Park Chan-Wook’s films are paradoxes in motion: the blunt blows are bloody and irrational, yet underneath the aesthetic chaos is a composed puzzle to be rationally put together. No stone is left unturned in these ultraviolet games of cosmic chess. Decision to Leave is precisely this. An austere game: great to look at, but not necessarily enjoyable to play, it’s a feat of florid lensing, stunning set pieces and vertical cinema.
An austere game: great to look at, but not necessarily enjoyable to play
Its beauty lies in these formal and structural elements – in repetitions and reimaginings of Hollywood (there are several playful nods to Hitchcock and Verhoeven). Yet underneath all the gorgeously eerie environments and tweaked neo-noir twists is a strangely empty film. Perhaps too clever for its own good, the murder-not-so-mystery about a detective who falls in love with the killer falls victim to its own prey. The narrative and romance becomes whimsical and fluffy, often at odds with the visuals.
The relationship’s pace and intensity feels artificial and clunky, muddying our emotional investment and sense of jeopardy. Like the secondary inspector watching an investigation through the looking glass, we’re never really in the room. Appreciation trumps enjoyment. Gone is the punk sandbox energy of Old Boyand the hot-under-the-collar erotic passion of The Handmaiden; we’re left with the sum of a perfect equation. A formalist formula which is formulaic. But, boy it is a lovely piece of arithmetic. ★ ★ ★
- Starts Feb 2 With Tang Wei, Hae il Park and Lee Jung-hyun.