Saturday, September 18, 2010
San Sebastián: I SAW THE DEVIL
is operatically grisly if nothing else: the first victim, betrothed to Lee Byung-hun's sharp-suited secret agent, is jumped in her broken-down car, begs for her life and explains she's pregnant before getting casually hacked up by Choi Min-sik's favourite cleaver, leaving only a severed ear (!) and a head in a box (!) to hint at her vapidly film-referential fate. There's plenty more squirmy stuff with Achilles tendons being slowly sliced, guillotines roaring in the OTT sound mix (OTT are Kim's favourite letters, except maybe CRAZY!), and a whole bevy more victims being leeringly and kind of annoyingly jeopardised by the illogical deferrals of Lee's payback scheme. Still sporting the most devastating male cheekbones in cinema, he can't for one second plausibly drive the character to let Choi off the hook as often as he does: Kim wants that Nietzsche quote about monsters becoming monsters to justify the absurd contortions of his prolong-the-pain plot, but it doesn't at all. You get the moment-by-moment set piece flair you're probably expecting, and Choi's louche villainy, schticky though it is by now: he's just the latest sick fiend with style, one of many psycho loners Kim is caught between reviling and blatantly idolising. But how often can a camera adopt the sex killer's aroused point of view, panning right up into a schoolgirl's trembling knickers, before you start to feel a dodgy complicity about this whole fandango?