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Judge Joel Pearce's Blog

Judge Joel Pearce • Location: Waterloo, ON Canada
• Member since: March 2004
• 338 full reviews
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JSA blog review
June 21st, 2005 8:08PM

Regular readers probably already know my feelings about the Korean new wave already, but now with this release coming up, you too will have a chance to see the film that got me hooked on Korean films in the first place. I had seen Shiri and enjoyed it well enough, but it was JSA that showed me why South Korea had become the film industry to watch. It's also one of the best political thrillers ever made.

The Joint Security Area is the small border between North and South Korea, guarded by both sides and the location of occasional tension. One night, there's a double murder in the North Korean base, and a South Korean soldier is taken into custody after signing a confession. In order to keep the incident from exploding into another Korean war, a Swiss investigator with a Korean background is brought in to figure out what the hell happened.

I won't spoil anything else here. This is obviously being released now because it's directed by Park Chan-Wook, who also directed Oldboy, which has recently exploded into a cult sensation. Don't think for a second that makes JSA an inferior film. In fact, I think it's a better film, somehow cramming a heartfelt examination of human nature and war into the middle of an already full murder mystery. The great script and performances are backed by exquisite cinematography, making JSA a perfect primer for Korean cinema.

It looks like Palm is going to deliver a fine disc as well. The screening copy I received looks vastly better than my letterboxed Hong Kong edition. The sound transfer should be solid as well, although only a stereo dub track (shudder) was included on this disc. The original language track will be included in the final product My only major complaint is the flurry of spelling errors in the opening explanation. Hopefully it will get fixed before the disc ships.

I'm sorry to gush like this about a film. That said, I'm glad to act as an advocate for JSA. Looks like Palm has Memories of Murder coming down the pipe as well, which is going to make this a good summer for budding North American fans of Korean films. Check it out.

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