Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Joint Security Area (J.S.A.)

Joint Security Area (J.S.A.)
Original title: Gongdong gyeongbi guyeok JSA
Directed by; Chan-wook Park, 2000, South Korea
Drama / Mystery / Thriller, 110 min
Distributed by: Atlantic Film AB

In the de-militarized zone separating North and South Korea, two North Korean soldiers have been killed. The blame is on the South Korean side, but there is one mysterious question being asked... Why was there one shot more than accounted for? And where did it come from? A neutral Swiss Swedish team is sent in to investigate, and as they try dig deeper into the mystery an unexpected tale surfaces.

This is the kind of movie that really proves what all the fuss is about the South Korean new wave of cinema. (Although in my opinion at the end of 2005, it's pretty much over, but we have a new batch of talented directors to keep our eyes on Park especially as we await the DVD release of his "Sympathy for Lady Vengeance" late December.) The start of the movie, the main exposition, is quite tedious, but as time goes by and the rather heart-warming "real" story underneath the main mystery is unveiled, I just got sucked right into it. The way Park builds up the story is really good, and there's no sudden unexpected and illogical plot twists that one comes to expect of Asian movies. This one tells its tale and sticks to it. The look of the film is great, nothing feels out of place, and the politics of the film, which obviously get somewhat lost on a European viewer, still manage to make an impression. The actors are brilliant, and several of them return in later Park movies. Kang-ho Song, Min-sik Choi, Byung-hun Lee and Ha-kyun Shin, all come back in leading roles later, and it's a joy to watch them work with Park. I probably wouldn't recommend this as an initial Park or South Korean film for anyone wanting to get into that field, but I'd definitely say it's worth checking out if you want to see something that's not mainstream Hollywood. If you like Asian movies and haven't seen it, or even if you've jumped on the Asian Horror wagon, this should be one of the movies on your list to see.

Chan-wook Park is going places, let’s just prey that he doesn't get on the obnoxious, "direct-a-American-horror-franchise" band wagon like too many other great Asian directors have. I'll return to that at a later date.

1.85:1 presented in anamorphic widescreen 16:9. English, Danish Swedish, Norwegian and Finnish subtitles.

Dolby Digital 5.1.

This two disc set is packed with extras as the movie disc contains trailers for Park's JSA, Kim Ki-duk's Bad Guy & The Isle, Takashi Miike's Ichi the Killer, Cho Jin-Gyu's My wife is a gangster, Kim Sung-su's Musa (Princess of the desert) , Kang Je-gyu's Shiri, Kyung-Taek Kwak's Friend and Kim Young-jun's Bichunmoo. Also there are selected talent files for Chan Wook-Park, Kang-Ho Song, Byung-Heon Lee and Young-Ae Lee. Disc2 is filled out to the brim with five small featurettes, an impressive 55 minute documentary about the movie from start to final movie and premiere. The original Korean trailer, the Japanese Trailer, a TV spot, a promotional music video, and a music video documenting the production.

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