Sunday, January 9, 2011

Sang-soo Im - Geuddae geusaramdeul aka The President's Last Bang (2005)

After Park Chunghee became President of South Korea by military coup in 1961 he made major contributions to the country's industrialization and economic development – but became a dictator by altering the constitution and declaring martial law. He must have had many enemies, and there had already been other assassination attempts by 1979, the moment depicted in the film, when Kim Jaegyu, his KCIA chief, shot him and several of those closest to him at a private bacchanal held at a palatial KCIA safe house. The events are depicted from Kim's point of view. "The President's Last Bang," which is brutal in its unreflective, intense, present energy, is half political film and half violent actioner. It amply shows how corrupt and cynical Park was; how much Koreans at this point enjoyed kicking, punching, and slapping their subordinates in front of others; their abusive and demeaning treatment of women; and their penchants for smoking and chewing gum. After the killings – which went on to include military guards and even cooks – there was a brief period of chaos, also well covered in the film. Kim expected to get away with it, but he and his closest accomplices are soon apprehended. Director I'm includes humor amid the horror, showing the clumsiness and confusion and sheer incompetence of some of the participants. It's interesting to observe how impulsive and improvised the shootings were, and how often the ruling class shifts in their conversation to the Japanese language to be more elegant or avoid being understood by underlings. The film is effective technically and illustrates South Korean cinema's growing sophistication, but it may leave non-Korean viewers cold; the film-making style feels as hard and brutal as the events.

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