Archive for the ‘TITLE A’ Category

IRIS: THE MOVIE a.k.a. IRIS – THE LAST [AHIRISEU | 아이리스 : 더 무비 | 아이리스 – 극장판]


KOREA 2010  Directed by: Yang Yun-Ho, Kim Kyu-Tae Produced by: Taewon Chung Cast: Lee Byung-Hun, Kim Tae-Hee, Jeong Jun-Ho, Kim Seung-Woo, Kim So-Yeon, T.O.P.

PREFACE: saying IRIS: THE MOVIE was a good or a bad movie in principle is impossible. The feature film following the successful KBS TV Series is essentially a re-edit of the 20 preceding episodes, plus additional unseen footage that is supposed to enhance the storyline, deepen certain aspects of the drama and answer some of the open questions. Meaning, not much of IRIS: THE MOVIE is genuine, entirely new or surprising to those who have watched the series before. Quite the opposite.

THE TV SERIES: IRIS the television drama is most certainly one of the best shows coming out of Korea so far, and it’s a great show by any standard. However, we shouldn’t be kidding ourselves and believe that IRIS is reinventing the wheel: IRIS is a carbon copy of 24, with Lee Byung-Hun reprising the role of Kiefer Sutherland. Along the way the plot, storyline, characters and dramaturgy are purely 24, the NSS agency, the terrorist attacks, the assassinations, the betrayals, the government involvement, the secret organization, all the way down to many of the details that are 24 by the book (like, oops, wrong warehouse, or “give me that friggin’ code NOW”).

Furthermore, the television drama may be a very good adaptation of 24, but it simply lacks its cinematic aesthetics. The HD video look is irritating and drags down the overall quality, making it anything but fit for the silver screen. Consequently, it has been mostly aired on IPTV / cable TV channels so far, but Japanese audiences will have to brace themselves for that odd video look when the film hits cinemas in January. IRIS had a very big budget by Korean standards, but they forgot to invest it into 35mm film. Too bad: if there’s one distinct quality trademark it’s celluloid.

THE MOVIE: now the big question is who exactly is the target audience for this mashup of a movie? Any which way I look at it IRIS: THE MOVIE fails. That is because re-editing 20 episodes into a single film results in an incomprehensible mess. IRIS: THE MOVIE is free of any character development (let alone introduction), it randomly jumps in and out of scenes, nothing is sufficiently explained or integrated into the larger context. The whole movie feels like a very, very long trailer. Right. A trailer. That’s what it is. A two-hour long trailer, a never-ending best-of compilation. If you haven’t seen the series you’ll be repeating one sentence from beginning to end: what the heck is going on?

Die-hard fans of the series will of course disagree and say that IRIS: THE MOVIE is grrrrrreat, but that’s because they have seen the twenty episodes before, and what the movie does is that it triggers sweet memories. So that’s self-deception. Without those memories, it simply doesn’t work: IRIS: THE MOVIE is an executive summary not worth watching. It’s rushed, incomplete and dissatisfying, most of all it doesn’t substitute watching the series.

CONCLUSION: if you are interested in the series, avoid IRIS: THE MOVIE at all costs. It doesn’t do any good, in fact, it will seriously spoil the TV drama experience. And if you are not planning to watch the series, still there aren’t any good reasons to waste your time with IRIS: THE MOVIE as it simply isn’t a movie in the first place.





JAPAN 2010  Directed by: Takeshi Kitano Written by: Takeshi Kitano  Produced by: Masayuki Mori, Takio Yoshida  Cinematography by: Katsumi Yanagijima  Editing by: Takeshi Kitano  Music by: Keiichi Suzuki  Cast: Takeshi Kitano, Kippei Shiina, Ryo Kase, Tomoko Miura, Jun Kunimura, Tetta Sugimoto, Takashi Tsukamoto, Yuka Itaya, Hideo Nakano, Renji Ishibashi, Fumiyo Kohinata, Soichiro Kitamura

An “entertaining” movie he wanted to make, Takashi Kitano said about OUTRAGE. A movie with no other ambition than that, a movie not even marking a return to the Yakuza genre. Something quite different from the preceding films.

In many ways OUTRAGE quite well corresponds to Mr. Kitano’s intentions. It was Mr. Kitano himself who delivered the swan song of the Yakuza movie two decades ago – interpreting OUTRAGE as a movie depicting a changing world where the old code of honor is worth nothing would mean to ignore the oeuvre of Mr. Kitano (as well as that of many other directors). Hailing OUTRAGE as a milestone of the genre, or as an epic story about the system individuals operate within, as well as the rules they abide by, would be nothing but evidence of ignorance.

Watching OUTRAGE is a bit of a time machine experience: we are revisiting places, characters and motifs of Mr. Kitano’s milestones, all amid a permanent conflict of signals the film sends. Is that shirt or that suit actually from the 80’s? But then why is that car from the 2000’s? There are obsolete characters in a modern world, and then there are contemporary characters in an obsolete world. It’s a constant struggle, also for the writer-director Takeshi Kitano. It seems like the cast from VIOLENT COP was beamed into modern-day Japan.

But what exactly is the difference between now and then? What has changed? Not much, I have to say. People kill for money, or for revenge, or for power. At some point Mr. Kitano rephrases the motif for violence as being “career”: a term that fits to times like these, where people spend 80% of their time on playing politics in corporations, positioning themselves and lying their asses off, while only spending 5% of their time actually working (the other 15% are spent on facebook @work). Nevertheless, climbing up the social ladder is what it’s always been about, and the way to get there doesn’t differ much from how it happened in Mr. Kitano’s earlier films. The permanent betrayal is nothing but an amplification of what we have seen before, and it much more has become a means of dramaturgy that drives the film forward than it being the actual subject of the movie. Betrayal doesn’t indicated loss of values in the Yakuza universe anymore, it merely indicates plot points.

For Otomo (or whatever he was called before) things don’t change however, and he doesn’t participate in change. Change is for the others. Betrayal comes as a surprise. He is a guy who cuts his finger off first and only later finds out that he did it for someone who deceived him. And he hasn’t realized yet that cutting off fingers just doesn’t cut it anymore anno 2010 in the first place. What makes him an anachronism also makes him the biggest threat to the “career Yakuza”: he doesn’t live for tomorrow, he lives for the past. The good old days are preserved within the Otomo character as he acts by their rules and their ethics and applies that school of thought to a world that has evolved.

Otomo doesn’t oppose progress (he doesn’t care enough about it), but he is the force that prevents it from happening (even though the world moves on without him finally). What Mr. Kitano doesn’t make clear is if OUTRAGE now is a statement for or against progress, or if it just laments that the world changes indeed with or without us, or if it’s an advice to adapt or if it’s about the survival of the fittest, whatever that means at a specific point in time.

Maybe OUTRAGE is a melancholic statement that there’s nothing left worth fighting for, or it’s the same statement made before, that idealists are a dying breed. But most probably it’s none of the above, but instead what Mr. Kitano set out to do in the first place: rock-solid entertainment that plays with genre conventions rather than making any statement or providing any new insights at all. OUTRAGE, maybe for the first time, is really a genre movie, not the genre-bending Kitano movie we all know.







KOREA 2010  Directed by: Lee Jeong-Beom  Written by: Lee Jeong-Beom  Produced by: Lee Tae-Heon  Cinematography by: Lee Tae-Yoon  Editing by: Kim Sang-Beom  Music by: Shim Hyun-Jeong  Cast: Won Bin, Kim Sae-Ron, Kim Tae-Hoon, Kim Hee-Won, Kim Seong-Ok, Thanayong Wongtrakul, Kim Hyo-Seo, Lee Jong-Pil

If THE MAN FROM NOWHERE reminds you of Luc Besson’s LEON, then you should think of it as a good thing rather than expecting a too me too movie. Essentially, THE MAN FROM NOWHERE is about a platonic friendship (love?) between a former agent (who a while ago lost his wife and his child) and a girl from the neighborhood whose mother is a drug addict and involved with a notorious crime syndicate. When So-Mi’s mother is killed over stolen drugs, So-Mi herself is sold to the drug kingpins by her aunt and ends up as an “ant”, a child drug courier. Cha Tae-Sik, the agent turned pawn shop owner, is getting caught in the middle: not only had he, unknowingly, stored the stolen drugs in his shop in a bag the mother deposited earlier, but So-Mi is also his only connection to the rest of the world, the only one he can relate to. When he learns about So-Mi being held hostage by the gang, he decides to get her back – by all means.

And he’s got an awful lot of means at his disposal: Tae-Sik is an unstoppable killing machine, a nowhere man who “only lives today”, who’s got nothing left to lose (or so he thinks), but thanks to the excellent script and Won Bin’s superior performance Tae-Sik’s character is also very real, emotionally vulnerable and sensitive (not with his enemies, though). It almost seems as if the more violent the encounters get, the more he comes to realize that there is something worth fighting for – he just doesn’t know what to make out of it. Fighting for isn’t living for (or is it), but when the last sword is drawn, the last bullet fired, all that can be shed is a tear. To be able to do that however you not only have to see through the mission, you also have to make it out alive.

THE MAN FROM NOWHERE proves that once again it all comes down to a good story and a good script: the multiple layers and plot threads provide an exceptionally strong fundament that helps rationalizing everyone’s actions and gives the audience good reasons to believe that everything’s just the way it was meant to be. THE MAN FROM NOWHERE feels so natural, so right, in short: the film makes perfect sense.

Keeping in mind that it features not just one, but basically three to four main interlinked plot threads and a parallel police investigation on top of the central rescue / revenge motif, I must say that I haven’t seen a finer script in 2010. Not that this was a particularly disappointing year for Hollywood or Europe, but I can’t remember anything matching this story and the way it’s been told: a story about the existence, about its fragility as much as its worth, presented as a synthesis of resolutely gritty thriller, discourse on friendship and spiritual tale of sacrifice.


Move over, I SAW THE DEVIL, here comes THE MAN FROM NOWHERE: the movie deserves every single award it received at the Korean Film Awards in November (and it should have received more at the Blue Dragon Film Awards). I SAW THE DEVIL was a serious contender in my opinion, but the fact that THE MAN FROM NOWHERE raked in so many awards is not proof of other films’ weaknesses, but indeed proof of its own strengths. There is little, if nothing that could be any better: THE MAN FROM NOWHERE features kind of the ideal cast, direction, writing, dialogue, editing and action; it’s one of the most violent, but also most poetic films coming out of Korea recently; it is a remarkably aesthetic film, features the most compelling ending of any movie lately and is probably the most rewarding film experience in a long while.


Compared to I SAW THE DEVIL, THE MAN FROM NOWHERE also feels more up-to-date, unleashing a world of modern-day horrors upon the audience vs. the old-school serial killer / revenge story featured in I SAW THE DEVIL that was largely driven by how things happen instead of why they happen. That also had to do with the fact that in I SAW THE DEVIL revenge is carried out for things that happened in the past and cannot be reversed (the kind of revenge that is pointless and from a theological point of view wrong), while in THE MAN FROM NOWHERE “revenge” is carried out for something that could happen in the future (except for the showdown) and is much more an act of self-defense, a necessity. There is no other choice, except So-Mi’s sure death. The context and motivation may not be identical, but it cannot be denied that Tae-Sik’s preemptive war has unmistakable resonance, while So-Hyun’s revenge is largely a playful take on genre conventions.

I could go on dissecting and analyzing every single detail of A MAN FROM NOWHERE, but it would all just lead to the same conclusion: A MAN FROM NOWHERE is a straight 10/10, 100% great movie making, 0% BS. It’s beautiful, and it’s powerful. If there’s one Korean film to watch this year, it’s this one.