Memories of Murder


Viewed – 13 May 2021 Blu-ray

I had wanted to see Bong Joon-ho’s 2003 serial killer drama for a while but it had been hard to find on Blu-Ray. However with the recent release of a box set of the director’s movies, I finally got my wish. Based on true events and set in 1986, this follows a group of detectives as they investigate a series of murdered women.

The Police heading the case however seem particularly inept, their methods questionable to say the least; including torturing suspects to get confessions or planting evidence just to close the case. Yet when a more experienced detective from out of town joins the investigation, they begin to follow previously ignored leads. Korean cinema regular Kang Ho-Song is again decent and delivers a convincing portrayal of an arrogant detective clearly overwhelmed by the situation. However for me Kim Sang-kyung as the out of town detective stole the show in a more layered role, especially with how events change him.

Parasite Director Joon-ho delivers a solid drama. It’s not as stylish as he’s known for and more a character piece than anything all that grisly, I watched this twice and certainly got more out of it the second time around. Yet it’s focus on detectives being rather unprofessional and especially how they treat one suspect who has a learning disability seemed to bog down the narrative. So not a must see, but still another decent example of Korean cinema.

Unfortunately the Blu-ray from Curzon Artificial Eye is bare bones. The image quality is only serviceable, looking a bit soft generally and lacking fine detail. Sound fairs better with a punchy DTS 5.1 soundtrack that has clear dialogue and the moments when music kicks in are impactful. There’s only the original Korean language available and no English dub. Extras are non-existent but for a trailer. Disappointing treatment for an intriguing, if light-weight serial killer movie.

Verdict:

(the movie) Good

(the Blu-ray) Poor

The Host


Viewed – 20 April 2021 Blu-ray

I’ve been a fan of Korean cinema for a while and when Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite swept the Oscars I felt proud to see an industry I love get the recognition it deserves. This 2006 movie from the same Director, follows a dim-witted man who’s daughter gets taken by a mutated sea creature following an incident where dangerous chemicals are dumped into the local river.

Veteran Korean actor Kang-Ho Song (Parasite, Sympathy For Mr Vengeance) is again great, supported by a very capable cast. Joon-ho’s movie is part creature feature, part family drama, part black comedy, all delivered with the director’s eye for slick visuals. The editing is especially well done, with Joon-ho playing with the viewer’s expectations as situation switches to situation, which kept me glued and eventually caring about each character. The CGI for the monster is effective if not perfect, but with how the movie is shot, still proves (mostly) convincing.

It can drag its feet in places, and some of the humour felt a bit out of place at times … but overall, this was well made, quality entertainment. One to watch.

The Blu-ray, part of the recently released ‘Bong Joon-ho collection’ box set from Curzon Artificial Eye, has the movie presented in a choice of soundtracks, including Korean 5.1 in uncompressed PCM as well as DTS and Dolby Digital. The soundtrack is also available in English dubbed. Extras are plentiful with cast interviews, special effects featurettes, behind the scenes making of, deleted scenes, a gag reel and a trailer. The movie is in great condition too, with a particularly crisp image that really shows off the often vivid colour pallet and eye-catching cinematography. Not too shabby.

Verdict:

(the movie) Recommended

(the Blu-ray) Good

Parasite


Viewed – 13 June 2020 (A-Z Collection Challenge)

A family that has fallen on hard times discover an answer to their cash flow problems in the form of a local wealthy family. The eldest son is introduced to the idea of conning his way into being an English tutor to the wealthy family’s daughter. So begins a series of manipulations that gradually spiral out of control.

Class warfare….

Bong Joon-ho’s multiple Oscar winning drama is at first an unusual sell. It’s an odd idea but one I quickly felt engaged by as the various situations played out. The way the poor family work as a unit to deceive and stay one step ahead of the wealthy family is engrossing and makes for a rather unique and surprisingly gripping experience. The clever, if not exactly subtle commentary on social class and envy / jealousy also works well. The movie also throws in some unexpected twists that prove quite impactful. It’s hard to go into specific details as the journey is part of the appeal here so I’ll leave it there as far as plot.

Korean acting veteran Kang Ho Song (The Host) is great as always aided by a solid ensemble cast who all deliver. The (mostly) one location setting is also very much a character, a striking art-deco house that the cinematography shows off wonderfully. This is a very visually captivating movie, aided by a strong, at times striking orchestral soundtracks. I’m not sure the movie deserves quite the accolades it’s had, as some character actions and plot elements feel a bit far-fetched (with especially a scene revolving around morse-code a particular stretch). Yet overall this was still highly entertaining, bold and surprising. Check it out.

Verdict: Recommended