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[HanCinema's Hall of Fame Review] "I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK": Serendipity and Mad Love

2014/04/12 | Permalink

In the Spotlight this Week: Park Chan-wook's "I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK"...

After adding a heroine hypotenuse to his righteous "Vengeance Trilogy" Park Chan-wook went mad. Like the ancient Pythagoreans before him, Park's subsequent scripts toiled over the square root of two and the universal imperfection that results. "Thirst" and "I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK" are the tragic afterbirths of Park's troubling trilogy; two love-struck tangentials that explore matters of the mind, body, and soul from the outside Park's roots in revenge and, instead, square the human condition through myth and madness.

In "I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK" Park muses over atypical attraction deep within a zany sanatorium. Within these padded corridors roams a mad menagerie of silly souls, each with their own unique malady and amusing idiosyncrasies. The newest addition is a young woman named Yeong-goon (Im Soo-jung), a delightful deviant who was recently admitted after attempting to electrocute herself to death by slitting her wrists, inserting wires into her veins, and plugging herself in to charge. This bright-spark idea was not her own, but rather the placid instructions she received from the radio waves she was tuned into. Yeong-goon's inadvertent suicide attempt gets her sent straight to a psychiatric hospital; a curious place packed with a delirious and maladaptive members, mayhem, and magic.

Yeong-goon believes she is a cyborg, an electrically powered person who needs ample current to survive. She became traumatised after her grandmother was carted away by the "men in white" for believing she was a mouse (and devouring an obscene amount of radish), and now hangs onto her grandma's dentures and delirium hoping to understand her programmed purpose in life. She licks batteries for the buzz at lunch, talks to vending machines and fluorescent lights by night, secretly dreams of obliterating all the orderlies with her built-in Gatling gun, and welcomes electro-shock therapy as a means to charge her cells.

She keeps her cybernetic condition a secret, but her bolts-over-biscuits lifestyle soon takes its toll on her fleshy casing and intervention becomes inevitable. The medical residences try to force-feed her, but an unlikely, and self-admitted, hero has another strategy for her salvation. Il-soon (Rain) is an anti-social kleptomaniac who believes he can "steal" other patience's problems: a skill Yeong-goon hopes to make use as she aims to shed herself of the seven sins of circuitry she picked up through another one of her radio broadcasts. The two develop a cute and clumsy relationship as this robotic Rapunzel throws down her coils and trusts this thief to reconnect her with a reality. The result is mutually beneficial romance of the heart and mind--a magical middle ground made for two.

"I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK" is lavish and lurid piece stunningly presented and that's curiously captivating. Park has retreated from the blood-stained brutality of his previous predicaments and managed a delightful romance riddled with loveable characters, compassionate compositions, and a truly odd tale of crazy love that makes complete sense. The film is gorgeously realised with frame after frame of eye-catching brilliance leading the charge through what is, in essence, a romantic comedy qua dreamy drama. This story of complicated love made simple and sweet is one of Korea's most memorable, and while it may not be one of Park's most profitable, it is still a gem of journey that short-circuits conventions and leaks love in a whimsical and wonderful way.

- C.J. Wheeler (chriscjw@gmail.com@KoreaOnTheCouch)

 

Available on DVD from YESASIA and Amazon

DVD Special Edition TW (En, Ch, Ch Tr Sub) DVD (HK) (En Sub) DVD US (En Sub)

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