Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Bad Guy

If you watch enough movies, you notice cinematic tricks. For example, casting a sympathetic looking actor and playing lots of evocative piano music might try to get the audience to like a character. Kim Ki-Duk knows this, so this trick is deployed in Bad Guy, except with a rapist. It's a film about a man doing horrible things - hence the completely justified title - presented as a love story.

Jae-hyeon Jo plays that Bad Guy, a mostly silent protagonist who tries to pick up the lovely lady played by Won Seo, and fails, spectacularly, as he just creeps her out. Then he kisses her and she likes him even less. So, he effectively tricks her into being a prostitute and watches as she is essentially raped over and over again. So yes, a bad guy.

Ki-Duk films it like a love story though. Jo's got a great emotional face, and he just looks so gosh darn likable. If you walked in mid-way through you'd think awww, this guy could never be a rapist, look at him! Plus the really pleasant soundtrack manipulates you to care about him, which would be fine if he was like Sting and trying to stop her from being a prostitute, rather than forcing her to become one due to deception.

It becomes a commentary on how film can manipulate us into feeling things which might not be deserved, but it's kind of awesome for that. Sure, it's very difficult to watch, and most people will be completely disgusted by the events that happen on screen, but that's kind of the point. It's a reminder that a good director is going to play with your emotions, and you have to look past the pretty soundtrack and evocative shots to see what is really happening.

I've read people say the picture is misogynistic, but I think Ki-Duk is just trying to mess with the audience. Here's a guy deploying as many cinematic tricks as possible to turn a story about a horrible person doing terrible things into a love story, and Stockholm Syndrome into something romantic. It's manipulative to the highest degree, and is quite provocative because of it.

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