Tuesday 9 June 2015

Sydney Film Festival (26) - Mother - Bong Joon-ho noirs his great film of 2009

Bong Joon-ho is a cinephile's delight. His sheer exuberance is a treat to behold. We have seen all his features, including the enigmatically credited Hae Moo, screening at this year's SFF.  Its a pity we haven't always been privy to some of his little experiments with movies made on phones and movies made from CCTV footage for starters. But who can forget his magnificent shirt-fronting of the odious Harvey Weinstein who wanted to cut up and re-do Bong's Snowpiercer. Ably aided by a campaign that got kickstarted started by crusading Aussie journalist Don Groves in Inside Film Bong beat Harvey at his own game and got his movie out to the world the way he wanted it screened. Those were the days.

Now, Bong has done something altogether surprising by presenting Mother, his 2009 hit and perhaps his best film, redone in black and white. This has caused him to 'unearth new resonances and subtleties in the process' if you believe the SFF catalog. What these might be remains a matter of mystery to readers who then get a plot synopsis. However, if you want to know what Bong thinks you can go to this Bong interview  though I have to issue a warning that you may not find it much more informative than the SFF catalog.

 So, ask the question why you do this to this or indeed any other film. It does make the film look 'different'. The hard blacks and varieties of dirty grey come to the fore. The grimness of the tale is served by the overcast skies. If it looks like anything else I'd nominate it as an Oshima picture from his great period in the sixties when he focused on intense melodramas of injustice, often laying on the irony. Bong does this as well. The path the mother follow to enlightenment comes to a surprising end. Bits and pieces forgotten after the one viewing at a festival somewhere come back vividly, most notably the part that acupuncture has to play in the plotting and the extraordinary score, a modern day rival to something by Kurt Weill. It's become a noir. 

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