June 16, 2011

Address Unknown: Blinded by One Zany Sight After Another

Does Address Unknown mean something to anyone besides its edgy director Kim Ki-duk? I mean, besides a hilariously good time for movie buffs who equate "super weird" with "super wonderful"? Is there a message here amid the escalating madness? Do these symbols symbolize something or are they simply strange images without intended meaning? (Interpret at will!) Is there something deep to be gathered from watching kidnapped dogs get brutalized then sold as stew meat or of from seeing an acid-tripping, half-blind girl (Ban Min-jung) get courted by an unstable American soldier (Mitch Mahlum) who wants to fix her bad eye then carve his name on her chest? Can sociopolitical interpretations be drawn from the mean-spirited story of a half-breed son (Yang Dong-kun) who systematically slices the breast of his unhinged mother (Bang Eun-jin) every time she goes off on her neighbors by shouting insults in English? What can we lean from the behavior of the morose young man (Kim Young-min) who shoots down his enemy after being taught the art of archery by his self-aggrandizing father (Myeong Gye-nam)? For that matter, what are we supposed to make of Address Unknown when the three main characters all end up getting blinded in their right eye or when one of them gets propelled head first off his motorcycle to a muddy slapstick death, buried up to his hips with his legs sticking out in the air? Are we supposed to take that seriously? Seriously? Is it okay to giggle? Because I sure did.

Address Unknown has a portentous tone yet as the movie gets crazier and crazier, you suspect that Kim took some of the LSD pills that the American G.I. is carrying around. Under the influence, he's forgotten to take more care in casting his characters (the American actors are particularly horrible) and crafting the dialogue. It's no relief that Kim chooses to have three largely silent characters instead of one. What we have in place of the silent enigma is a trio of mopey dopes suffering from depression. Which isn't to say that Address Unknown is too depressing! Far from it, it's actually often unintentionally funny. I wouldn't go so far as to call Kim's 2001 film his first comedy. But then again, maybe I should. Watch it, and you tell me!

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