Friday, November 18, 2011

Mother (Madeo)

An old woman walks slowly through, then dances, in a field. The dream-like opening of Bong Joon-ho’s fourth feature has apparently little to do with what follows, but serves to introduce the film’s gentle, semi-absurdist sense of humour, and the captivating presence of Kim Hya-ja. Her performance is central to the movie, as the title suggests, and she is mesmerizing, without a jot of overplaying or sympathy-begging, in her search for the perpetrator of the crime for which her slow-witted son has been lazily convicted (Won Bin, also excellent).

The film is shot through with a distinctly Lynchian lid-lifting on the seamy underbelly of small-town life, via a Chandlerian gallery of questionees/suspects. With superb photography from Hong Kyung-Pyo, Bong pulls off an impressive interweaving of comedy and tension; there are several excellent lip-biting sequences, and a fine and varied score (by Lee Byung-woo) contributes greatly. And through it all, the unlikely pitbull of an old lady worries at the case with undaunted determination.

More fundamental than the detective element, however, the characterisations and performances of the mother-son relationship incorporate a certain moral queasiness that builds to an uncomfortably complex head, and this lends unexpected weight to the film; Bong lets the audience wrong-foot themselves, through assumption, but even without such merciless logic, his film would be completely riveting – and entertaining – from start to finish.

d Bong Joon-ho p Moon Yang-kwon, Park Tae-joon, Seo Woo-sik sc Park Eun-kyo, Bong Joon-ho ph Hong Kyung-pyo ed Moon Sae-kyoung pd Ryu Seong-hie m Lee Byung-woo cast Kim Hye-ja, Won Bin, Jin Ku, Yun Je-mun, Jun Mi-sun, Song Sae-Byeok, Lee Young-Suck
(2009, S.Kor, 109m)
posted by tom newth at

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