Thursday, May 03, 2007

Commercial Catch-Up: The Host

Ok. After being distracted by the SF IndieFest, moving to Atlanta, and then the Atlanta Film Festival, I am finally catching up on commercial releases.

"The Host" (dir. Joon-ho Bong, Korea, 2006, 119 mins.) This was playing in San Francisco (not to mention NUMEROUS previews there since most of the digital effects were shopped out to the San Francisco company, The Orphanage) for WEEKS before I left! I have finally seen "Korea's top grossing film", and I LOVED it! There is so much going on in the screenplay alone, that it defies a simple recap or description, though I have read many reviews and releases trying to pitch it in 30 words or less. There are many lessons to be learned in "The Host" and there are many genres being played out, too. The creature itself is an amalgam on a good 3 or 4 monsters, real and imagined. It's a squid-like-Alien-sort-of being with a bunch of mandibles for a jaw! It. Is. NASTY! And it's got an amazingly gymnastic tail! How ever huge and nasty the monster is, the humans that are its prey are played with such strength that I was actually more interested in the people than the monster. That almost never happens!

Ah-sung Ko as the little girl whom the cast is hunting for, ala "The Searchers", is simply terrific. She gives a surprisingly mature performance. Bong has directed any cute girlishness that American audiences might expect out of her. She may as well be Sigourney Weaver fighting an alien. Her screwed up family (father, grandfather, aunt and uncle) are who provide any 'cuteness' through their slapstick during the first hour of their search. However, by the time Bong brings us to a nearly impressionistic climax, they have become heroic and somewhat tragic archetypes. The quirkiness of their characters slightly diminish the impact that Ah-sung Ko achieves, which is actually a pretty crafty direction. The girl is so strongly played, that the audience is as mindful of her predicament as is the family that is journeying to find her.

Visually, the cinematography is stunning at moments. Hyung-ku Kim has shot in so many styles that when he stops the moment for "THE SHOT", it is spectacular! The climax is dreamlike. The music by Byung-woo Lee is also gorgeous at moments. Though there are some odd underscored moments of 'cuteness' that I didn't quite understand. I accepted that it was just to emphasize that we were allowed to laugh at this screwed up family. The waltz, which also plays through out the final credits, is simply lovely! I want it!

The screenplay by Chul-hyun Baek, Joon-ho Bong and Won-jun Ha, is what has probably kept it from being as huge a hit here in the U.S. as it is in Asia. The United States government does not come off as a hero here, which may have scared off distributors as there is a certain resemblance to the current 'misunderstanding' that led us into Iraq... But that could be just me reading something into it. ;)

Maxxxxx says
re "The Host": "Breakfast!"

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