J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

KAFFNY ’16: The Luncheon on the Grass (short)

Listening to this quartet of amateur criminals is sort of like Rashomon, except instead of four different perspectives, we get eight. It will be up to a professional fixer-cleaner much like Winston Wolfe in Pulp Fiction to tidy up their mess and decide where the truth lies in Hyunyong Park’s short film, The Luncheon on the Grass, which screens during the 2016 Third Culture Korean American Film Festival New York (in Brooklyn).

The young kidnapping victim is now dead, but Luncheon is a comedy, so deal with it. Apparently, he grabbed a knife and killed himself. In fact, that is the only point where their stories agree. With the arrival of the cleaner (a referral from a more connected acquaintance), each tries to convince the outsider of their limited culpability for boy’s death. To “get their stories straight,” the underworld specialist has them re-enact the crime, with the still fresh corpse. However, this leads to more bickering and less clarity. Things get so heated, they almost forget they ordered Chinese. Settling down to eat, they inadvertently recreate Manet’s Luncheon on the Grass, a reproduction of which hangs on the wall of the apartment in question. Then suddenly, their motivation shifts, as do their stories, in tandem.

Luncheon has some wonderfully flawed and damaged characters, including a scandal-tarred university professor and an aspiring actress coveting Botox sessions. It is a bit disappointing that they were brought together by their clay-footed priest, but at least Park buoys us with some razor sharp dialogue and darkly absurdist humor.

Hip viewers might guess the final twist, but the real point to Luncheon is the verbal steel cage battle royale and the resulting narrative confusion. Sly and subversively pointed, it must be one of the funniest about a dead child you will see all year (or so let’s hope). Highly recommended for viewers with a pitch black sense of humor, The Luncheon on the Grass screens this Friday (10/21) as part of the Shorts Two program at the Wythe Hotel in Brooklyn—and remember you can get 15% off tickets with the “jbpins” promo code.

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