Sound: B- Extras: C- Film: B
So many thrillers are coming from Asian countries that
only an expert can keep track, though most of them have been overrated and
glorified because of where they came from versus their content. One of the glaring exceptions has been
Chul-Soo Park’s 301/302 (1995), a remarkably well-paced and acted film
about two female neighbors and how they form a relationship under bizarre
circumstances. The lady in 301 (Eun-Jin
Bang) keeps to herself and not only has a problem eating, but in socializing
and doing just about anything else. The
new lady in 302 (Sin-Hye Hwang) is a somewhat egotistical culinary expert who
makes Emeril and Julia Child look like they’re slacking.
We begin at The New Hope Apartment Building, where an
officer is visiting one of the apartments inquiring into the whereabouts of
“Miss 302” to the “shock” of her neighbor.
The officer asks the usual questions he has probably asked a thousand
times, quietly probing the situation.
This eventually leads to the rest of the film in flashback, with the
missing tenant at the time she moved in.
From there, the film goes into several directions at once and manages to
keep them together throughout, something we do not see enough these days. The Sur-Goon Lee screenplay is very well
thought out and constructed somewhat like Memento (2001) and the fine
Mystery films of the past. It is also
well acted and creates its own world and mood, very important in a genre that
has been neglected and trivialized in recent decades.
At the same time, we learn about each woman slowly, the
stories unraveling at the same pace as the case itself. The film comes from South Korea and is one
of the best films the country has released to date. Ten years later, and no U.S. remake has come about. Either it is not known in Hollywood enough,
too intimidating for a remake or just too original, but it is impressive. All you have to do is have a better than
usual attention span to get it.
The full frame 1.33 X 1 image is not as clear or defined
as one would like, but the amazing camera work by cinematographer Eun-Gil Lee
is impressive, particularly in its use of color. It also looks like from the opening credits that some picture
information is missing from the sides.
Agfa 8584 film stock was used with Arri camera equipment here and it
makes for a fine alternative to all the films shot in Kodak and Fuji, and
certainly is far above current digital High Definition video. The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is interesting and
good, but this sounds like it could easily have been a DTS DVD with so much
sound the Dolby seems to be leaving behind.
The music is a highlight, but at posting time, we could not identify the
composer. The DVD has no extras to
speak of, but seven Koch Lorber trailers for other DVD titles they have issued
are reviewed elsewhere on this site.
In all Alfred Hitchcock films, food was often a subject
and a time where people would let their guard down. Though we have had silly and odd films centered on food (like the
well-shot/badly directed/overrated Delicatessen), 301/302 offers
so much more, taking that idea in smart new directions. If you want to see how good thrillers can
still be, catch it today.
- Nicholas Sheffo