Monday, April 06, 2015

Barking Dogs Never Bite

Directed by Bong Joon-ho and written by Joon-ho, Song Ji-ho, and Derek Son Tae-woong, Barking Dogs Never Bite is the story of an unemployed professor who kidnaps dogs and abuse them while a young woman who lives in the same apartment building goes on the search to find them. The film is based on a famous folklore story in Europe that is very popular in Asia as it is a strange mix of black comedy and terror. Starring Lee Sung-Jae, Bae Doona, and Byun Hee-bong. Barking Dogs Never Bite is a strange yet whimsical film from Bong Joon-ho.

A series of mysterious disappearances from dogs caused by a graduate student eager to become a professor prompts a young woman, who lives in the same apartment building, to go on a search to find them. It’s a film that plays into a man driven to the edge in his own personal and professional life that he would do such a thing. Much of the film takes place in this apartment building where there’s a rule about not having dogs live there as Ko Yun-ju (Lee Sung-jae) is shocked that there are people who live with dogs. That irritation adds to the growing troubles as he is trying to get a job as a professor through some dishonest means. The film’s screenplay does portray Ko as a man with sympathy as he is married to a cruel pregnant wife in Eun-sil (Kim Ho-jung) as his acts to take it out on dogs play into someone that is just being pushed to the edge.

The disappearance of a dog prompts a lowly office worker in Park Hyun-nam (Bae Doona) to do something in the hopes of getting a hefty reward and some attention to get out of her dull life. The script plays into Park’s willingness to try and be on TV but it often comes into elements of humiliation as well as moments of some very dark yet offbeat humor. Even as Ko would encounter things in an attempt to find a dog as it plays to strange events and stories that goes inside the apartment. Some of it is played for laughs while other moments are just dark with elements that mixes both. All of which play into two people trying to deal with the chaos of their lives as well as the harsh realities they want to escape from.

Bong Joon-ho’s direction is very stylish not just in his use of tracking shots but also in the compositions he create. Especially in his usage of close-ups and medium shots that play into some of the drama as well as eerie scenes that play into Ko’s struggle. Even in moments where he tries to redeem himself but would often encounter certain things like a janitor (Byun Hee-bong) telling a tenant about a chilling story Joon-Ho creates this air of suspense that would loom throughout the film. Joon-ho also creates some dazzling usage of crane shots as well as chase scenes where Park would chase Ko, though she has no idea who she is chasing, in the apartment building where a lot of steadicams are used to capture the action as the apartment building itself is a character in the film. Some of which are comical but it also plays into moments that are very dark as Joon-ho also knows how to stage the drama for a moment where Ko would lose a dog as it would bring Ko and Park together to find it.

There’s also these dark moments as it relates to the struggles that Ko would endure as it relates to his own uncertain future as it includes this sequence about what Ko would have to do to get a job as a professor. It is a moment that is quite chilling as it plays into the added pressure that Ko is dealing with as he would take it out on dogs. The film’s third act would have Ko not only come to terms with his own actions but also in dealing with the unhappiness he is having in his life. Joon-ho’s approach to compositions become far more intriguing as he would mix elements of fantasy and reality for a few scenes as it relates to what Park wants for herself but there is still elements of reality that she is forced to accept. Especially for Ko who copes with some of the aspects of his own life but wonders if he is willing to move on from it. Overall, Joon-ho creates an engaging yet witty film about two people dealing with the dark aspects of reality.

Cinematographers Jo Yeong-gyu and Cho Yong-kyou do amazing work with the cinematography as it‘s very colorful for some of the daytime exteriors while using some low-key lights and such for some eerie interior/exterior scenes at night. Editor Lee Eun-soo does fantastic work with the editing to create some offbeat rhythms for the humor and action along with elements of jump-cuts and slow-motion cuts for some of the intense moments including the chase sequence. Production designer Hang Lee does excellent work with the look of the apartment rooms to present the personality of the characters as well as the places they go to.

Costume designer Choi Yun-jung does terrific work with the costumes from the yellow hoodie that Park wears to the casual look of Ko. Visual effects supervisor Jung Sung-jin does nice work with some of the minimal visual effects as it relates to a few key stunts and moments involving the dogs. Sound mixers Choi Tae-young and Oh Weon-chul do superb work with the sound to create elements of suspense as well as eerie moments that play into Ko‘s troubled state of mind including the sounds of barking dogs. The film’s music by Jo Seong-woo is brilliant as it is this lively mix of jazz with bits of classical as it plays into some of the film’s humor and dramatic moments as it’s one of the film’s highlights.

The film’s phenomenal cast includes some notable small roles from Kim Jin-goo as an old lady with a Chihuahua, Kim Roi-ha as a mysterious man who lives in the apartment basement, Go Soo-hee as Park’s friend Yoon, and Byun Hee-bong as the maintenance man who would cook food in the basement as he would tell a chilling story to a tenant that Ko would listen to. Kim Ho-jung is wonderful as Ko’s pregnant wife Eun-sil as she is quite cruel to him by making him break walnuts and spending money on things as there’s aspects about her that doesn’t make her a total bitch. Bae Doona is remarkable as Park Hyun-nam as this young and aimless woman who sees an opportunity to find dogs in the hopes to get some kind of reward as she also copes with the downside of the real world. Finally, there’s Lee Sung-jae in a riveting performance as Ko Yun-ju as this grad student who is desperate to become a professor as he becomes unhinged by all kinds of pressure as he would take it out on dogs as he becomes troubled by his actions and hopes to find some form of redemption.

Barking Dogs Never Bite is a sensational film from Bong Joon-ho. Armed with a fantastic cast and a story that is offbeat yet captivating, it’s a film that manages to be dark and weird. Yet, it’s also a film that plays into the world of humanity and the pressures they’re put upon to better themselves but in ways they’re unable to cope with. In the end, Barking Dogs Never Bite is a tremendously odd yet thrilling film from Bong Joon-ho.

Bong Joon-ho Films: Memories of Murder - The Host (2006 film)) - Tokyo!-Shaking Tokyo - Mother - Snowpiercer - Okja - Parasite - The Auteurs #44: Bong Joon-ho

© thevoid99 2015


Dell said...

Haven't heard of this one, but I do like this director. The Host, Snowpiercer, and Mother are all excellent so I'll definitely check this out.

thevoid99 said...

I hope you do as it's one of his essentials as the only one of his I need to see is Mother to complete his feature-film filmography for my Auteurs piece on him.