|Song Kang-ho, Poster, A Taxi Driver
This week you can see Hoon Jang's new South Korean Taeksi Woonjunsa/A Taxi Driver where we kick off with the ubiquitous Kang-ho Song (Swiri, the admirable The Foul King, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, The Host and Snowpiercer), singing along at the wheel with the radio, only to be ticked off by dodging one of the protesters running through the streets of 1980 Seoul and damaging the mirror on his clapped out green taxi. His eleven-year-old daughter keeps on getting into punch-ups with his landlord neighbour’s son. Song has to borrow his outstanding rent.
|Thomas Kretschmann, A Taxi Driver
In the drivers’ cafe, Song hears about a fare which one of them has lined up to take a foreigner to Guangju for a sum that would square our hero’s debts. He beats the man’s time there, lying to Kretschmann about having been briefed and speaking English. The deal is to get into the riot torn city and back out before curfew but any experienced movie goer knows that’s not going to happen. They encounter a military road block and after some fast talking and consulting an aged peasant about the back roads, the pair make it onto the deserted town streets where a truck load of student protesters attracts Kretschmann’s attention and we get into his filming.
|The green Seoul taxi scoots past the student demonstration in Gwangju
A Taxi Driver
This one is not tuned to international tastes. Having the leads barely able to communicate with each other is not usual. Conviction tends to wilt where Song is not dominating the frame. Not to go all Dunkirk on its ass but that would be more substantial if Kretschmann wasn’t shooting talking heads with a film camera with no sound gear. He is disturbingly under-characterised, though the actor looks the part. The menacing civilian clothed military police are strip cartoon villains. The film could lose a half hour from its 137 minutes - the night with the friendly locals, the attack on the newspaper - but the situation and the handling assert in a way that more familiar material does not.
There’s a good standard of production which the theatrical copy does justice.