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Category:    Home > Reviews > Mystery > Thriller > 301/302 (Thriller)

301/302 (Mystery/Thriller)


Picture: C+     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


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