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Apr 8, 2005

Closer To Life

Death... frightens almost every human, no matter if it occurs by accident, illness, taking a risk or just natural. Every character in this film is close to death, but few of them seem to have any fear. Bad Guy (original title Nabbeun Namja) provokes complex feelings with simplicity. It's a shot in the stomach; it's about abuse and freedom, pain and pleasure, a ruined evil and a pure angel. Released in Korea in 2001, Ki-Duk Kim's film unfortunately arrives after his amazing Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter... and Spring, released in 2003. Kim refreshes us again with three lessons.

First of all, as Robert Bresson used to say, "If the eye is entirely won, give nothing or almost nothing to the ear". And here comes Han-Ki (Jae-Hyeon Jo), a security guard at a humble house of prostitutes. With a big scar in his throat -maybe a battle souvenir-, he is a man of no words, but full of expression. Every time he is calm we relax; every time he explodes we stop breathing. Amused by Sun-Hwa's beauty (Won Seo), he kisses her in front of her boyfriend, in an unpleasant and rude episode where all are publicly humiliated. After that, he finds a way of trapping innocent Sun-Hwa in prostitution.

The second lesson lies in the richness of good casting without the necessity of celebrities. Not only Jo's master work and Seo's transformation are great, but also Duek-Mun Choi and Yun-Tae Kim play defined but simple supporting roles that gain weight during the development of the story. Both take advantage of that growth until the end.

The third and last lesson is about cinema in its pure expression. Simple things and sincere feelings will always be more powerful than any F/X. Han-Ki doesn't look for revenge but love, with egoism and monstrosity, having her closer to him, even if she is with other men. Voyeurism plays a main role as almost the only way to love her. Sun-Hwa tries to escape, but she can't (maybe unconsciously she doesn't want it), and she is forced to grow quickly, and to discover a new world of mixed sensations. Kim returns accurately one more time with repetitions, brutality and sexual obsessions, always keeping alive the thin line between wish and anguish, and a continuous cycle of hope and perdition.

Today's current cinema cares frantically about aesthetics offering a virtually digitized experience nearer to animation than reality. But luckily, even in a dark, violent and unfair story, we can see magic moments when mystical feelings and thoughts are encountered in a mirror, a picture or a landscape. This bad guy frightens, but at the same time, he shows weakness and some kind of tenderness. He is almost a dead man but he still doesn't die, as do the others around him. All of them are closer to... life.

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