4 Shots From 4 Films: Park Chan-wook Edition


With August 23, 2015 winding down I thought it was time to wish South Korean auteur filmmaker Park Chan-wook a happy birthday.

His films have been lauded both in his home country and worldwide. He has recently made his way into finally making a film in Hollywood with the 2013 psychological horror film Stoker. So, while people enjoy his first foray into the the Hollywood film system I thought it best to remind everyone that Park Chan-wook was already a great filmmaker before making the big leap across the Pacific.

4 SHOTS FROM 4 FILMS

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (dir. by Park Chan-wook)

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (dir. by Park Chan-wook)

Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (dir. by Park Chan-wook)

Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (dir. by Park Chan-wook)

Thirst (dir. by Park Chan-wook)

Thirst (dir. by Park Chan-wook)

For Your Consideration #7: Snowpiercer (dir by Bong Joon-ho)


It is perhaps a sign of the times that 2014 saw the release of several dystopian films.  Whether it was the Purge: Anarchy, Mockingjay, The Maze RunnerEdge of TomorrowDawn of the Planet of the Apes, or even Interstellar, all of these films shared a similarly bleak view of the future.  Filmmakers everywhere seemed to agree that humanity is basically doomed.

Unfortunately, with so many different and competing views of our sucky future, I fear that a lot of people may have missed one of the best of them.  When taken along with all of the usual Academy biases, I fear that means that Snowpiercer is pretty much out of the running for a best picture nomination.  It’s true that Snowpiercer did win best picture from the Boston Online Critics and there’s always an outside chance that Tilda Swinton could pick up a best supporting actress nomination.  But, for the most part, Snowpiercer has been overlooked.

And that’s a shame because Snowpiercer is one of the best of the year.

The premise of Snowpiercer is, in its way, brilliant.  After environmental scientists go a bit too far in their effort to battle global warming, the world suffers a second ice age.  (I have to admit that I enjoyed this development, just because heroic environmentalists are such a cliché.)  With the entire world frozen, what is left of humanity ends up on a massive train known as the Snowpiercer.  For the next twenty years, the Snowpiercer rushes up and down a track that spans the entire planet.

A new society forms on the Snowpiercer and, not surprisingly, it’s a lot like the old society.  The rich live up at the front of the train.  The poor live in the tail section.  All laws are set by the rarely seen Wilford (Ed Harris).  Wilford’s will is enforced by faceless soldiers and his blandly monstrous second-in-command, Mason (Tilda Swinton).

Twenty years later, the people in the tail section attempt their latest revolt.  This time, they’re being led by the charismatic Curtis (Chris Evans, proving that he’s capable of playing a lot more than just Capt. America).  Taking Mason hostage, Curtis leads his people through each car, slowly making their way to the front.  Along the way, they meet a lot a violent resistance and Curtis discovers that his rebellion was not quite as virtuous as he originally assumed…

Snowpiercer was one of the most imaginative science fiction films that I saw in 2014, a triumph of acting, direction, and design.  Each car has its own unique personality and look.  Perhaps the film’s best scene is when Curtis finds himself in the car that serves as the train’s school.  He and his grimy rebels listen as a perky and friendly teacher (Alison Pill) indoctrinates her students about the benevolence of Wilford.  It’s a surrealistic and tense scene, one that ends with burst of sudden and unexpected violence.

Perhaps what I most appreciated about Snowpiercer was that, despite all appearance to the contrary, it was ultimately a humanistic and optimistic film.  This is the rare action film where violence is not designed to look fun.  Though many character may not survive, the film never celebrates or cheapens their death.  Even the film’s most unsympathetic characters are still allowed moments of humanity.  This is a film that not only ends on a hint of hope but which earns that hope as well.

Snowpiercer is one of the best films of the year and it’s one that definitely deserves more consideration than it’s been given.

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Trailer: Snowpiercer (Red Band)


 

Bong Joon-ho is a name that genre fans know well. He has made a name for himself in his home country of South Korea with such critically-acclaimed films as Memories of Murder, The Host and Mother. In 2013, Bong co-wrote and directed the adaptation of the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige. The film is his first English-language film and it has garnered much acclaim when it was released in South Korea in 2013.

Snowpiercer as the film has been titled will now make it’s North American premiere this year and with months of buzz following it’s Asian release many genre fans have been awaiting its arrival. It’s premise is simple enough and involves a train that never stops moving that circles the globe that’s going through a new Ice Age that has killed off most of the planet’s population save those riding on the global train.

It’s a film that explores that ever-popular subject of the “have’s versus the have not’s”. It’ll be interesting to see what new idea Bong Joon-ho brings to an old idea.

Snowpiercer is set for a US release on June 27, 2014.