Sunday, December 21, 2008

#12. Tie. Oldboy (South Korea) Battle Royale (Japan)

Sometimes when new teachers come to Korea, I am usually asked to recommend them films from Korea. When they tell me that they want to see other films from Asia, I usually include these 2 films together, as an introduction to Asian films. The last person I introduced "Battle Royale" to, had nightmares for days over it.

These 2 films are not your normal films and should never be thought of as normal. One film looks for revenge while the other film tries to survive insanity.

These reviews will be heavy spoiler alert. If you have not seen these films, then you might want to stop now and watch them both.

I had first heard of both of these films from the website and I knew that if I could ever get both of the films that I would have to watch them. The only problem was that I was living in the USA at the time and nobody was releasing either film on DVD in the USA. So I had to try and order a DVD from Asia.

When "Battle Royale" arrived, I watched it a lot for the next few days. I had never seen anything quite like it. I could not believe that someone had the reason, to make a film like this. At the time of the viewing, the urban legend was, that this film was banned in the USA and would never get a release date in American theaters. (This has since been disproved, because the Japanese right holders want the film to have a wide release in the USA and no film company has stepped forward with that request.) So when I showed my college friends this film, I sold it to them as being a banned in the USA film that you just had to see.

The vast majority of my friends really did not get this film when I show it to them. they could not believe the violence, the insanity, nor the illogical idea of the film. They told me that the wanted a wild film and after they saw "BR" they wanted nothing more to ever do with a wild film ever again.

Now, for those who have no idea about the plot, here is what IMDB states...

In the beginning of the 21st Century, the economy of Japan is near a total collapse, with high rates of unemployment and students boycotting their classes. The government approves the Battle Royale Act, where one class is randomly selected and the students are sent to an island wearing necklaces with few supplies and one weapon. After three days, they have to kill each other and the survivor wins his or her own life as a prize. The 42 students of a ninth-grade class are selected to participate in the survival game and abducted while traveling in their bus. Under the command of their former teacher Kitano, they have to eliminate each other following the rules of the sadistic game where only one wins.

Now you must remember something here that is different about Asia. Friendship is take very serious here, I have seen couples break up here in Korea because the boy or girl did not like their friends. So you can imagine, to survive this game, you might have to kill your best friend.

The hero of this film on Shuya Nanahara played by (Tatsuya Fujiwara), does not kill his best friend, Yoshitoki "Nobu" Kuninobu played by (Yukihiro Kotani) he is killed by someone else but Shuya sees it all go down and it really hurts him. In a promise that he made to his friend he decides to take it upon himself to protect Noriko Nakagawa played by(Aki Maeda), the object of Nobu's affection. What was interesting was seeing most of the students reactions when they had to kill a friend, the look of disbelief is what really carries this film to a great film.

The films goes on a non-stop pace for approximately 2 hours and when the film is over, a lot of my friends, who I have shown this to, have had a hard time believing what they have just seen. One person said there was too much death and no life. This film is not for everyone, so if you see it be sure that you actually want to see friends die for 2 straight hours.

The film was directed by the late Kinji Fukasaku, for America Audiences, he was best know for directing the Japanese part of Tora!, Tora!, Tora. He tells a film of madness through teenagers eyes, so real that my friends have had nightmare for days because of it. Please see it when you get the chance and please , at all cost, pass on the "Battle Royale 2" sequel.

Now the next film, "Oldboy" is my all time favorite Korean film. Once I arrived in Korea back in 2005, I went a found a copy of the film that had recommended to me back in 2003.

I really could not believe the film. From the films opening line of grabbing a man tie and leaning him over a building ledge and telling him, "Let me tell you my story", to the end of the film where he has realized what his actions have done to himself and others around him.

The main reason this film works is due to the actor Min-sik Choi. When he takes over the role of the hero of this film, you actually believe that he has been in jail for 15 years and only has 5 days to figure out why.

This film is know world wide for Min-sik actually eating a live octopus when "Oldboy" stated that he wanted to eat something alive so he could be alive again. For the western audience, no one could have ever imagined that people around the world do eat live octopus. It was a shock seen that works.

The other scene that this film is know for is the huge hammer fight outside a private prison. The first time I saw this I could not believe that he had taken on 20+ men with a hammer and I believed every part of the fight.

The plot of this story is very simple. FROM IMDB

On the day of his daughter's birthday, Ho Dae-su (Min-sik Choi) gets completely drunk and is arrested. His best friend No Joo-hwan (Dae-han Ji) releases him from the police station, and while calling home from a phone booth, Dae-su vanishes. Indeed he has been abducted and imprisoned in a room for fifteen years. One day, he is suddenly released, receives clothes, money and a cellular and meets the Japanese chef Mido (Hye-jeong Kang), and they feel a great attraction for each other. However, Dae-su seeks for his captor and the reason of his long imprisonment. While looking for revenge, Dae-su discloses deep secrets from the past.

My thought on revenge is best explained by an old saying.

"For the person seeking revenge it is best to dig 2 graves. One for the person you seek revenge on. The other grave is for yourself."

Every time I see this film, I keep wondering does he know the rule of revenge and can he see what darkness is coming his way because of it? When the film is over and all of the questions are answered of why he was in jail for 15 years and what he did in those 5 days for revenge, you feel like it was a hell of a ride and no one should ever go on that ride again. The Oedipus ending of the film, is what will haunt the viewer of the film for days afterwords.

Oldboy is the second installment of The Vengeance Trilogy, preceded by Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and followed by Sympathy for Lady Vengeance. All 3 of these films were directed by Park Chan-wook.

I combined these 2 films as my #12 all-time favorite films for a few reasons.

They both are very hard to watch and people have had both of these films haunt them for days. These films are not normal films and are both great ideas of mans power to control others around him. Both film have made a lot of people angry and both films, to me, are very deep with all of the different stories working together for one heck of an ending for both of these films.

If you have not seen these films then please do and be careful. If you have and you like these 2 films, try watching them back-to-back. It will make for an interesting night at the movies.

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