side of Park, the romantic comedy side. Don’t let that frighten you, because this is not your typical romance comedy, it’s a romantic comedy written and directed by Park Chan-wook.

Young Goon has been traumatized after being forced to witness her grandmother, who happens to think she is a rabbit . . .and only eats radishes, be dragged away by the “White Coats” and taken to a mental hospital. And she is convinced that her grandmother was trying to tell her the meaning of existence as she was being trucked away. On top of that she forgot her dentures which she needs to eat her radishes. This obviously did some psychological damage to Young Goon, because she is now convinced that she is in fact a Cyborg, and stops eating because if she does the food will damage her inner mechanics. Instead she licks batteries in an attempt to recharge herself.(her toes light up when fully charged).
The last straw is drawn when she cuts her wrists open and almost kills herself by inserting live electrical wire into the slit wrists in an attempt to recharge. So her mother sends her off to a sanitarium. Now with her grandmother’s dentures by her side, which she must wear in order to communicate with the vending machines, telephones, and grandfather clock, she is on a mission. She must find her grandmother, kill the doctors holding her captive, return the dentures, and discover the purpose of her existence. But this is becoming increasingly difficult as her attempts to recharge are not successful. . .

While in the hospital she meets up with Il-sun, a kleptomaniac who is known throughout the hospital for stealing everyone’s personalities. Il-sun is possibly the best character in the film, being played by South Korean pop star Rain. He is not entirely insane as he had him self committed to avoid going to jail. He is at least sane enough to notice that Young Goon is killing herself by not eating, but at the same time he does not agree with the hospitals force feeding tactics. So he decides to find a way to get her eating, without damaging her circuits. It’s the relationship between the two that can put the film into the category of a romantic comedy, but being a Park film their relation ship is deliciously decorated by his incredible visuals and imagination.

Often we are lifted from the reality of the film and taken away to Young-goons hallucinations. Including a memorable and forgiving scene where she arms herself with apparently build in finger guns and starts hunting down and slaughtering all the doctors in the hospital in a very brutal fashion, meanwhile all the inmates go about their regular activities without notice. Now what would a Park film be without such a violent scene? But despite the grim depiction, it’s actually quite humorous and fun to watch because you know she is just standing their pointing all her fingers at the doctors, who are just looking back in confusion. Okay so perhaps you have to be a bit sick to enjoy that, but who didn’t enjoy the mentally disabled man in Mr. Vengeance?

The film also has a wonderful cast of very colorful characters throughout the hospital. Including a memorable appearance by Park Chan-wook regular Oh Dal-su playing a patient who thinks everything is his fault! Then there is a woman who is a compulsive liar, and in fact early in the film she is walking Young-goon throughout the hospital introducing all the characters who we will see throughout the film, and telling their stories. This is usually the easiest way to introduce so many characters at once in a film; of course in this case we soon learn none of its true!

I’m a Cyborg might not appeal to everyone, especially long time Park fans. It’s nothing close to the violent revenge stories told prior. But it is very much worth a look. Unfortunately it will not be a surprise if this is not picked up for US, or UK releases, but it really should So it might have to stay an import. It’s a beautiful film, with a very sweet story when you look past all the outer madness of the characters. It’s nice to see directors try something different, and I think Park has done well in his attempt at something lighter. Its still has his imaginative visual flair. Maybe it’s not his best film, but that’s okay!

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