18 May 2005

Save The Green Planet!

It's really rare that you find a perfect movie -- one that's just perfectly written and directed. There's a handful, though, and it's a special thrill when you find one where you can honestly say "There is no way this could be done better." I think Dr. Strangelove is one, Harold & Maude is close. I'm not sure necessarily sure if it definitely is (I've only seen it twice so far, so perhaps on the fiftieth viewing, I might think of something), but Save The Green Planet is definitely a contender.

A while ago, I saw a review [Warning: Quite A Lot Of Spoilers!] of it that intrigued me; I figured it'd either be great, or a cool idea done horribly. Luckily for me, about six months after reading it, the Seattle International Film Festival showed it -- technically the last film of the Festival (If I recall, another film playing a couple hours earlier "Closed" the festival; Save The Green Planet! screened the midnight of the last night -- unfortunately, after the award ballots were due). So, I bought tickets for me and two of my best friends, and we all went down to the theater that night, crossing our fingers that it wouldn't turn out to be the latter type of film.

Of course, it turned out to be the Former. (The theater it was at, the Egyptian, tends to get films that are on the winning side of this dichotomy; this is also where we saw Forbidden Zone for the first time.) The three of us fell in love. As we left the theater, we couldn't stop talking about the film.

The rough plot: A man thinks the CEO of a chemical corporation is actually an Andromedan working towards the destruction of the Earth, so he and his girlfriend kidnap the alien to get information out of him, typically through rather unsavory methods.

And this is probably the first great thing about this -- the director, Jun-hwan Jeon, understands that you don't need to actually show the torture to frighten or disturb the audience. There are a few shots not for the squeamish, of course -- there'd have to be -- however, for the most part, the business takes place in the shadow, or he cuts away after the point has been made. He doesn't linger on excessive and gratuitous violence (one of the many things that made The Frau Plastic Chicken Show fall extremely short of its incredibly excellent -- perhaps even sexcellent -- title).

Another great thing? It's pretty much every different genre you could think of. Comedy, Sci-Fi, Cop Drama, Tragedy, Romantic Comedy, Parody. And they're all done well. Often times better than films that are devoted to only one genre. I mean, I'm floored that they did the Cop Aspect of this film well; a lot of times, films like this tend to slow down during the police scenes. Save the Green Planet! makes you as interested and entertained by the detective work as by the rest of it -- though, I suppose someone could make an argument that "Detective Story" is the main genre. Aside from the actual detectives, the main character could be seen as a detective as well, trying to compile information on the Alien Plot. But that'd do a bit of disservice to the other genres it works expertly in -- which leads to the other thing; the film flows between genres. There aren't any gear-shifts. You never go "Oh, this is the Sci-Fi part of the film. This is the Horror part now!" You just don't think about it, which is how a film like this should be. There's not one iota of self-conciousness.

The review linked above (if you're not reading it because of Spoilers), ends with this:
Perhaps the best comment I can make about this crazy-quilt comes from another medium. Once, after hearing Bitches Brew, a music journalist asked what Miles Davis was supposed to be playing (jazz? bebop? funk?), and he answered, "Music." In the same way, Save the Green Planet is a movie, the sort of movie I watch movies to discover and savor and adore.

One final thing -- when I saw it in the theater, everyone in the audience clapped at the end.

I clapped at the end.

And I'm one of those people who hates it when folks clap at the end of films.

Anyway, though -- for a long time, this hasn't been available in this country, aside from the occasional film festival screening. I ordered the Korean DVD as soon as I got back from the theater, and it came shortly after. Unfortunately, this is a Region 3 DVD, which means I can't loan it out to most people and share with them this brilliant film. However, I've found out last week that it's getting some small theatrical releases, and the US DVD comes out the first week of September. I'm definitely going to pick that up, partially to encourage them and thank them for releasing it, but also to have it as a loaner. (I'll be especially happy if it's basically a copy of the Korean DVD, which is loaded with extras... unfortunately, all in Korean.)

I do realize that by hyping this film so much, I run the risk of setting an idea that it's impossible for the film to live up to, although -- I think this film is actually good enough to go against the trend and actually live up to it. This truly is a magnificent, perfect film.


Blogger Lee H. said...

You've mentioned this film to me in the past; even though I have a regionless player, I'm going to wait for that U.S. release and pick that up. It sounds REALLY over-the-top. :)

11:58 AM, May 18, 2005  
Blogger Rev. Syung Myung Me said...

Heh, I didn't really realize this was going to be so long when I posted it. But yeah -- I'd definitely see waiting; I would if it were me, I think -- for some reason, I do tend to default to Region 1 if they're available (sometimes even if other Region ones are better, strangely; for example, apparently the French Mulholland Dr. is incredibly tricked out, where the US one is pretty bare-bones), but yeah.

If you change your mind, though, I got my copy through YesAsia.com. I've gotten a few things through them, and they're usually pretty good (and their prices are in US Currency, so you don't get dinged for conversion fees, if your bank charges those; they don't have the greatest selection though, so sometimes I end up going through CDJapan, but if I can, I usually go for YesAsia and save myself a few bucks). Also, I think they typically have copies on eBay, but I think most of those are boots (they claim to be Region 0, but mine _is_ Region 3 (I wanted to double check that it wasn't a case where it was either assumed to be Region 3/labelled as such but actually 0), so I figure either they're lying and a lot of people are disappointed, or they're bootleg issues.)

8:57 PM, May 18, 2005  
Blogger Lee H. said...

Oh yes, I've used YesAsia.com before... I got my copies of "Uzumaki" and "2046" from there. You're right, they're good to deal with (for anyone reading this who hasn't ordered from them).

I tend to want the Region 1 or Region 0 (region-less) copies whenever possible, both becuse I can lend them out (as you mentioned) and because my regionless player is not our main player anymore, so I have to screw with unplugging and plugging all these wires when I want to use the regionless player, so that's a pain in the butt.

9:07 PM, May 18, 2005  
Blogger Rev. Syung Myung Me said...

Yeah -- I've got two players (a regioned one, which is my replacement CD player (for when I don't just use iTunes), and my non-regioned one, which is my primary), but unfortunately, my non-region one is kinda crappy. I suppose if I were smart, I'd just have the non-region as the backup one/replacment CD player, except it also can't play DVD-Audio discs (it gives a funny error that says it basically can't do that yet. It really implies that I'll just need to, you know, wait a week or two and it'll have that capability.), so.. yeah. It's useful having multiple players, though, because sometimes there's Weird Encoding that one can't handle (for some reason, in one of the episodes on Season 1 of the Simpsons, there's an error that my Panasonic doesn't like, but every other player has absolutely no problem with -- so the problem's with the player, which I discovered after returning it like, 3 times).

But loaning is kind of a draw for me. Luckily, one of my main-dvd-loaning-to friends doesn't actually have a player, so he just uses his DVD drive -- and since he uses Linux, Region Coding's not an issue for him, so... This was also useful, because before I had a Region Free player, I could loan him stuff and he could burn a VCD or whatnot of it, and I could actually watch it that way. (Region coding still cheezes me off; I know their rationale, but still, I think it's dumb that I artificially can't use something I paid money for.)

10:05 PM, May 18, 2005  
Blogger CatsFive said...

Myself, I burn archives all my DVDs I buy with DVDShrink and it'll strip the region codes out of DVDs. All the menus and everything still work. I found this utility on Doom9.org which has a lot of cool video/editing/codecs and other fun utilities on it.

10:43 PM, May 18, 2005  

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