Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

One could argue, and successfully at that, than South Korean director Chan-wook Park is the most gifted film director working today. The man certainly knows how twist and shape his imagery to form some rather dynamic compositions. Though more famous locally and abroad for his acclaimed Vengeance Trilogy, Park’s latest film ‘I’m a Cyborg, but that’s Okay’ would seem to be the man’s take on the romantic comedy genre. Chan-wook Park and Romantic Comedy. Doesn’t sound like two words that really belong together, and while ‘I’m a cyborg’ is probably in the grand scheme of things not very romantic, and it’s comedy tends to be a little black, I don’t think anyone would doubt that it is most certainly a Chan-wook Park film.

After a hyper stylized opening credit sequence we are introduced to Cha-young goon, a young woman who is certainly deranged, as we can easily discern by watching the lady slit her wrist, insert a couple of wires into her slit wrist and then plug wires into the AC outlet (I guess they use AC in South Korea). Young goon is convinced that she is a cyborg and she was simply trying to recharge as the voices over the intercom were instructing her to do. Damn voices always telling crazy people to do stupid stuff. Young goon spends most of her time at the nut house talking, and interacting with the other lunatics at the facility and starving herself to death. She’s convinced herself that food makes her sick and she can only power up through electrical means, which is why she sucks on a battery during meal time. Young goons ultimate goal though is to kill the white ‘ums. No, not people from Idaho, but the doctors and nurses whom she has lumped into one big pile for taking her granny away from her when she was a child. The White 'uns also forgot to take Granny’s dentures with them, more reason for them to die.

Also at the looney bin (let’s see how politically incorrect we can get here) is Il-Sun (Rain – like Cher, Bono, Madonna… the man’s name is just Rain). Rain is not quite as crazy as the other people at the joint, and is there voluntarily truth be told, but still has some pretty major lunacy issues. Il-Sun has gotten a reputation of being a thief at the wacko ward, but not for stealing chewing gum and jewelry and the sort, but stealing people’s imagined powers and emotions. This is exactly what Young-goon needs as she follows the Korean pop singer around to try to get him to steal her sympathy so that she can kill all of the ‘white ‘ums’ and not feel bad about it. A strange thing starts to happen between these two rather charming whacked out fruitcakes, for as they spend more time together, they begin to fall in love.

Chan-wook Park, because of his previous work and his undeniable talent, has now risen to the status of cult icon similar to that of a Takashi Miike or a Quentin Tarantino where he has acquired legions of blood rabid fans who defend, with their lives if necessary, anything that the man is able to put on film. Even if it’s crap. This is not to say that ‘I’m a Cyborg but that’s OK’ is crap, because it isn’t, but it is a confusing, jumbled, choppy, and incoherent in some spots. It’s also visually arresting, well acted, incredibly clever in spots and very, very witty. It is this mixture of the remarkably fresh and incredibly confusing that will ultimately serve more to frustrate than to entertain.

One of the things that adds to the confusion of the film are the vast number of psychos running around the hospital that we are introduced to, making it hard to keep track of all of the characters. It’s almost like the third X-Men movie with all of those damn mutants running around, so you couldn’t keep track of who was who and what who could do. There are numerous flashbacks and quick inserts chronicling various tales in the lives of the various fruitcakes, which though sometimes entertaining, really only served to pad the films running time and interrupt the films rhythm. Were the director anyone other than Chan-wook Park, the editor probably would have left these excess scenes on the cutting room floor.

Why director Park is given such creative leeway is fairly obvious however. ‘I’m Cyborg…’ is an absolutely stunning piece of visual cinema. Working with cinematographer Jeong-hun Jeong, the images this pair creates jump off the screen with life and vibrant color. Park stages scenes and frames scenes as well as any filmmaker I personally have ever seen, and this film is filled with the directors incredible eye for detail. He also has few peers in his ability to punctuate scenes of incredible violence. How much violence can be in a film filled with lovable lunatics? Quite a bit it would seem. Also, with all due respect to actress Su-joeng Lim, she was so good in her role as lunatic Young-goon that I’m fairly certain she’s insane for real.

‘I’m a Cyborg but that’s OK’ is a case of the sum of its parts being far greater than the whole. It is great to look at, shot with an incredible level of skill and talent, and well acted but ultimately as a film it simply wasn’t that entertaining. If there was a message that the director was attempting to get across, it went over my head. This is a film to be admired for its artistry and originality, but all of these superlatives aside it is probably this great directors weakest work.

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