Decision to Leave

Decision to Leave ★★★★½

Park Chan-wook's penchants for puzzle-box plotting and baroque visuals have occasionally led viewers (including me) to complain about being kept at an emotional remove from his characters. As others have noted, DECISION TO LEAVE owes a debt to VERTIGO, the film that made him want to become a director when he first saw it in college (and one that he already paid homage to in OLDBOY). Imagine a VERTIGO where Scotty and Madeleine become mutually obsessed with each other after being reunited and you'll have some idea of what Park is up to here. This is equal parts thriller, romantic tragedy and dark comedy but, unlike when most Western filmmakers try something similar, Park blends them together masterfully and without a sense of postmodern irony (i.e., he doesn't see movie genres as "museums to be plundered"). There were moments in the second half of this, after the narrative resets itself in a new location, where I couldn't help but wonder if there wasn't a little bit too much going on and if Park wasn't being too clever for his own good. But the final scene, which aims for -- and succeeds at achieving -- an operatic tone, ties everything together in a deeply satisfying way. This is my favorite Park since LADY VENGEANCE and maybe my favorite period. Also, the editing is insane.

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