Paju

July 27, 2010

This might well be the first Korean film I’ve seen where the allegory hasn’t immediately taken precedence and informed the majority of my subsequent “experience” of the film. Park Chan-Ok’s sobering drama Paju (2009) is a fascinating and bold cinematic work that showcases her ability as a filmmaker to preference emotional affect over narrative structure. Through giving her viewer small segments of a greater whole in installments, always holding something back, she achieves an occasionally confusing and even uncomfortable- though ultimately deeply affecting- viewing experience.

The story centres around the complex relationship between a timid young woman Eun-mo and her emotionally wrought brother-in-law Joong-Shik. Their character flaws and personal failings set against the backdrop of a poverty-stricken city run by corrupt “gangsters” that is physically falling apart at every cornerstone. The political content is certainly not absent and the city plays as large a role in the film as its two leads; their actions and afflictions dialectically linked.

A film that holds more than enough to benefit from second and possibly even third viewings, Paju is as involving as it is moving, leaving an eerie yet somehow necessary emptiness in its wake. A fine filmic example of contemporary psychogeography.

Paju screens as a part of this year’s MIFF and is screening again on Friday July 30 2010, 4.45pm, Palace Kino.

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