Saturday, October 31, 2020

Salinui chueok / Memories of Murder (2017 remastered version)


Bong Joon Ho: 살인의 추억 / Salinui chueok / Memories of Murder (KR 2003) with Kim Sang-kyung (Seo Tae-yoon, the city cop) and Song Kang-ho (Park Doo-man, the country cop).

살인의 추억 / Memories of Murder (Finnish release title) / Memories of Murder (Swedish release title).
    KR 2003. PC: CJ Entertainment / Sidus Pictures. P: Cha Seung-jae.
    D: Bong Joon-ho. SC: Bong Joon-ho, Shim Sung-bo – based on the play 날 보러 와요 / Nal boleo wayo / Come to See Me! (1996) by Kim Kwang-rim. Cin: Kim Hyung-koo – negative: 35 mm – colour – 1,85:1. PD: Ryu Seong-hie. Cost: Kim Yu-sun. M: Taro Iwashiro. S: Lee Seung-yeop. ED: Kim Sun-min.
    CAST as edited in Wikipedia:
    Song Kang-ho – Park Doo-man, the detective in charge of solving the murders
    Kim Sang-kyung – Seo Tae-yoon, a younger but also much more experienced detective from Seoul who volunteers to help Park
    Kim Roi-ha – Cho Yong-koo, Park's partner who beats suspects, and is popular among women
    Song Jae-ho – Sergeant Shin Dong-chul, the detectives' superior
    Byun Hee-bong – Sergeant Koo Hee-bong, another superior working on the case
    Go Seo-hee – Officer Kwon Kwi-ok, a female police officer who works with the other detectives to solve the case
    Park No-shik – Baek Kwang-ho, an intellectually disabled man and one of the suspects
    Park Hae-il – Park Hyeon-gyu, a factory worker and another suspect of the case
    Jeon Mi-seon – Kwok Seol-yung, Park Doo-man's girlfriend
    Yeom Hye-ran – So-hyeon's mother
    131 min
    Release date: 2 May 2003.
    Festival premiere: 16 May 2003 Cannes Film Festival.
    Finnish premiere: 23 Oct 2020, released by Future Film with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Heli Kasem / Heidi Nyblom Kuorikoski.
    Corona emergency security: 25% capacity, face masks, distancing, hand hygiene.
    Viewed at Kinopalatsi 2, Helsinki, 31 Oct 2020.

AA: At last I saw in its entirety Bong Joon-ho's Memories of Murder. I sampled it ten years ago in our tribute to Korean cinema at Cinema Orion. I then paid attention to Bong's strange sense of humour in the true crime saga covering Korea's most notorious serial killer mystery.

I'm impressed by Bong's masterful sense of suspense in the storytelling and the sovereign approach in the mise-en-scène. There is an exciting balance between raw naturalism and formal control.

Like in David Fincher's Zodiac (2007), made after Bong's film and perhaps inspired by it, the killer had not been caught when the film was made. The Korean killer was finally identified last year based on DNA tests; he was found already serving a life sentence.

Memories of Murder makes me think about the serial killer obsession in contemporary fiction. In cinema, it started with Méliès (Barbe-bleue, 1901). In horror film it has been with us always (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari). Even Chaplin played a serial killer (Monsieur Verdoux). Hitchcock started early (The Lodger), as did Lang (M). A new urgency emerged in Hitchcock's Psycho and Powell's Peeping Tom, both in 1960: in both, a bland and awkward boy (in Finnish the term would be peräkamarin poika) is the killer. In horror, the slasher subgenre flourished. A new wave of serial killer cinema started with Lynch's Twin Peaks, Demme's The Silence of the Lambs and Fincher's Seven. In Nordic Noir the serial killer obsession has become a tired cliché long ago. It has nothing to do with real crime.

But Memories of Murder definitely is a true crime story. The murders the detectives are trying to solve are awful, but almost as awful are the procedures of the police. The killer smartly covers his tracks by committing his deeds on rainy nights. But almost all remaining clues are messed up by inept cops. They resort to bullying suspects, torturing them and rigging evidence. Innocent bystanders are brutally beaten by clueless cops. Hunches are usually misleading but sometimes lead to discoveries. "The Sad Letter" is a haunting clue heard in a night radio program where a rare song request always coincides with a murder on a rainy night.

The tension between the leading detectives is based on the dichotomy of the awkward country cop vs. the slick city cop (we may be reminded of Twin Peaks). Contrary to genre expectations, both prove inept. The country cop boasts a shaman eye, ostensibly never failing to see through the facade of the suspect. In the final shot he gives us, the audience, the camera look. Bong was confident that the killer, if still alive, would be seen.

In Finland during the current self-searching Me Too years one of the most thought-provoking phenomena has been Anna Paavilainen's Play Rape project (2016), preceding Alyssa Milano's 2017 tweet by a year. Issues raised included: Are female roles submissive by default? Are rape victims in fiction reduced to objects of pornographic entertainment? Is the fate of the female actor repeatedly to play the victim of sexual violence?

Is there even in Memories of Murder an unconscious and unintentional streak of vicarious sadistic pleasure? I am not able to tell, but regardless of Me Too and Play Rape I have felt a need to take a distance to serial killer fiction. I prefer Fritz Lang's approach in M: he shows nothing, and thereby helps understand everything. In the opening sequence Lang focuses on the agony of the mother who loses her daughter. Such a focus is mostly missing in serial killer entertainment.

I'm not a connoisseur of Bong Joon Ho, and I'm still on my way to get acquainted with his work, having only sampled Barking Dogs Never Bite and watched Parasite. Bong has a unique vision and a sense of humour. I still have not managed to tap into his inner core, or I have failed to connect with it. But I'll keep my shaman eyes open.

When I sampled Memories of Murder ten years ago, on display was an impressive 35 mm print from the Korean Film Archive. Now in this digitally mastered 2017 re-release edition the visual quality is not first rate. The look of shabbiness is intentional, to be sure, but it was more subtly conveyed in the photochemical original. Here it seems just gray on gray.




" In October 1986, two women are found raped and murdered in a ditch. Local detective Park Doo-man, not having dealt with such a serious case before, is overwhelmed — evidence is improperly collected, the police's investigative methods are suspect, and their forensic technology is near non-existent. Park claims he has a way of determining suspects by eye contact. He decides to first question a scarred mentally handicapped boy, Baek Kwang-ho, who resides in the town because he used to follow a dead victim all the time creating some suspicion among the detectives. He uses his eye contact method, thinking Baek is responsible, and has his partner Cho beat confessions out of Baek.

Seo Tae-yoon, a detective from Seoul, volunteers to assist them. However he and Park's methods clash. Seo deems Baek's hands too weak and scarred to be able to commit such an elaborate crime, clearing his name. After more murders are committed, they realize that the killer waits until a rainy night and only kills women wearing red. Officer Kwon Kwi-ok realizes that a local radio station is always requested to play a particular song during the nights the murders are committed.

At the latest crime scene, Park, Cho and Seo all arrive to investigate in different ways, but a local man there masturbates in a woman's red lingerie. Park and Cho apprehend the man, brutally beating him. Seo finds a survivor of the killer with Kwon's help. Upon learning that the killer's hands were noticeably soft, Seo clears the man, as his hands are rough. Infuriated that they lost their suspect, Park scuffles with Seo until Kwon alerts them that the song on the radio is playing. They realize it's raining but arrive too late, finding another woman murdered. Park, Seo and Cho finally decide to work together.

Upon doing an autopsy of the latest victim, they discover pieces of a peach in the body. Clues lead them to a factory worker, Park Hyeon-gyu. Seo notes that his hands are soft like the survivor had described. Hyeon-gyu begins to show discomfort when Seo presents the peaches and they think they've found the killer. Cho loses control and beats Hyeon-gyu, prompting their superior to ban him from the interrogation room. Park and Seo listen to Baek's earlier confession. Seo points out that he talks as if someone else did it and they realize he knew details of the murder because he witnessed it. They go to Baek's father's restaurant, only to discover a drunken Cho there. As people watch news and ridicule police officers, he beats everyone and Baek joins the fray, swinging a wooden board at Cho's leg and accidentally piercing it with a rusty nail. Park and Seo chase Baek and question him, but he gets frightened and runs into the path of an oncoming train, where he is hit and killed.

Park learns that Cho's leg will have to be amputated because the nail caused tetanus, leaving him feeling guilty. They discover semen on one of the bodies, but because of lack of technology, the sample has to be sent to the United States to confirm if suspect Hyeon-gyu is the killer. That night, a young girl is killed. At the crime scene, Seo recognizes the girl as the same schoolgirl he had befriended while investigating. Enraged, he attacks Hyeon-gyu until he is interrupted by Park bringing the results from America. The sample does not match Hyeon-gyu's DNA. Park lets Hyeon-gyu go.

In the end, the crimes remain unsolved. While visiting the crime scene years later in 2003, Park Doo-man, now a businessman, learns from a little girl that the scene had recently been visited by an unknown man with a 'normal' face, someone who looked very ordinary. The little girl had asked the man why he was looking at the ditch; the man had responded that he was reminiscing about something he had done there a long time ago. The film ends as Park, realizing the truth, looks straight at the camera, seemingly using his eye-contact method to spot the killer among the audience
. "


" While a total body count was never mentioned in the film, at least 10 similar murders were committed in the Hwaseong area between October 1986 and April 1991. This killing spree became known as the Hwaseong serial murders.

Some of the details of the murders, such as the killer gagging the women with their underwear, were also taken from the case. As in the film, the investigators found bodily fluids suspected to belong to the murderer in the crime scenes, but did not have access to equipment to determine whether the DNA matched with the suspects until late in the investigations. After the ninth murder, DNA evidence was sent to Japan (unlike the film, where it was sent to America) for analysis, but the results did not correspond with the suspects.

As in the film, at the time of its release, the actual murderer had not yet been caught. As the case was growing closer to reaching the statute of limitations, South Korea's leading Uri Party sought to amend the law to give the prosecutors more time to find the murderer. However, in 2006, the statute of limitations was reached for the last-known victim. More than 13 years later, on 18 September 2019, police announced that a man in his 50s, Lee Choon-jae, had been identified as a suspect in the killings. He was identified after DNA from the underwear of one of the victims was matched with his, and subsequent evidence linked him to four of the ten murders. At the time he was identified he was already serving a life sentence at a prison in Busan for the rape and murder of his sister-in-law.

Lee initially denied any involvement in the serial murders, but on 2 October 2019, police announced that Lee had confessed to killing 14 people, including all 10 serial murders and 4 others. Two of those murders happened in Suwon, and the other two happened in Cheongju. As of October 2019, details about those 5 victims have not been released because the investigation is ongoing. In addition to the murders, he also confessed to more than 30 rapes and attempted rapes.

After Lee's arrest, Bong Joon-ho commented, "When I made the film, I was very curious, and I also thought a lot about this murderer. I wondered what he look[ed] like." He later added, "I was able to see a photo of his face. And I think I need more time to really explain my emotions from that, but right now I’d just like to applaud the police force for their endless effort to find the culprit.
” "

No comments: