March 8, 2008

The President's Last Bang: Contemporary History as a Lark

If you're looking for story, The President's Last Bang isn't for you. (No matter that it's a retelling of the 1979 assassination of South Korean President Park Chung-hee.) If you're looking for over-the-top violence, Im Sang-soo's movie probably isn't for you either. (Only the climax with killers shooting dead and live bodies alike will please you.) But if you're looking for great cinematography, Kim Woo-hyung's glossy de Palma images will delight you. Wait a sec. Does anyone love cinematography that much? It took me a week to sit through this with its snippets of absurdist dialogue, beautiful camerawork of hallways and conference rooms, quirky slapstick moments that improbably make it seem more real, and of course the impeccable menswear. If this had been a web-based series doled out in five minute increments, I would have loved it. Could you force me to sit through 102 minutes straight in a theater? Sure. The Last Bang would work better bigger. I'm guessing that if you knew the history here a priori it would benefit your experience too. There's a certain nothing's-happening-here early on that indicates that we should already know what's transpired. Think of this as a stylishly projected form of Cliff's Notes.

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