Festival de ‘Usual Suspects’: J.S.A.: Joint Security Area (2000) de Park Chan-wook

May 4, 2016 § Leave a comment

Like Andrea Arnold’s short film Milk, J.S.A: Joint Security Area is a curious glimpse at a ‘pre-branded’ Park Chan-wook, by which I mean the Park Chan-wook whose name has come to evoke a particular style, be it his archly fastidious compositions or his operatic approach to violence. Strangely enough, as much as J.S.A. may appear to be a gestational work by an auteur whose balls have long dropped, it is perhaps more reminiscent of Park’s later work than Milk is of Arnold’s most recent output. While it may lug around a colour palette that is positively monochrome compared to something like Stoker, or even Oldboy, the sheer gusto with which Park moves his camera and strings his images in order to unravel the central mystery is as bold as blood on snow. Sourced from a novel titled DMZ, authored by Park Sang-yeon, J.S.A. follows Major Sophie Jean (a shaky Lee Young-ae) as she investigates a regrettable international incident: the killing of two North Korean soldiers at the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas. With it’s time-hopping narrative structure and it’s endearing scenes in which a beautifully acted quartet of unlikely chums goof around and ‘hang out,’ it’s no mystery why Quentin Tarantino, in 2009, cited J.S.A. as one of twenty films released from 1992 onwards that he cherishes above all others. And, like another South Korean Tarantino favourite, Bong Joon-ho’s Memories of Murder (2003), J.S.A. intentionally swings between dead earnestness and ironic humour; dark humour which would only blacken with Park’s subsequent features. Interestingly, of all the differences and similarities that exist between this his first major work and his later efforts, humour, however mordant and strangled, seems to be the unwavering constant.

 

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