Memories of Murder

Memories of Murder ★★★★½

World Tour 2020

It's a shame that it's had to happen under the current circumstances, but the last few weeks of visits to cinemas have showed me what *I* would like to see more of at them.

The blockbusters have been largely absent as Disney, mostly, shit themselves at losing cash that they don't fucking need in the first place. In their place, low budget and arthouse films have been more visible, with re-releases for much loved older films. And.... *gasp*..... even foreign language films have been getting some attention. And in the case of Memories of Murder, older foreign language films. Fucking hell, lads!

I would largely have preferred that millions of people wouldn't have become ill and, in a lot of cases, died for this sea change to have come about. But this is what I want cinema to be like all the time, and I say that as somebody who obviously loves a big budget film or two and looks forward to them quite regularly. Then again, my opportunities to see films like Make Up, Les Miserables and Schemers at the cinema would normally be extremely limited or just non-existent. Next week I'm planning on seeing On the Rocks and Eternal Beauty. I'm just asking for this mix of films ALL THE TIME and it's amazing what little gems you might end up finding to watch when there's not a fucking Marvel film clogging the schedules up all the fucking time.

Now I know the Bonghive (is it all one word, I don't care) didn't tune into this review to read me harping on about the current state of cinema, but I think it's a debate worth having in conjunction with Memories of Murder. Because there's no way I was getting the chance to see this at the cinema if the usual raft of blockbusters were taking up most cinema slots, and that's even despite the fact that it was directed by a man who has been the talk of the town since Parasite hit the screens.

My first viewing of this, probably about 10 or 12 years ago, was *slightly* underwhelming. I still generally liked it but I seem to remember struggling with the tone of it, and looking round at the odd negative or questioning review of Memories of Murder, that seems to be the most regular issue flagged up too. Even on this viewing, where I appreciated it a lot more, I can see why people might have a problem with this.

But as events progress, the bizarrely regular dropkicks, people slipping on their arse, and general police incompetence becomes less and less funny. The idiocy of the detectives involved in this case unquestionably leads to more victims and when they do, eventually, find themselves on more or less the right track in terms of finding the culprit for these murders, they are ill-equipped to effect an arrest.

Even the apparently razor sharp big city new arrival is beaten and left behaving in an even worse way than those he's supposed to be helping. It's not just a simple case of him being dragged down by the case and his colleagues, Bong is superlative at highlighting character backgrounds without saying anything explicit about them. Kim Sang-kyung's arrival in this small town gradually becomes more and more questionable. He's not there for a bigger police force to help out the 'country bumpkins', is he? He's there because he's probably had no choice in the matter. He even says at one point he's never encountered a case like that in Seoul. Not much use then, is he?

Bong's character work is easily my favourite aspect of his films, and there's arguably nobody better around at this right now. Song Kang-ho is completely unsuited for the job from the outset yet right up to the sensationally good ending, where he thinks he's had a revelation but actually hasn't really, we slowly see just *how* bad he is at being a detective. He's just not up to the job at all.

After all, the murderer lives in a small town and kills under very specific circumstances. Yet they still can't catch him. This is less a procedural and more a story about how a murderer is going to keep evading capture even though he's far from committing the perfect crimes. Bong's originality and grasp of being able to stretch genre cinema as far as it can reasonably go has been there for a lot longer than Parasite and, in the case of Memories of Murder (and maybe Mother, too), is perhaps an even better example of this.

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