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January 21, 2010

Rough Cut

rough cut 1.jpg

Yeong-hwa-neun yeong-hwa-da
Jang Hun - 2008
Ikano Filem All Region DVD

Written and produced by Kim Ki-duk, but directed by Jang Hun, one needs to look a tad closer to see how Rough Cut resembles Kim's other films. There is none of the formalism usually associated with Kim's films. One might suspect that Rough Cut was made as a response to the critical responses regarding what is viewed as Kim's artistic or cultural pretensions, with a film that can be appreciated on a visceral level. What Rough Cut has in common with the films Kim has also directed is his recurring theme about identity.

The climatic fight near the end of Rough Cut is as exhilarating as anything I could imagine. The two main characters are fighting on a muddy beach. From a distance the two look almost the same, covered as they are from head to foot in mud, striking each other with increasingly dissipated strength, until the two men are seen floundering, with one finally staggering away from the scene of battle. I found it impossible not to think of the similar fight in Akira Kurosawa's Stray Dog.

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Soo-ta is a popular actor mostly known for his roles in gangster movies. Soo-ta is also known for causing injury to other actors when the action gets too real. A chance meeting with real life gangster Gang-pae, the leader of a small gang, leads to an invitation for Gang-pae to play opposite Soo-ta when no other actor makes himself available. Gang-pae had previous had a small part in a movie. The film follows both the making of Soo-ta's latest crime drama, and collision between the respective characters lives on-screen and off. Rough Cut is as much about the images people think they are projecting to others, as much as the images projected in a movie theater.

In addition to the untitled film in progress, directed by a stocky auteur named Bong (no physical resemblance to the man who made The Host), there is also some footage from Lee Chang-dong's Green Fish, about a young man who joins a criminal gang. At the office of the film producer is a poster for I'm Not There, Todd Haynes' film about public and private identity. The original Korean title is translated as "A Movie is a Movie". The names of the two main characters translate as "star" and "gangster".

Aside from the handful of references to other films, Kim and Jang don't bother with the homages or name checks to be found with Godard or Tarantino. Of more concern is the concept of honesty to oneself and others. Soo-ta insists that his screen fights with Gang-pae be as real as possible, only to find himself discovering that he might not be capable of dealing with that kind of reality. Likewise, Gang-pae learns that creating illusion is physically demanding, comparing himself to a racehorse. One of the funnier moments is when the gangsters observing Gang-pae at work play at being screen actors, hitting each other in slow motion. Rough Cut is also about trust lost and gained, and a movie that, like real life, might not follow the intended script.

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Rough Cut is available from HK Flix.

Posted by peter at January 21, 2010 12:02 AM