Global Cinema Series: Contemporary South Korean Cinema

by Bong Joon-ho Barking dogs never bite. (2000) – Daniela Alconaba

Far from the triumph of the Oscars of Parasite (2019), a small cast and few locations are used in Bong Joon-Ho’s eccentric directorial debut Barking dogs never bite. The film shows Yun-ju, an unemployed aspiring teacher, irritated by the sound of barking dogs in his apartment building. In this black comedy, Yun-ju’s frustration leads him to literally take matters into his own hands.

While Barking dogs Not legitimately an acclaimed masterpiece, it sets the stage for director Bong’s later films as his signature style of mixing tragedy and comedy peeks through. I would, however, rate Barking dogs like leaning more on the side of comedy than tragedy. Defensively, the dog owners in the movie could argue against me.

In other ways, Barking dogs discovers similarities to Bong’s later films: People Living in Basements (Parasite); references to animal cruelty (okja (2017); and, thematically, the discussion on economic insecurity and precarious workers in South Korea. Although the last point is mentioned briefly in this film, it contributes to the change of attitude of the protagonist Yun-ju.

however lovely Barking dogs I mean, it felt a little raw at times, as some characters felt unfinished. She wishes Bong would talk more about Eun-sil, since her character of ‘Yun-ju’s pregnant wife’ is all we know about her.

In terms of plot, it’s unusual to describe a movie about disappearing dogs as funny, but that’s what this movie is: playful and funny. Nothing in this movie is truly explained and that’s what makes it fun. Strange behavior is accepted as a fact. Accompanying the strange happenings of the film is an upbeat jazzy soundtrack that blends well to heighten the film’s comic relief. With some characters you don’t identify with, funny dialogues and good acting, Barking dogs don’t bite. It’s a strange but entertaining watch.


Ji Woo Jung tune in for love (2019) – Evie Knight

Full of slow yearnings and missed opportunities, tune in for love follows two young lovers through the turn of the millennium.

Although the title of the film may seem ‘cheesy’ or ’embarrassing’, tune in for love it not only builds a complex notion of love, but also captures South Korea in a period of great economic upheaval during the IMF crisis. Intertwined with their narrative, technology influences the couple’s romance. Mi-soo (Kim Go Eun) and Hyun Woo (Jung Hae-in) meet in a bakery, where the radio becomes the miracle that unites them. However, technology also separates them further. Soon, the bakery is forced to close, skyscrapers are built around it, and in a desire to keep in touch while Hyun-woo attends his military service, Mi-soo creates an email account for him, but forgets to give him the email. password.

Finally, the radio confirms their love in the last scene, however this is a scene that completely alters the tone of the film, with Coldplay’s non-diegetic song ‘Fix You’ blaring about a strange reconciliation. I myself would have chosen a different ending.

Looking beyond this, tune in for love is unique in its capture of the ordinary within love: moments of longing, disappointment in love, and the timing is never right. There are no big fireworks or exciting declarations of affection, just little moments that feel so much more real. Some may say that the film lacks movement, but I would say that it takes time, reminiscent of Before dawn (Richard Linklater1995), or even call me by your name (Luca Guadagnino, 2017), unhurried, intricate, and beautiful. It’s a movie about patience, in a time before online dating and social media, and audiences need patience too to appreciate the wonders of tune in for love.


Park Chan Wook’s decision to leave (2022) – Dominic Hayes

decision to leave centers around Hae-joon (hae il park), a detective investigating the death of a man who fell from the top of a mountain, and Hae-joon’s disturbing attraction to the deceased’s wife, Seo-rae (wei thong). I will not reveal any more arguments. Simply describing the plot is useless decision to leave any justice; just experience it yourself and you will see why it is so brilliant.

Decision let it’s the closest a modern film has come to emulating film noir. Park Chan-wook has been inspired by movies like Orson Welles’ the lady from shanghai and Edgar G. Ulmer Detourwith typical noir character types and a plot full of unexpected twists.

Chan-wook lives and dies by the principle of “show, don’t tell”; when Hae-joon watches Seo-rae from afar, he is placed in her room with her, a decision by the director that is beautifully complemented by the intricate sound design and intimate camerawork. All of this combines to make the audience feel close to Seo-rae, which only raises the stakes for her in later parts of the film.

The film’s editing is the best I’ve seen all year: Chan-wook fluidly and deliberately mixes different events together to manipulate the film’s pacing. I only have one flaw: that there is a bad CGI moment when the fall from the top of the mountain is shown. The camera is used to convey distance, height, and speed, often combined with fast digital zooms, to further convey those ideas. You can only qualify this use of the technical elements of cinema as masterful in its conceptualization and execution. Other directors are not doing what Park Chan-wook is doing here.

The viability of some of the film noir tropes today is questionable, specifically, the portrayal of women. There is an incredibly typical femme fatale character in decision to leave, while Hae-joon’s wife is portrayed as stereotypically overly emotional and impulsively jealous. The use of these archetypes in 2022 can become an interesting topic of conversation.

decision to leave takes full advantage of the technical possibilities and attention to detail offered by the film medium to create gripping drama. I really can’t recommend decision to leave higher


decision to leave it’s in theaters now.

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