Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB
Original Title: Flandersui gae
South Korea, 2000. CJ Entertainment, Cinema Service, Uno Film. Screenplay by Bong Joon Ho, Ji-ho Song, Derek Son Tae-Woong. Cinematography by Yong-kyou Cho. Produced by Min-hwan Cho. Music by Sung-woo Jo. Production Design by Hang Lee. Costume Design by Yun-jung Choi. Film Editing by Eun Soo Lee.
A graduate student (Sung-Jae Lee) suffering the penury of academic life in a crummy apartment with his pregnant wife is being driven crazy by the sound of a constantly yapping dog. He takes care of the issue before the title credit comes up, and you wonder what could possibly happen next considering that his ugly deed is done, but that’s the beauty of Bong Joon-ho: his film debut is an unpolished version of later accomplishments, containing the class-conscious themes of high and low that occupy all his works, but it also shows his exceptional ability for telling stories whose small arcs unfold with a strong sense of causality that never gets out of control. Once our protagonist realizes the consequences for his actions, it leads him to an even more desperate move which happens to be witnessed by a woman (the always exceptional Doona Bae) who works in his building complex’s maintenance office. She spends her days phoning in her job and killing time with her friend who runs the building’s convenience store, their aimless loafing at direct odds with the tension of Lee and his emotionally frustated wife. The manner in which these characters cross paths takes the film into comedic territory, but sequences in a cavernous basement (all you Parasite fans take note) provide plenty of thrills, with the titular canines the symbolic divide between privilege and poverty; for some, they are pets, for others they are repast. The film’s conclusion is its weakest point, something Bong would soon get the hang of, but this one’s flaws are minor considering the sense of humorous discovery that it provides for the majority of its running time. No animals were harmed in the making of the film but some of the images do get pretty rough, so don’t watch it if that’s a sensitive issue.