October 24, 2007

Three... Extremes: A Cut Above

It recently dawned on me that Korea is the Ireland of Asia. As major influences go, it's got China and Japan to Ireland's U.S. and England. Plus, it's got a similar North-South, politically polarized split with the Southern part being the more celebratory half. (Are Protestants the Communists of Europe?) It wasn't politics that triggered this realization however. It was art. For just as the Emerald Isle, despite its diminutive size, smaller population, weaker role in the world, troubled history, etc., can go head-to-head with either America or Britain in terms of literature (Shaw, Wilde, Joyce, Swift), Korea can do the same with its big brothers in terms of film. Take a look at the movie Three... Extremes, a trilogy of horror flicks from Hong Kong ("Dumplings"), Korea ("Cut"), and Japan ("Box"). This triptych could easily serve as an argument for Korean moviemaking supremacy. Admittedly, Fruit Chan and Takashi Mike aren't their respective countries Wong Kar-wai or Kurosawa (whereas Park Chan-wook is his country's Park Chan-wook). But even so, when it comes to working within the horror genre, neither Hong Kong nor Tokyo comes close to Seoul's succubus of a film. In comparison to Park's Shavian tale of a film-extra hell-bent on leveling the playing field for heaven, Chan's Swiftian parable about a woman willing to eat fetuses to regain youth and Mike's not-too-wild dream of a Siamese twin look plain silly. Throw in a fantastic performance from Lim Won-hie as the crazy who can dance as well as he wields an axe, and you've got the makings of thriller that's not only visually stunning but highly entertaining as well.

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