The second in a series of quick-fire reviews from the 17th Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival:
The Act of Killing – 8/10
Unbelievably powerful, director Joshua Oppenheimer’s documentary follows the lives of a group of Indonesian gangsters who are wholly unrepentant about their role in the mass murders from the 1960s onwards. Oppenheimer does a superb job of combining the history and politics of Indonesia with the psychology of his subjects, in order to fully convey the attempts to justify the genocide and rape of those perceived to be ‘anti-communist.’ So resolute are the gangsters in their convictions that they attempt to make a movie about their past ‘heroism’, re-enacting the torture and murders from their youth. Yet as time passes the men, now elderly, slowly come to consider that perhaps their actions may not have been so patriotic after all. The documentary is a stunning and poignant character study which, while overly long, is an incredible achievement in showcasing the recent history of the country. Recommended.
Secretly, Greatly (은밀하게 위대하게) – 4/10
The achievements of director Jang Cheol-soo’s Secretly Greatly have long been publicized, as it broke several records in the opening few days. The reason for such success must surely be due to the fans of the original webtoon and the extremely handsome lead actors, for the film is not particularly good at all. Secretly Greatly does start well however with a enjoyable contrast between action and comedy conventions and continues through in introducing agent Dong-gu’s role in the community, yet from there it quickly slides into bland territory. While competently directed, the film suffers from a problem that effects a large number of Korean productions – in attempting to please everyone by including different genres and a host of characters, it ultimately satisfies no-one. However the huge financial success of the film should guarantee director Jang’s future projects, which will hopefully be more like his prior Bedevilled.
There is Light – 7/10
Japanese director Toda Yukihiro shines a spotlight on the the plight of the disabled in There is Light. He does so in an interesting manner, as prostitute Saori visits and services a variety of disabled clients who rarely leave home, forming relationships with them as she hears their stories. Indeed, the tales of their disabilities are potent and moving as is the cultural attitude towards those with physical limitations. Yet Saori, despite her beauty, is also disabled in a different, more emotional way making the relationships that develop natural and sincere as well as a commentary on prostitution. The main issue with There is Light is that Saori’s character isn’t developed well as the audience learns precious little about her and as such is merely a device linking the disparate disabled protagonists, which is unfortunate and a missed opportunity. However the film is still an eye-opener on the difficulties of being disabled in Japan, and he insular lives that so many Japanese lead.