Trompé Setsuled (setsuled) wrote,
Trompé Setsuled

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Nebulous Thoughts of Vengeance

Some video of Saffy the Cat from yesterday;

The music's by Nobuo Uematsu from the Final Fantasy VI soundtrack. I forgot to mention I got a chance to see Final Fantasy XIII at Tim's house on Saturday (which doesn't feature a Nobuo Uematsu soundtrack). From what I saw, it looks like a typical Final Fantasy game--some cringe worthy, poorly translated and performed English dialogue but with an exciting and interesting battle system. The character designs look good, but that's almost a given in any RPG from Japan or Korea, just as it's almost a given that American computer RPGs have ugly character designs.

Last night I watched Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, a Korean film noir from 2002, the first in director Chan-wook Park's Vengeance Trilogy, which Trisa recommended to me when I spoke to her on the phone a couple days ago. Trisa told me her favourite was the third film, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, and I'd heard a lot of good things about the second film, Oldboy, so I'm still going to watch both of those even though I found Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance rather disappointing.

The film's beautifully shot, filled with fascinating, carefully orchestrated static compositions. "Static" is a good way to describe the film, as it is filled with scenes that feel almost totally inert. The trilogy has a reputation for gratuitous violence, but as I've almost always found to be the case, this movie's reputation for shocking imagery is vastly exaggerated. Mostly, the film is a series of beautiful pictures of barely emotional characters dealing with a series of strange misfortunes occasionally resulting from mistakes made by the characters and really only on four brief occasions leading to actual acts of vengeance.

In order to accept the plot of Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, one must simultaneously believe that South Korea is exceptionally good at keeping guns out of the country and that South Korean police are totally and notoriously incompetent. This is the only way one can believe that the criminal and terrorist organisations portrayed in the film do all their killing with knives--and no-one seems to expect anyone else to have a gun. And it's the only way to accept a group of police missing a recently deceased human body in a cairn at a crime scene and failing to follow through with simple lines of detective work, such as finding out the new address of a couple suspects they have names and contacts for.

But this could be like complaining about everyone using swords in the Kill Bill movies--it's a stylistic choice to facilitate the director's intentions. the New York Times review has an interesting quote from the director;

The constantly recurring theme is the guilty conscience. Because they are always conscious of and obsessed with their wrongdoings, which are committed because they are inherently unavoidable in life, my characters are fundamentally good people. The fact that people have to resort to another type of violence in order to subjugate their initial guilty consciences is the most basic quality of tragedy characteristic in my movies thus far.

But the supposedly "inherently unavoidable" wrongdoings actually appear to be distinctly avoidable, often prompted by extremely unlikely misfortunes. One character commits suicide apparently because she's afraid of being a burden before she even gets all the facts in the matter, another character drowns in shallow water, supposedly because she can't swim, though we see her clearly swimming well enough to reach shore. Another character, near the end, argues passionately the need to take vengeance for something he knows was an accident. All of this might be okay if there were some inherent charm to the characters--I was reminded of Detour, a movie where the protagonist seems to find people dying around him all the time for bizarre reasons. That movie, like so many films noir, is propelled by its engaging lead, and the strange poetry of noir voice over narration. Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, though, is, again, populated by a few guys who are all but catatonic. There's a pretty, political fanatic girl I rather liked, but her part is much too small.

There are a few moments of interesting humour, such as a brief scene of four guys jerking off as they press their ears to a wall to hear a woman having an orgasm next door. This and a few other scenes seem there to paint a portrait of casual human strangeness, but there's just too little life infused in these characters for the story to really take off. It's beautifully photographed, but the skilful shots feel almost totally disconnected from what's actually happening in them. I'm hoping imagery and plot work hand in hand in the next two films.

Last night's tweets;

The bark's umbrella has lost its pink leaves.
A new colour must the xylophone learn.
For mechanical maulings the heart grieves.
Tiger wounds are mended by Howard Stern.
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