Keep living no matter how tough it is.

11th February 2010

Ddongpari (aka Breathless) (2009) and Invictus (2009)


There really are not many better experiences in life as I see it as those moments when you’re watching a movie (or listening to a record, reading a book – whatever for that matter) and suddenly it just washes over you that you’re experiencing a work of brathtaking genius. It happens rarely, especially – in my opinion – in contemporary cinema. But for me I think it may have happened this evening with Ddongpari. Its a brutally harrowing piece of work in which the audience is essentially asked to ally their sympathies with a man – Sang-Hoon –  who routinely labels everyone c u n ts and beats on all and sundry including young women. I loved that we were dumped with this guy as the anti-hero, because you’d never in a milllion years see the same thing in Hollywood. Sang-Hoon sure is a nasty piece of work, but sure enough come the end of the film I found myself heartbroken at his demise. Not least because of the film’s fundamental motif that life and all its inherent pain and nastiness is ultimately cyclical. This is tempered somewhat by the hope of redemption that we are offered at the end and the coming together of one family, and hopefully the end of a grim cycle. It is of course with sadness that we realise that it is only Sang-Hoon’s death that allows this cycle to be broken. But the manner of Sang-Hoon’s death only passes the cycle from one family to another. Thus the repetition spreads like a societal disease.

The pre-destined doomed nature of the film really gave it air of a Greek or Shakespearean tragedy. And it made me wonder why it is that most Korean films I have seen seem to be so doom-laden.  I don’t claim to know much about South Korean society, nor have I really seen enough Korean cinema to make such sweeping generalistaions, but there just seems to be a certain bleakness that permeates the cinema. Saying that, the last film I enjoyed as much as Ddongpari was Angela Arnold’s Fish Tank which along with her previous effort Red Road are not short of bleakness themselves and they we’re shot right on my doorstep here in the UK. Maybe it’s just me that craves such harrowing cinema!

I followed this by catching Clint Eastwood’s Invictus. Only really because I want as ever to do the full sweep of the Oscar noms, and also because I have my monthly pass to the Genesis. In other words I wasn’t otherwise especially drawn to the film. Obviously the end of apartheid in South Africa was a wonderful thing and the symbolic resonance for a divided nation that the  Springbok Rugby World Cup win represented was all well and good. But as for the tone of this film I found the societal comments  really rather too sickly to handle. And like with most sports movies you got the goosebumps at certain points but I found the rugby bits of the film, some of which were very long, about as stimulating as I find rugby in general. i.e. not in the slightest. Its not a real game and I have no time for it whatsoever. They don’t even use a proper shaped ball.

Oh and considering Morgan Freeman seems to have coveted the role of Nelson Mandela half his life I felt he actually completely dialled in that performance. Oscar winning it was not.


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