Shiri (1999) • South Korea

There is a scene in this movie where two good guys are sitting in a large empty auditorium facing the stage, their backs to the rear entrances. They aare there as bait, waiting for the bad guys. An entire SWAT team is positioned around the circumference of the auditorium, in the rafters, the bleachers, the high priced alcoves, ready to shoot the bad guys whwn they arrive. The tree bad guys, well, two bad guys and a bad girl, enter the auditorium and walk about half way down the aisle. The shooting begins. Chaos ensues. Nobody gets killed. Cut to a very long hallway that has a dozen or more of these SWAT commandos, presumably highly trained marksmen and women, chasing the bad girl, firing at her. Missing! She is able to return a few over the shoulder/behind the back shots and take out a few SWAT guys. Then she takes one in the shoulder. "Ouch" she says as she gets away.

There's another scene where an entire SWAT team bursts into a room where they know the bad guy is going to be, with their guns a-blazin'. The bad guy jumps up and starts to run away. He stops in a doorway and takes a few shots at the team.

I can't go on.

In Bed (En la cama) (2005) • Chile

The story arc gets an A+: At the beginning of the film, two strangers have already met and are already embracing one another In Bed. On the physical plane, the only touching they know is sexual, the only emotion, lust. At the end of the film, after having created a deep bond through knowledge of each other, beyond only sexual knowledge, both the physical and emotional planes are almost familial in nature. Sexual touching and lust have escaped them. Their embrace, In Bed, as the film ends reflects this change.

The film begins with about three minutes of moaning and groaning (which transforms into grunting and groaning, if you know what I mean) by the couple having sex. It started to annoy me about half way through because there wasn't anything attractive or interesting to look at. This is one of those directorial choices that are difficult to make: annoy the audience and hope they understand later why it had to be done that way. The director didn't want to titillate the audience with shots of what turn out to be attractive bodies, he wanted to make clear the couple were engaged in a deeply lustful encounter--for each other, not the audience.

I applaud that decision but confess I reacted to most of the rest of the film that way. I found myself annoyed very often throughout this film, a reaction I don't think the director had intended.

The entire film is shot in a motel room. The couple are in bed the whole time except for a quick bathtub break to give them a reason to get naked again.

To be fair, other viewers could easily like this film a lot more than I did. If you find the couple attractive (I found them both very attractive) you're halfway there. The other half depends on the delivery and content of the stories they share with one another. That's where the film failed me.

For example, we learn at the very beginning of the film (after the moaning, groaning, and grunting stops) that these two people don't know each other's names. The boy asks, "What's your last name again?" and the girl responds, "I think you don't remember my name and that's just a gracious way to ask again." The boy denies that this is the case. He gets busted in short order, but it's not a big deal as it turns out the girl thought she had just slept with someone other than who this boy turns out to be. The conversation went right from "What was your name again", to "Tell me about the other men you have slept with in this motel room." I found that, and most of the rest of the dialog in this film, to be inorganic and improbable. The director has approximately ninety minutes to get these characters to reveal themselves to us. With a certain portion of that taken up by more love-making, he's got to get right to the point.

I often think a joke is only as good as the setup. For others, a string of punch lines might work fine. I didn't like the setups. I did like the people, but I don't think they were very good actors.

A film like this is going to have a least a couple obligatory scenes: One, play a romantic song while one actor turns to look at the other just as the other is turning away. We've all seen the scene before. And two, play an upbeat song for the girl to dance provocatively to so she can show us how adorable and how much fun she is while the guy shows how much fun he is by showing us how much he enjoys her.

I thought both of those scenes in this film were awful. The dance scene was filmed horribly, zoomed in too close, and edited with too many quick edits. Someone once told me that if you see a martial arts film and the camera zoom is very close and the edits quick, it means the performer doesn't know martial arts very well and the director must try and present the illusion that they do. I say, ditto for provocative, getting to know you dance scenes.

Having said all this, I still think it's possible for someone else to enjoy this movie. It wants to be a sweet art house film and succeeds in that.

I felt the dialog and the director's capturing of it were awful. If others find resonance with the way this couple is filmed talking to one another they will like the film. As for the naked bodies and sex, there's better (9 Songs, for example), but this couple is attractive and they have very attractive, real looking bodies, IMHO.


Address Unknown (Suchwiin bulmyeong) (2001) • South Korea • Ki-duk Kim

Address Unknown is about the occupants of a small town situated next to an American military base in the Korean countryside. Writer/Director Kim goes beyond mere indictment of American presence. He displays brother against brother (North vs. South) and calls into question the responses to it.

This one is probably for Kim Ki-Duk completists only. It is a remarkable film in its relentless presentation of pain. Every single scene in this 2 hour film involves pain.

An American soldier pays for the surgery so a young Korean girl can regain the sight in her impotent, freaky-looking right eye and then wants her to be his sweetheart in return, wink-wink. When she shows a little interest in the Korean boy who liked her just the way she was before the surgery, the American becomes incredulous and tries to hurt her, but before he can she pokes her own eye out to erase her debt to him. Meanwhile, the Korean boy who liked her just the way she was schemes to kill two Korean boys who have been stealing his money and beating him up. When the girl looks freaky again and goes to express her love to the Korean boy, she finds him in jail for shooting the American soldier in the genitals with a bow and arrow.

That's only one of the subplots. This film actually has subtlety in its whirlwind of metaphors. I've seen a lot of films about pain and despair but none that have been so oppressively constant in their execution. This is a great film by one of the great contemporary directors but you need to be ready for it or you may be repulsed. It's not slasher film gross at all. The really dirty stuff, like hanging dogs from a tree and beating them to death with a baseball bat, is done off camera.