September 26, 2010

Land of Scarecrows: There's No Wizard Behind That Curtain

As a gay man, I hate to come out against experimentation but with Land of Scarecrows, I'll make an exception. A grueling 80 minutes of disjointed, often wordless storytelling, Roh Gyeong-tae's second film hops around topics like poisonous landfills, identity disjunction, and society's outcasts without ever landing squarely on any. His characters are outsiders kept at a distance: We don't enter their world, we stand off to the side -- neither judging nor, ultimately, caring. That lottery-ticket-selling transexual (Kim Sun-young) with the Filipino bride, aside from being completely unbelievable, isn't very sympathetic. She's kooky without being cute, funny, adorable, tragic or weird. She's actually kind of a bore despite her bound breasts. While I'd hardly commend MoMA for screening Land of Scarecrows, I can say I'm glad I saw it in a theater. There's something reassuring about witnessing so many people get up and leave when a movie doesn't deserve their attention. That they were there at all suggests that they're open to experimental film. That they left means they're able to spot when the emperor's new clothes aren't there.

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