Quick-fire reviews from the second day of the 17th Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival:
F*ck for Forest – 7/10
Polish documentary F*ck for Forest, by director Michal Marczak, is a fascinating exploration of a group attempting to help the world through sex and pornography. Disillusioned by the trappings of contemporary society and rejected by their families, the individuals live together in a commune of sorts as they take naked photos and make pornographic material to sell on the internet. Yet this money is not for personal gain; indeed, the group look for food in trash and accept clothes from charity organizations. Rather, they intend to save the planet. The film explores their lives with great insight, capturing the fragile psychology amid the unfaltering determination to save the Earth, and is constantly compelling. Yet as the film becomes more extreme – a man licks blood and semen from his hand – and the attitude of the general population is slowly introduced, F*ck for Forest becomes something of a tragic comedy as the group have dedication but precious little direction or awareness. The documentary is a great exploration of the attitudes towards sex and nudity in modern society, but also of the white saviour complex as the group travel to Peru in order to ‘save’ them for a hilarious yet pitiable conclusion. A thoroughly engaging, tragically-comic documentary.
How to Use Guys with Secret Tips (남자사용설명서) – 8/10
Director Lee Won-suk’s romantic comedy is a real gem and one of the most fun and exhilarating takes on the genre in a quite some time. The film itself isn’t particularly original in a narrative sense, but it’s the endlessly endearing stylization that is captivating throughout. Director Lee is superb in conveying the incredibly frustrating Korean workplace, poking fun at situations and quirky characters with real skill. But his masterstroke is in creating the cheesy retro world of the video which bestows advice on the heroine, wonderfully realised through the mise-en-scene from the glittery clothes through the silly infomercial style performances. Director Lee also manages to blend both worlds together for hilariously charming results, which manages the difficult feat of simultaneously being genuinely funny as well as conveying the difficulties of being a working women in contemporary Korea. While the ending ties up all the loose ends in a rather generic fashion, How to Use Guys with Secret Tips is one of the most enjoyable, charismatic rom-coms to emerge from Korea in recent years and is thoroughly recommended.
Drug War – 8/10
Iconic director Johnnie To’s Drug War is an exemplary action thriller. Moving to mainland China and away from his usual Hong Kong/Macau cityscapes, director To constructs the dark and violent world of drug smuggling with deft skill. What is particularly impressive throughout is the amalgamation of gritty urban realism, kinetic action and comedy, combined with themes of brotherhood. There is no room for romance in this very masculine world, as both cops and smugglers have unparalleled determination and refuse to give up even when faced with certain defeat. The film moves along at a rocketing pace while the stylized action sequences – including an incredible shoot-out in front of a school – leave audiences breathless. Due to this there is little time given to characterisation of the leads, but when action is this good it’s hard to fault. Another great film by the visionary director.
The Bluff (허풍) – 1/10
In theory, a film featuring men bluffing about sexual experiences with their friends could be an insightful piece on the fragile and almost pitiable egos of modern men. In practice, The Bluff is nothing more than dressed up, misogynistic soft-core porn. The early stories display some promise as the tubby and unattractive middle-aged men find themselves the ‘victims’ of con-artists, but they quickly dissolve into showing such men having sex with extremely attractive women that they could never hope to get outside of celluloid. Yet from there the film becomes even more misogynistic as one man calls a virgin ghost to be his sexual plaything, only to have sex with her in an animalistic and abusive fashion. Finally, the last tale involves a man having sex with an alien, who can change her face to anyone he chooses. It’s quite clear that (mostly female) porn stars are used within The Bluff due to their performances and obvious enhancements, which would be fine if the film wasn’t pretending to be something more. How it is within the ‘World Fantastic Cinema’ category at the festival is something of a mystery, as The Bluff is simply soft-core porn for men undergoing a mid-life crisis. Avoid.