Mary Poppins Returns
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I'm a big fan of Bong Joon-ho's work. Three of my favorite Korean movies are movies he's directed (those being Memories of Murder, The Host and Mother), so I definitely wanted to see this movie. While it's an entertaining movie, it isn't consistently so. Some parts are simply better than others. Which can be said for almost every movie, but it's more noticeable here because of its consistency and pacing issues. But the movie really drags. It drags to the point where it'd have probably been a better as a short film instead of a full length one. It would've been funnier and definitely better paced. The movie does have it's very funny moments and likable leads (in spite of one of them being a dog murderer) and I can say that I still liked the movie with all of its faults.
A wickedly smart and hilarious black comedy/social satire from the master of South Korean cinema himself, Bong Joon-Ho. It is a film about a struggling graduate student (Sung-Jae Lee) caught up the seemingly endless rat race of everyday life. The Seoul of Joon-Ho's mind is filled with a burnt out population who feel that they can only achieve greatness through unscrupulous avenues or in the unlikely event that they will end up on television. When Lee seems to be on the precipice of madness due to constant societal demands, his rage is projected onto a neighbors dog. What ensues next is an opaque but comical attempt to dispatch the poor animal.
What sets Joon-Ho apart from his cohorts in Korean Cinema, namely Park Chan-Wook, is that he isn't there to solely shock the viewer. Sure the material makes for some surprising moments, but Joon-Ho brings up some important questions. Why do people pamper animals when they themselves must toil endlessly just to achieve sustenance? Why do people long to nourish animals when they are not nourished by their own caretakers?
It is an interesting and thought provoking film that is wrapped in a delightful black comedy and is definative proof that South Korean directors are some of the most premiere filmmakers of this generation.
In "Barking Dogs Never Bite," Yun-Ju(Lee Sung-Jae) is like a lot of other people with advanced degrees in that he is out of work, currently held prisoner to the hormones of his pregnant wife(Kim Ho-Jung). It is only fair since she actually has a job and brings home the bacon whereas he has to go and get the walnuts. Otherwise, things may be looking up on the employment front as a professor was killed by a subway train, creating an opening. So, all Yun-Ju needs is a $10,000 bribe. In the meantime, he gets obsessed with a barking dog, stealing it and hiding it away. The dog's owner, a young girl, misses her little dog so much that she prints flyers which Hyeon-Nam(Bae Du-Na) stamps in her official capacity. In her unofficial capacity, she posts the flyers for the girl. And then Yun-Ju realizes he might have gotten the wrong dog...
"Barking Dogs Never Bite" is a delightful and funny dark comedy that shows Bong Joon-Ho with his debut feature already has a command of the medium with his shot compositions and deceptively complex plotting. What the movie especially reminds me of is Jimmy Breslin's entertaining columns about his hatred of dogs, especially those in cities where they have a tiny amount of room and are locked up all day. Humans, like dogs, need their space to roam which is not easily found in such confined surroundings that may not also be conducive to good mental health. This thought is expressed well throughout the film, especially in the last two scenes. If animal cruelty turns you off, then this may not be your film but it is really not that gruesome. And it handles its criticism of cities much sweeter than that of "Seven" which said that if you live in a city, you will be miserable all of the time, it will be constantly raining(even if you live in Phoenix) and then Kevin Spacey will move in next door.
Note: No animals were harmed in the writing of this review. I wrote it after lunch which is a whole different matter...
(Originally reviewed in the blog section 3/3/2010.)
Bong Joon-ho's first film and it's easy to see how he became an interest to the Korean mainstream. His sense of humour is even darker here than it is in Memories of Murder or The Host. It certainly wont be for everyone, especially if you be loving little doggies. It's quite bizarre how we feel sympathy for Yun-Ju. He may do some pretty sick things but he is life's doormat. The film goes further than most films would even dare. Their are not comeuppances as such, but the characters do learn valuable lessons. A niche market film, but one where you should be able to appreciate the director's talent and what he has gone on to achieve since.
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