December 25, 2011

Missing Person: The Unreal World of a Real Estate Agent

For the heck of it, let's look at Lee Seo's sharp-as-a-dagger indie pic Missing Person in canine terms. For what is Won-yeong (Choi Moo-Seong), the bullying, gum-snapping real estate agent, around whom much of the action swirls, if not the quintessential alpha male dog. He's got a pack of obedient mutts awaiting his commands at the office and three bitches -- his wife (Kim Seon-yeong), his mistress (Kim Ki-yeon) and an underage groupie (Baek Jin-hee) -- available for mating purposes. And to continue the metaphor, there's also a mongrel lurking at the periphery of his pack: Gyoo-nam (Kim Gyoo-nam), a clearly undomesticated dog, kind of looking for a master and kind of not.

Gyoo-nam -- who with his eerie, dead stare, emaciated face, and diminished IQ really does feel more animal than human -- is this movie's wild card. At first, he comes across as a heartbreaking, low-level masochist, willing to let Won-yeong leash him and beat him, eating dog food from a dog bowl with his own dog at home... But that isn't the whole picture. Sure, Gyoo-nam identifies with his four-legged friend, but in one troubling, almost-but-not-quite-comic scene, he extends the role-playing a creepy bit further by hand-feeding some dried pellets to a young boy who's part of a gang of kids who've been harassing him. That unsettling interaction is the first indication that Gyoo-nam isn't just the town idiot with a subservient complex. He's a cagey creature, studying his master, and looking to create his own pack, which he's actually doing pooch by pooch by assembling together dogs he's kidnapped and found in the woods and on the street. Won-yeong may not take Gyoo-nam too seriously when he coaches him in perfecting the killer stare and the art of baring his teeth, which for the record are rotten, but Gyoo-nam does. He takes it very seriously.

In the quirky subculture of dog owners, people know each other by their dogs' names. I mention this because some of the characters in Missing Person are as easy to remember by their pets' names as their own. Bok-soona's owner, who loses her spaniel while doing a hula hoop in the park, never really gets an identity outside of grieving pet-owner, while In-ae is as much Suji's mistress as she is that of Won-yeong. When these two women lose their dogs, they're understandably devastated. It goes without saying that dogs can quickly become part of a family. In a way, Missing Person warns us that in a dog-eat-dog world, you treat your fellow man as a dog at your own risk when you forget that dogs are human, too.

1 comment:

  1. Another informative blog… Thank you for sharing it… Best of luck for further endeavor too.