Monday, October 12

Attack on the Pin-Up Boys (Korea, 2007)

Soju, the Korean rice wine, and SuJu, or Super Junior, the largest boy band in the world, is a deadly combination. Attack on the Pin-Up Boys, produced mainly for Super Junior fans, which stars 12 of the 13 members, is a convincing comedy and a surprisingly energetic satire on fame. I was preparing myself for some mindless fun, hence the soju to make the experience more giddy. While the movie does deliver within (quite low) expectations---loads of slapstick, anime-quirky effects, and the SuJu boys in all their charming glory---it also goes beyond a fluff piece, dissecting both popularity and fandom.

Ugly truths so ugly it has to be funny.

When shit hits the face.

The movie begins with a series of attacks on popular pretty boys who get hit by shit on the face. Not for queasy stomachs, I tell you. At first, students are appalled. Until the victims become celebrities and three popular students from Neulparan High School---judo jock Kangin, dancer Heechul and school president Siwon (yes, their names remain unchanged)---race to get hit by shit. The Super Junior boys aren't exactly playing themselves but the meta-poking does add to the playful criticism of Korea's (or anywhere else's) idol culture. Kibum, the boy detective, ponders about the incidents and the reaction of the masses. Did the ordinary kids feel better that pretty boys or flower boys were being attacked in such a degrading manner? Was it general boredom with their own ordinary lives that made them react with such frenzy?

"When grown-ups say we have potential it only makes us more nervous."

It's also interesting to note that Super Junior is not your typical idol group. The boys that make up SuJu is a cross section of the male population: from the jock to the effeminate, from the scrawny to the overweight. Extraordinary circumstances (and hard work) have made them stars in their own right; Attack on the Pin-Up Boys also shows an insecure boy band while celebrating their differences. Kyuhyun and Ryeowook standout for their comedic timing, while the rest of the members all deliver a very natural performance.

The film doesn't aim to make a statement and it ends thoughtfully, with the desire of those who criticize fame to be famous.

Attack on the Pin-Up Boys is hilarious and super strange. The panda judo member, the Jedi school president and the cartoonish special effects all say that the movie is not to be taken seriously. But it's hard to ignore the undercurrent ugliness of it all.

Here's the prerequisite song and dance at the end, synchronized-dancing crazy Wonder Boy:

Tuesday, October 6

Kinatay (Philippines, 2009)

Like Joseph Garcin in Jean Paul-Sartre's No Exit, Peping didn't realize that the room he was about to enter was hell. And when it dawned on him somewhere between buying balut and the ragged butchering, he couldn't---didn't---want to leave the safety of being in the dark.

Geography and malice are indiscernibles; the mind is in equal footing with matter. The dark, chaotic streets of Manila may as well be purgatory, twisting and squeezing the morality out of the film.

There are no surprises in Brillante Mendoza's parable of a young man's descent to something less human, but it is hypnotic. It is an experience, more than anything else.

This was supposed to be my shelter from the storm. Trapped in a mall while a typhoon drowned and destroyed Metro Manila, Kinatay became the dangerously perfect metaphor to the (perceived) pointlessness of it all.

Its blanket nihilism makes the film susceptible to both severe criticism and blind praises. It is an empty canvas.

A negative space.

Politics. Censorship. Arthouse experiment. A heart of darkness.

You decide.