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August 09, 2016

The Tiger


Park Hoon-Jung - 2015
Well Go USA Entertainment BD Region A

The tiger is best seen in the first half of this film. Fleetingly and short bursts, the viewer is kept from seeing the animal in full form. It's not like Track of the Cat, where the audience never sees the mountain lion pursued by Robert Mitchum, but during that time that the tiger is barely seen, it works best as a metaphor for Korean resistance during the occupation by Japan. Once the tiger is seen in full view, one is conscious that this is a computer generated creature. The mystery and suspense are lost from that point.

I suppose some of this may be due to audiences that hate ambiguity and are literal-minded in their demand to see rather than imagine. Some of this may also be because of the requirements of the story, about the hunt for the last wild tiger in Korea. For myself, the film worked best during the moment when the tiger was only seen in brief glimpses in the forest.

Taking place in 1925, the capturing and killing the tiger is the goal of the Japanese governor in the Korean region where the film takes place. The pursuit has dual purposes, as the governor is a collector of big game animals displayed in his office, and because the tiger has killed Japanese soldiers pursuing resistance fighters hidden in the mountains. Eventually forced to participate in the hunt is the former hunter, Man-Duk, because of his knowledge of the mountain area. Eventually it is shown that Man-Duk and the tiger have a symbiotic relationship.

Symbolic stories of men hunting for legendary animals, goes at least as far back as Moby Dick. The historical aspects give The Tiger an extra twist. Park also makes the story something of an ecological fable showing the extreme measures taken as part of the hunt. The Korean title translates as "Great Tiger". Historically, the last Korean tiger was killed in 1921.

There are recurring moments of the tiger outwitting the hunters. As might be expected, some of the hunters become the hunted, shredded and tossed like so many rag dolls in the jaws of the tiger. The scenes of strategy are reminiscent of Park's previous film, the impressive gangster film, New World. This is a simpler film, one that was written by Park earlier, but produced following the success of New World. There is a thematic thread regarding the uses of power and manipulation of others.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at August 9, 2016 03:54 PM