Saturday, April 28, 2007

I'm a Cyborg, but that's OK (Korea 2006)

It's the newest movie from Park Chan-wook. Should I really have to say anymore than that? I mean, we are talking about a man that is responsible for four of the greatest Korean movies, no...scratch that, four of the greatest movies period that I've ever seen: J.S.A., Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Old Boy, and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance. So naturally, I'm going to have high hopes for his newest outing I'm a Cyborg, but that's OK, and chances are if you're familiar with is work, you're pretty excited about this yourself. Heck, even if it Park Chan-wook had nothing to do with this movie chances are I'd still check it out going off the title alone. I can't even begin to compare this film with those of his past works, because it would be like comparing apples to oranges, and besides, you just don't and shouldn't do that regardless. However, that being said I'm a Cyborg, but that's OK really is another exceptional and entertaining entry into Park Chan-wook's already stellar filmography.

Young Joon (Lim Soo Jung of “Tale of Two Sisters” fame) is sent away to an insane asylum after what appears to be and attempt to commit suicide at her assembly line job. However, the reason why she's committed and not hospitalized is because she believes that she's a cyborg. Mental problems seem to run in the family, as Young Joon's grandmother was taken away by the “white coats” as well, believing her children to be mice and showing an unnatural (and possibly unhealthy) addiction to eating radishes. All Young Joon has left of her beloved grandmother is the dentures she left behind, which she uses to communicate with her radio, fluorescent lights, and other electronic devices as they can only hear Young Joon when she's wearing her grandmothers dentures. This doesn't begin to explain the depths of insanity this movies portrays, but I digress. It seems her real problem is that fact that she won't eat anything because she believes she'll “shut down”, due to the fact that she's a 'cyborg'. As we all know this to be impossible, her health begins to suffer. The mental hospital that Young Joon stays in is filled to the brim with other characters that almost match her level of uniqueness. Seeing the various ticks and eccentricities of these characters is a large part of what makes this movie so entertaining and even 'fun' at times. One such patient is Il Soon (Jung Ji Hoon or Rain as he's more commonly known) who (almost) always wears a mask and is a self-confessed thief. Il Soon begins to become obsessed with Young Joon and her cyborg like way of doing things, but he realizes that she needs to start eating or things will just get worse.

Li Sum Jung recharging as Young Joon

The story is fairly simple, but the way in which it's told is what makes it seem deeper than perhaps it really is. Watching this movie I found myself trying to define it; in the sense of how it should be categorized. I've seen it listed as a comedy, a romance, a romantic-comedy and so on, but I'd really have to say that it's a drama more than anything, albeit a drama that incorporates all of the other elements mentioned. Park Chan-wook seems to be riding a very fine line with how he portrays everything in the film. It's hard not to look at this film as a comedy because the very idea behind it is so silly, but I often felt that the underlying subject matter (being hospitalized for mental problems) was too prevalent to make it a completely humorous movie. A lot of scenes are deliberately filled with a sense of seriousness and sadness. You'll feel bad for Young Joon on more than one occasion as you start to realize that behind all the comical situations her state of mind brings, she also appears to be aware of her problem at times translating into some really heart-breaking moments. The visuals in the film are on caliber with what fans have come to expect from Park Chan-wook, and there is just a certain quirkiness in the very idea of it all that has his name written all over it. I particularly enjoyed the way he managed to reference his “sympathy” films by means of an ingenious plot device used by Young Joon and Il Soon. This is really where the visual creativity of the film takes off, through what is referenced as the “Seven Deadly Sins”, and it's really too big of a surprise to tell you how the creativity of these mental patients is portrayed on screen. Also of note is the very cool opening credits sequence.

Rain as Il Soon

Lim Soo Jung as Young Joon is nothing short of amazing in this movie. Who knew that a 'cyborg' could effectively display such an array of emotions. Asian super pop-idol Rain, puts on a very impressive film debut performance as Il Soon. I can testify to the fact that I've never heard his music, so for his sake I'll just think of him as an actor and a pretty darn good one at that. Sure, they managed to find away to let Rain sing in the movie, which I though would bother me, but it didn't feel tacked on and ultimately it worked in the film's favor.

I went in to I'm a Cyborg, but I'm OK with seriously high expectations. I really hate to get my hopes up about any movie due to letdowns stemming from said high expectations. Although now, I can breath a sigh of relief. I can honestly say that I never doubted the skill of Park Chan-wook, but his venture into a genre that he had previously only dabbled in (A Boy who went to Heaven), made me really curious as to what the end result would be. The end result is movie-watching experience that should not be missed for any reason. I can guarantee that like me, you haven't seen anything like it, but more importantly, it will leave you feeling as if you watched something truly original. (Lee)

Buy I'm a Cyborg, but that's OK on DVD or VCD at YESASIA!

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