Memories of Murder

 

Memories of Murder

(Salinui chueok)

Written by Bong Joon Ho & Kim Kwang Rim

Directed by Bong Joon Ho

2003


Production:

Theatrical: Sidus Pictures

Video: CJ Entertainment


Video:

Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC

Disc Size: 41.92 GB

Feature Size: 32.94 GB

Bit Rate: 27.01 Mbps

Runtime: 131 minutes

Chapters: 19

Region: All


Audio:

Korean DTS-HD MA 7.1

Korean Dolby Digital 2.0


Subtitles:

English & Korean


Extras:

• 2 Audio Commentaries by the filmmakers and cast

• Cast Interviews (approx 27 min)

• Interviews with the filmmakers (approx 29.5 min)

• Behind the scenes featurettes (approx 26.5 min)


Amaray Blu-ray case w/ slipcover

Release date: December 14th, 2009

YesAsia: 1021643368

Comment:

Memories of Murder was only the second Korean film I saw, and I was hooked.  That was in 2004 when CJ-Entertainment brought out their all-region 2-disc Special Edition DVD.  Along with Park Chan-Wook's Oldboy, Memories of Murder was sufficient evidence that this little peninsula, still in a state of surrealistically suspended war with its northern half-brothers, had a take on the art form that was worth investigating.  Since then I have followed the films of Bong Joon Ho (prior to and since the ones mentioned) and Park Chan-Wook with an eagerness that in the past would have accompanied the films of Hitchcock or Billy Wilder.


The CJ DVD was also to convince me of the worth of original Korean video productions.  Their 2-disc special edition reserves all the special features (85 minutes worth) for the second disc, allowing for careful transfers of the feature film with high bit rates.  Note the ghostless comparative cap as compared to the Universal Region 2.  Giving the DVD the onceover before playing the Blu-ray reminded me of the level of excellence of the Korean DVD, and I wondered just how the Blu-ray was going to beat it, but, eclipse it, it has, both in terms of image and audio.


     


The Movie: 9

Noel Megahey writes in Home Cinema: Memories of Murder is based on a real investigation into the murder of ten women in the provincial town of Hwaseong in Korea between 1986 and 1991, where each of the victims were bound, raped and killed in an increasingly gruesome manner. The events based around the investigation were already the subject of a play, but Barking Dogs Never Bite director, Bong Joon-Ho interviewed principal characters, examined the relevant documents and developed his own version of the unsolved crimes, creating an horrific suspense thriller that is set against the turbulent political situation of Korea in the 1980’s. - NM


Bong blends broad humor with suspense and intense drama that woud seem foolhardy in the West but which, these days, the Koreans seem to have honed to an art form.  Detectives Park Doo Man (Song Kang Ho) and Cho Yong Koo (Kim Roe Ha) could easily be written off as inept if it weren’t for their willingness to intimidate and witnesses and pummel suspects, and disturb evidence (for that matter, to recognize evidence when they see it).  Detective Park prides himself on being able to discern guilt simply by looking into the eyes of a suspect.  It’s all so hysterically funny and medieval at the same time.  But thinking of these guys as mere country pumkins doesn’t address how dangerous they are, as potential opportunities to catch the killer pass through their fingers and more women die.


Enter Detective Seo Tae Yoon (Kim Sang Kyung), the cop scientist from the big city, to bring some sense of order to the proceedings.  But as more bodies pile up and frustrations mount, Park and Seo gradually switch positions.


     


I add only this anecdote from the annals of psychiatry, whose wisdom will make sense once you see the movie: Hospital patient X was famous for his unusual delusion: He insisted that, despite evidence and rtional argument to the contrary, that he was actually dead.  Doctor after doctor tried to persuade him otherwise until Dr. Q came up with this compelling strategy:  He asked X if dead men breathe.  "Of course not," replied X.  Dr. Q placed a mirror under X's nose and showed him the mist of his breath.  "Oh, my God" cried X, "Dead men do breathe."  There is a wonderful turn in the film that pivots on the idea that documents (for which we might read: beliefs, assumptions, expectations) never lie.  But, you see, documents do lie.  And so does life.


     


Image : 9/9

Gary Tooze, writing on DVDBeaver.com rightly gave CJ Entertaiment's Blu-ray a Thumbs Up in the Image department for Bong Joon Ho's most recent film, Mother, and I agree.  If anything, Bong's earlier film looks even better.  I found some of the most reach out and touch it images we've seen in this medium, and no transfer issues.  No heightened contrast or sharpening and rare, and easily overlooked edge enhancement.  When Bong wants things to look sharp and impenetrably resolved, they are (as in the lingering reaction shots of Song Kang-Ho or the fleeting glimpses of corpses), and when he wants fog, you can just about out make out the droplets in the air and taste them if you're so inclined, that is, if you don't mind the feel of murder in the air.


     


Audio & Music : 8/9

From the whisper of tall grass in the wind to the roar of a train, the Korean DTS-HD MA 7.1 mix reveals and underscores, but never exaggerates. Memories of Murder, while truly a horror story, is never a horror film.  We are always placed squarely in reality while events rage out of control as the body count increases, the likely suspects decrease, and as the detectives lose their perspective. I recall one audio pan that suggests the approaching footsteps of a detective as he walks around the corridor behind us during an interrogation.  It's the sort of effect that could have been played for sinister effect, but here it is just matter of fact, just as the killer waits for his next victim in the grass and rain beside the road. The music by Taro Iwashiro (Red Cliff, Shinobi) has a kind of Tubular Bells/Tangerine Dream quality about it, only more subtle.


     


Operations : 2

If you've seen Korean printing on videos, you may have noticed their penchant for small fonts.  Their printed characters look especially handsome as pure graphics.  I wish I could say that this tendency is manifest on the menus for the Blu-ray, but I'm not sure I could make out what is going on even if I knew the language.  We are talking really small dark red writing  that does not make for easy reading.  In any case there are no English menu subtitles for the special features, of which there are quite a few, some of which require a click into a second window (and with all room in the frame, why would they do that!).  And since they features aren't subtitled either I hope I'll be excused for not reporting on them. 


A final note as to the packaging: The Book-type cases I've seen from any number of studios ought to set a standard for single disc presentations, and this one is no exception: gorgeous.  But the effect is undone by the absurd slipcase that opens at both ends and doesn't fit snuggly in the bargain.  I'd be tempted to discard altogether if it weren't for its having information not on the book.


     


Extras : 7

The extra features, all in SD, aren't subtitled nor are the menu titles, but I believe these are the same ones that appear on the second disc of CJ's Special Edition DVD.  I'm sure I will be properly tasked if I am wrong.


     


Recommendation : 9

Memories of Murder is an outstanding drama that mixes black comedy, everyday rural life, horrific shots of rotting corpses, an out of control homicide investigation, political upheaval, into an intense psychological thriller.  Bong eschews the usual Hollywood trappings of investigatory procedures and tension building so that events and resolutions catch us off guard.  If you are considering an upgrade, the Blu-ray is demo material for both image and audio.  My only complaint is that the extensive extra features are not subtitled.


Leonard Norwitz

LensViews

January 14, 2010



     








          
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