Death by Hanging ★★★½

Paradox as political discourse—genius when it's WEEKEND AT BERNIE'S, too obvious as a Schary lecture.

Lots to ponder in this one. A few years back in a film theory class, we had watched the first fifteen minutes—a documentary like procedure of how hangings work—and I had falsely assumed the entire film would be as grim. So I was extremely surprised when the narrative turned to use the form of discourse and paradox to make a political point, but did it in a way that was so damn funny. The comparison I made above to "Weekend at Bernie's" is partly a joke, but it is totally hilarious how these guys try to make this possibly dead soul attempt to act like someone he is but is also not. Even though the scenes can go on for too long after they've made their impact, they are really funny in their satire, especially during the ridiculous sequence outside of the prison in which the investigator is so blinded in his conviction that he is willing to takeover the entire process. What left me frustrated in this movie, however, was the last 30 minutes, especially when the satire turns from one of humanity to a whole lecture about the relationship between Korea and Japan. Part of this might be my ignorance about the relationship at the time in relation to how much it was discussed at the time, but while the politics in the beginning is subsumed through discourse, this only presents an ideological rant that you'd expect to see in a Dore Schary picture (even those have a little more subtlety). Add to that the final line of the film, and this actually had my eyes rolling at time. Still, wonderfully photographed, lyrical at times, and those first 50 minutes are so damn funny that I'm really glad I saw this one.