December 17, 2010

The Green Fish: You Need to Go Down to Get Deep

The loss of innocence is so upsetting sometimes. Even if you factor in that innocence and adulthood are pretty much incompatible, watching a late-bloomer fall from grace can make for a painful viewing experience. And coming-of-age only gets crueler the older you get. In Lee Chang-dong's masterful first film The Green Fish, the naif about to lose it all is earnest 26-year-old Makdong (Han Suk-kyu). He's a poor, eager-to-please guy who, recently discharged from the army, ends up working for ruthless mobster Bae Tae-kon (Mun Seong-kun) after one unlucky circumstance. Bae's girlfriend Mi-ae (Shim Hye-jin), for her part, is about as far from innocence as you can get. Pimped out by her boyfriend when she's not being harassed by customers who ridicule her nightclub act, she knows she's sinking more and more deeply into the mire but she can't find a way out. She's drawn to Makdong not because he's cute but because he's the least corrupt thing she's seen in God knows how long. He'll never be the life preserver he and she wishes he could be; the few times he tries, he proves a terrible protector since he's adhering to a school boy code in a roomful of truants. But their love is inevitable. Just as their future is doomed.

1 comment:

  1. God really is in the details, as they say. You just reminded me of the finger-smashing scene. Such a simple act and almost treated like a perfunctory rite of passage and banal part of genre story-telling. But we get a succinct moment of hesitation, the point-of-view shot of camera showing his finger as if our own (obtuse, unbeautiful, ordinary yet in prime of life - ready for the pluckin'), and the decisive slam thereafter...isn't that life all wrapped in a few seconds?

    If you stretch that moment out to great extremes, you're going into body horror as a grasshopper's growing up a la Black Swan:P Different strokes, same stuff.