Doomed mood - Weekend - Kommersant

A new film by Park Chan-wook is released after a six-year break and received a "Branch" for directing at the Cannes Film Festival.

Text: Vasily Koretsky

Investigator Yang Hye-joong fails one case after another, constantly making the wrong choice of suspect. Yang Hye Joon can be understood: due to breathing problems, he hardly sleeps. Everything is not thank God in his personal life either: he himself works in Busan, and his wife is far outside the city, on the coast, at one of the many Korean nuclear power plants. The couple only see each other on weekends.

However, Yang Hye-jun is not going to change - and when he is called to the scene of the death of a high-ranking immigration officer who fell from the top of a cliff after a successful climb, a photo of an inconsolable widow with an undeniable alibi fills up the gallery of suspects on his wall. Doubt the investigator is forced by two points. Firstly, the wife of a Korean official is a Chinese woman who once arrived in the country illegally, but successfully received citizenship because of her supposedly noble origin from the legendary commander of the Korean partisans who beat the Japanese invaders from China during World War II. Secondly, she was a victim of domestic violence: the police have a photo of her bruises and a branded tattoo with the monogram of her late husband (he put it on everything from clothes to an iPhone case).

Yang Hye Joon begins to spend sleepless nights following a widow who has taken on the Korean name Song So Ryo (played by Chinese star Tang Wei, starring with Ang Lee, Bi Gan and Michael Mann). He is on duty at the door, peeping through the windows, dictating observations to the Apple Watch (gadgets play a crucial role in the intrigue of the film) - and predictably falls in love with this strange woman who loves the old Japanese stage and keeps the ashes of her mother and grandmother at home, as well as a lethal dose sleeping pills - just in case. The final blow is Song So Ryo's conversation with a street cat, which every evening brings her a dead crow as a thank you for feeding her: she asks the animal to bring "the heart of this kind detective" next time. And here is the detective lying on the couch in Song Seo Ryo's living room - for the first time in many years he managed to fall asleep.

Of course, the Chinese woman is guilty - this is obvious to us immediately, even before the protagonist reveals her dizzying scheme for the perfect murder; otherwise, why would there be a fence in the garden? But the moment of truth will come only at the second hour of the film - and after it the viewer will find a new plot twist, stretched for another hour.

Because of such marathon timing, The Decision to Quit feels like not just a detective story - but a real novel. The main line develops here extremely slowly, puritanically restrained. In Korea, the film has a "child" rating of PG-15, which, in general, is pretty unbelievable for neo-noir, especially for Korean. One of Park Chan-wook's innovations here is a decisive rejection of sex and inventive violence, indispensable for the genre in general and its national version in particular. In fact, the name of the director was synonymous with this brutal style: the scene from his film Oldboy, in which the hero, armed with an ordinary hammer, punches his way through fifty bandits, has become a classic and has been quoted many times in both Korean and Western cinema.

But the most explicit scene in The Decision to Leave is the attack by a river turtle on Investigator Jan. And for all the incredible sexual tension between the characters, it doesn't go beyond a kiss in the cold wind under the falling snow. Without losing a bit of drama and eroticism from all this, the film fits perfectly into the global trend of “care”, which even the once unbridled “Game of Thrones” did not escape. At the same time, The Decision to Leave seems to be a natural development of Pak's directorial style - since the mid-10s he has been shooting exclusively detective stories with a nervous love line and expressive, leading female characters: a remake of the classic The Handmaid (2016) and a series made for the BBC, a remake of George Roy Hill's film "Little Drummer Girl" (2018).

In the story of the romantic love of two unexpectedly good people (unexpectedly - for neo-noir, in which the woman is obviously assigned the role of the devil, and the hero-cop - a semi-criminal who works for human law, but violates all the commandments), some fragments of alternative plots are constantly wedged. Either Yang Hye Zhong, with varying success, investigates a certain case of crimes of passion, then he gets a typical “grouse” - a case of stealing expensive turtles from a farm. Somewhere behind the scenes, the cold wife of the hero is having an affair with a colleague, and in the frame, it seems, a quick-tempered partner is trying to court him. At some point, this partner is replaced by a strange woman with a masculine appearance - this is the star of Korean stand-up and comedy Kim Shin-young. In general, the eclecticism and heterogeneity inherent in Korean cinema (elements of various genres can be mixed in one film) here creates a completely dreamy atmosphere. The narrative floats, breaks, reconnects, letters of messages in the messenger float on the screen, and sometimes the camera even falls through the screen of the smartphone and looks at the characters from there. The feeling of chronic lack of sleep, in which the world turns into an unsettling fairy tale, is conveyed very accurately here. The seaside nature especially contributes to the fabulous atmosphere. The final scene, in which the heroine fulfills her decision to "leave" - ​​and in an extremely exotic way - is played out in a place of incredible exotic beauty, more like the scenery for a Chinese opera. The crimson sunset illuminates the bizarre heaps of rocks and pines twisted under the eternal sea winds, the tide rises, and the advancing waves crash against the boulders. The fate embodied in the elements overtakes the doomed lovers - and here it is already meaningless to ask what prevented the romance of the ideal policeman and the ideal criminal, who managed to cheat everyone except fate.

In theaters from 29 September

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