Memories of Murder Screen 10 articles

Memories of Murder

2003

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  • These echoes remain, at most, fond points of homage, due largely to Bong’s economic inclusion of rich, if subtle, ethnographic detail. A general sense of sociopolitical disquiet pervades the movie’s margins, contributing to Bong’s melancholic mood and restless rhythms, but also serving as an important reminder that, while the formula may be fluid, these events and characters are very much a product of a particular time and place.

  • Bong concentrates on the friction between a local yokel cop and a big-city gumshoe with more sophisticated techniques, but his larger context is the military dictatorship of the period and the public paranoia it inspired. At 129 minutes, this takes a while to get started but gains momentum.

  • All of the characters, including the prime suspect, are victims of the Korea of the 1980s: living under dictatorial military government and inured by a Cold War mentality to acts of violence and brutality. Bong brilliantly spreads the blame by using multiple points of view for his mise-en-scène, and gets tremendous performances from his stars and supporting cast alike.

  • Building into a portrait of a society displaying its fractures and fears, a corrosive suspicion of its own institutions, Bong's unpredictable comedy becomes a sombre, forensic examination of failure.

  • It's an altogether remarkable piece of work, deepening the genre while whipping its skin off, satirizing an entire nation's nearsighted apathy as it wonders, almost aloud, about the nature of truth, evidence, and social belonging.

  • ...What distinguishes "Memories of Murder," setting it apart from rank-and-file thrillers, is its singular mix of gallows humor and unnerving solemnity. Much of the humor comes at the expense of the detectives, whose ineffectualness is at once appalling and comical.

  • Where Fincher's dour "realism" seems resigned to tedium, Bong's deft tonal variety is counterintuitvely more lifelike. Like THE HOST, this was a massive hit in South Korea—one wishes American blockbusters were nearly so adventurous.

  • A body found in a ditch in a remote rural area. Violent cops with no qualms about roughing up suspects. Rivalry between the rural cops and the big city detective who’s assigned to the case as it becomes clear there’s a serial killer on the loose. The well-worn tropes of the detective and police procedural genres are, in Memories of Murder, reinvigorated and fashioned into something sly and critical that retains a hard-hitting power.

  • Memories of Murder is, above all, about the corrosive effects of passing time—and how time renders an already ambiguous, uncertain serial murder case even less fathomable and detectable. Like in the work of one of his masters, Billy Wilder, Bong ‘unfolds’ the true themes of each of his films slowly—returning us, at the end of Memories of Murder (as in Mother, 2009), to the exact same spot—but with our understanding of what is at stake, and what has vanished, now considerably deepened.

  • Moving from atmospheric mystery to political allegory, with pit stops into slapstick comedy along the way, Memories of Murder, Bong Joon-ho’s second film, remains impossible to categorize. Newly restored and re-released, the director’s breakthrough feature (he would go on to direct The Host, Snowpiercer, and this year’s Okja, among other films) has lost none of its power to unsettle, and today it feels even stranger than ever.

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