« Beowulf (2007) | Main | Coffee Break »

December 07, 2007

301, 302

301:302 1.jpg

Park Chul-soo - 1995
Koch Lorber Region 1 DVD

With so many close-ups of fish, meat and vegetables, 301, 302 almost becomes food porno. That may be intentional as part of the story is about a woman who substitutes food for sex. Although Park Chul-soo's film eventually goes into the territory explored in such films as Dumplings and The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover, Park minimizes the explicit horror to just a couple of brief shots. It would be interesting to know how much of an influence Hitchcock may have been on Park as some of the shots made me think of Psycho - the frequent overhead shots of the characters, telling the story visually through the details of close-ups of objects and the faces of the characters. The use of food also recalls Hitchcock's television version of Roald Dahl's Lamb for the Slaughter and to a certain extent, Frenzy.

The film is about two women, neighbors in the "New Hope" apartment building. Song-hee is recently divorced and lives in an apartment dominated by a gourmet kitchen. She seems as addicted to the act of cooking as she is to enjoying a variety of dishes. Yun-hee's apartment is more spartan, marked by her wall full of books, enough to make Song-hee remark that that it resembles a library. The women are opposites with the outgoing Song-hee having an appetite for food and sex, while the introverted Yun-hee is a professional writer, with articles about food and sex, while rejecting both from her life. Flashbacks show the sexual abuse of Yun-hee, the step-daughter of a butcher, which explain the linking of sex and food in her life.

301:302 2.jpg

The story is slight. What Park does is lay on details. There are close-ups of food being prepared, calamari boiled, dumplings folded, and one very phallic looking cucumber chopped into smaller slices. Some of the close-ups of mouths while eating may be too much, and may have been so on a theater screen. There are extreme close-ups of Hwang Shin-hye - her mouth, her glasses, her eyes. Shots of her being bathed by Pang Eun-jin appear influenced by some of the more abstract compositions of Janet Leigh's face in Psycho. While Hwang is the cerebral character, with most of the shots of her face and head, Park's shots of Pang emphasize her more physical sense of being - her breasts, her legs, her hands. Even the apartments are contrasted by the use of color. While Yun-hee's apartment is almost all white, Song-hee's is marked by the colorful plates, and a wall that is the color of wine, or perhaps blood.

Whatever the more serious intentions Park may have had for 301, 302 give way to the fetishistic treatment of surfaces. The film is about alienation, about two people so disconnected from the world that their respective apartments are all the world they need. Park may be making a parable about contemporary Korean women but he is more interested in piling on bits of visual information. What is most memorable about 301, 302 are the yellow plates, blue cups, fish scales, sliced meat, steel doors, silverware, and dotted panties.

301:302 3.jpg

Posted by peter at December 7, 2007 12:02 AM

Comments

I love this film very much. I think itís one of the first Korean films I ever saw. Somehow the ending of this film makes me want to cry. I donít think thatís the intention of this directorómaking the audience cry, but somehow I was touched by the relationship of these two women and very impressed by the loneliness of Yun-hee and the fact that Song-hee may be the only person in the world who can understand Yun-heeís feeling at last.

Some trivia: a TV-spot advertisement for a mobile phone carrier in Thailand seemed to be inspired by this film. In this ad which was released about 5-7 years ago, two women use the same elevator and there is the number 301 above one womanís head, and the number 302 above the other womanís head. These two women donít talk to each other though they are neighbors in the same apartment/condominium building. This ad told the viewers at the end that people should talk more to each other. I think itís funny to see a commercial advertisement inspired by such a sad and cruel film like 301, 302.

Posted by: celinejulie at December 7, 2007 10:26 AM

I really like this film! I first saw it during it's initial release back in the '90s (it played theatrically in San Francisco) and its been my favorite Korean film ever since. Of course, I haven't seen that many Korean films since then, but from what I have seen 301, 302 really stuck with me. The visual aspects such as the yellow plates, which you describe above, are still very vivid in my minds eye.

Posted by: Kimberly at December 7, 2007 02:08 PM