“Let me try and be as direct as I possibly can with you on this. There was no relationship to repair. I didn’t intend for Harvey to buy and release The Immigrant – I thought it was a terrible idea. And I didn’t think he would want the film, and I didn’t think he would like the film. He bought the film without me knowing! He bought it from the equity people who raised the money for me in the States. And I told them it was a terrible idea, but I had no say over the matter. So they sold it to him without my say-so, and with me thinking it was a terrible idea. I was completely correct, but I couldn’t do anything about it. It was not my preference, it was not my choice, I did not want that to happen, I have no relationship with Harvey. So, it’s not like I repaired some relationship, then he screwed me again, and I’m an idiot for trusting him twice! Like I say, you try to distance yourself as much as possible from the immediate response to a movie. With The Immigrant I had final cut. So he knew he couldn’t make me change it. But he applied all the pressure he could, including shelving the film.”
~ James Gray
By Kim Voynar Voynar@moviecitynews.com
TIFF Review: I Saw the Devil
I was on my way to the Susanne Bier film today when a couple of friends talked me into going to see I Saw the Devil instead. I asked one of them to quickly pitch me on why I would want to see it, and he pitched it thusly: Did you like The Good, The Bad, The Weird? This is a serial killer thriller flick by the same director, Ji-woon Kim, and it stars “The Bad” (Byung-hun Lee), and Min-sik Choi, the guy from Oldboy!
Well, hell, that sold me. And I’m so glad I ran into my friends and saw this film, because it Rocked. My. World.
Here’s the caveat: this film is unrelentingly gory, even in the cut version we saw, which I understand is missing several minutes that are, if that’s possible, even more graphic. So if you are the type to freak out over gallons of fake blood and graphic violence in a film, stay away. Because this film is as intense as, say Silence of the Lambs, only much bloodier and more graphic. The program description compares it to Park Chan-wook‘s Sympathy for Lady Vengeance; you’ll have to take their word for it, because I haven’t seen that film.
I’ll add to that, though, that the violence and gore in the film, while not what I would call restrained, is never without a purpose, and while the violence of the serial killer is directed toward women I wouldn’t call the film misogynistic (though I expect some feminists will disagree with me on that).
Now, if you can get past the graphic violence, this is an excellently crafted film, an intense story with relevant philosophical underpinnings meditating on the nature of man, good versus evil and the thin line between them, and whether there is redemption to be found in seeking revenge. It’s smartly written and tautly directed by a director who knows exactly what he’s doing in every frame. And while it may seem like heresy to say this, I’d put Mik-sik’s Jang Kyung-chul right up there with Anthony Hopkins‘ Hannibal Lecter. Yes, I’m serious.
Min-sik plays a violent, sadistic rapist and serial killer who preys on young women while driving a bright yellow school bus. He is, in short, batshit crazy and terrifying, cold and sinister, evil — or perhaps the Devil? — personified. He’s been killing for a very long time, and he hasn’t been caught, although police have suspected him in the past. Then he kills the pregnant daughter of the local police chief, who just happens to be engaged Joo-yeon (Byung-Hyun), a secret agent.
In one of the best orchestrated, most intense scenes you’re likely to see in any thriller, ever, the daughter’s head is found during a massive police search. The chief and Joo-yeon flip out, and Joo-yeon decides to take a leave from work, find her killer, and punish him relentlessly for the pain he’s caused.
What ensues over the next two hours is a descent into both the madness of the serial killer and the slide into madness of our hero; will Joo-yeon become a monster as bad as the one he’s hunting, once he gets a taste for torturing his prey?
That’s what it’s about, in a nutshell, and yet I cannot come close to describing to you just how well it’s all put together. But I’ll try, if only to convince you, even if you’re sure you’re not a fan of the genre, to check this film out.
So: The production design and cinematography are beautiful; the editing tight and controlled; the framing of shots and cuts from one shot to the next deliberate, artistic, painted in a tonally perfect palette as if brushed on a canvas — or perhaps more accurately, as if rendered by a very good artist in a graphic novel, which is what the film evoked for me.
It’s hard to wrap your mind around the idea of a film being both relentlessly gory and relentlessly gorgeous, but this film is just stunning in every respect. The powerful score excellently underscores the film tonally throughout without ever being overwhelming or manipulative of the audience (the same was true of The Good, The Bad, The Weird), and the sound mixing stands out as well.
The performances by the two leads, as they circle each other warily, hunter and prey, are compelling and spot-on. Ji-woon is a director of the highest order; I would say, in fact, that he is an auteur with a very specific stylistic sensibility to his films. He is undeniably a master of the design, tone, and emotional tether of his films, and with I Saw the Devil he owns you from the opening moments of the film to its explosive end. Highly, highly recommended.