Singularity has become a frequent theme of science fiction novels in recent
years, but it has not factored into many films or television shows. Finally, a bold Korean end of the world
anthology feature tackles the Singularity, from a wholly original angle. There will also be Mad Cow infected zombies
and a giant interstellar billiard ball on a collision course with Earth in Yim
Pil-sung & Kim Jee-woon’s Doomsday
screens during the 2012 Hawaii International Film Festival.
lead-off Brave New World is a zombie
flick Oprah could get behind. Military
research scientist Yoon Seok-woo finally meets an attractive woman who seems
interested in him. Unfortunately, she
indulges his taste for barbeque. He
should have humored her vegan inclinations.
Yoon will be among the first turned into violent, vomiting zombies by
widespread contaminated beef.
Brave largely plays like an epidemic
movie, such as Park Jung-woo’s recent Deranged,
except with liberal helpings of gross-out humor. It hardly blazes any genre trails, but Koh
Joon-hee’s sensitive work somewhat humanizes the bedlam as Yoon’s potential
middle story, Heavenly Creature, is
something else entirely. In-myung, a
robot owned by a Buddhist monastery, has reportedly attained not just consciousness,
but also enlightenment. A technician has
been summoned in hopes that he can tell whether RU-4 unit (a nod to Čapek’s R.U.R., perhaps?) is actually the
Buddha. This request confuses him to the
point of peevishness. Yet, he is still
reluctant to immediately implement the UR Company’s harsh protocols regarding newly
shot by cinematographer Kim Yi-yong, Heavenly
is an unusually thoughtful genre outing that quietly packs a powerful
punch. While dealing with some heady
subject matter, including the meaning of life and the Singularity, he also coaxes
some deeply affecting performances from his cast, particularly from the Kim
Gyu-ri as the Bodhisattva Hye-joo, who desperately tries to save the
enlightened robot. This is truly an
award caliber film.
concluding Happy Birthday fits
somewhere between the prior two films in terms of intelligence and quality,
which makes a certain amount of intuitive sense, considering it was co-directed
by Yim and Kim. A giant eight-ball is
hurtling towards Earth and young Park Min-seo might have inadvertently summoned
it, but only her goofy uncle takes her seriously.
the first two constituent short films, Birthday
really delivers on its doomsday promise, rendered with some reasonably
presentable sci-fi special effects. Yet,
it is also strangely upbeat, positively portraying the resiliency of the family
unit, albeit a rather eccentric one in the case of the Parks. It also savagely skewers the Korean media’s
talking heads. Led by the impressive
young Jin Ji-hee, Birthday’s small ensemble
nicely darts back and forth between comedy to drama, without skipping a beat.
Ranging in quality from okay to outstanding to quite
good, the films constituting Doomsday
Book probably average out to very-good-plus. Regardless of the pseudo-math, Kim’s Heavenly Creature is so strong, it
single-handedly earns the film a very high recommendation. Fit for SF geeks and the philosophically
inclined, Doomsday Book screens
tomorrow (10/17) and this Sunday (10/21) as part of the 2012 HIFF. The centerpiece selection of this year’s
NYAFF, it should have plenty of action ahead of it on the festival circuit.
Labels: Anthology Films, Buddhism on film, HIFF '12, Kim Jee-woon, Korean Cinema, Sci-Fi films