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The Crack Magazine

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Film of the Month: Decision to Leave

Director: Park Chan-wook

Stars: Tang Wei, Park Hae-il, Lee Jung-Hyun, Kim Shin-Young, Go Kyung-pyo, Jung Yi-Seo

Korean director Park Chan-wook's latest picture is an immaculately-realised noir puzzle with shades of Hitchcock’s ‘Vertigo’. Park Hae-il is Hae-joon, a happily-married homicide detective working the Busan beat, who is partnered with the inexperienced hot-headed younger detective Soo-wan (Go Kyung-pyo). His attractive, smart wife Jung-an (Lee Jung-hyun) lives in a small coastal town some miles away so the couple are only really together on his days off. Police business is pretty quiet until a middle-aged climber’s body is found at the base of a mountain. It appears to have been a straightforward accident, but when Hae-joon interviews the widow, the beautiful Chinese immigrant, Seo-Rae (a compellingly enigmatic Tang Wei) who works as a carer for the elderly, she seems curiously unmoved by her husband’s death. The characters’ immediate chemistry is elegantly illustrated in a sequence in which Hae-joon questions Seo-Rae in the interrogation room over an expensive box of sushi (much to the amusing annoyance of his cash-strapped colleagues) and afterwards interviewer and interviewee clean up quickly and efficiently like a married couple. The insomniac Hae-joon places Seo-Rae under surveillance and continues to watch her, even after it seems apparent she is innocent. Seo-Rae plays along, even tacitly encouraging his growing obsession as the case becomes knottier. Park and Tang exude an intoxicating chemistry, generating a palpable erotic charge, though Park’s actual presentation of their romance is chaste, while Kim Ji-yong’s perspective-shifting photography is endlessly inventive but never distracting. It doesn’t quite reach the heights of Park’s 2016 masterpiece ‘The Handmaiden’ 

and may well prove a little too labyrinthine for some tastes over its lengthy 140 minutes running time, but this is a major work from a master filmmaker.

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