The Third Man

Hadn’t seen this “greatest of foreign noirs” (Bogdanovich) in a good long while, and so I expected the angles and the shadows, Orson and the cuckoo clocks, the Prater and the sewers, the exquisite Graham Greene plotting and cutting repartee, but I had forgotten just how masterfully it all fits together. The German-language bit players are all fantastic, especially Paul Hörbiger and Hedwig Bleibtreu. The last shot got me good, and I have a new favorite line, too: “I had no idea there were snake charmers in South Texas!” Makes The Good German look especially pointless in retrospect. Muckworld trivia: I used to work for a Hispaniola Honorary Consul.

The Third Man. Carol Reed, 1949. *****

The Host

Yes, yes, yes! Bong Joon-ho’s record-breaking monster movie strikes a perfect balance between broad social satire, oddball comedy, and honest-to-god horror thrills. Thanks to Americans who blithely pollute the Han river, an amphibious mutant creature with fearsome mandibles and a prehensile tail haunts the sewers of Seoul. The creature is designed by Weta, but the family that has to fight it–along with backstabbing salarymen and untrustworthy government agencies–is 100% Korean, a bunch of ramen-selling “losers” (Bong) who are prone to screwing up just when it matters most. In Bong’s hands, stock scenes, like the character-building moments of respite between monster attacks, turn into little gems of droll humor and genuine sadness. The plot doesn’t follow Hollywood conventions, and the biohazard setup allows all sorts of swipes at SARS and American hubris, including a few stabs at the Iraq war. It’s all shot beautifully, and some of Bong’s directorial flourishes made me want to pump my fist and shout “yeah!” Tentative release date is January 29, 2007.

The Host. Bong Joon-ho, 2006. ****

[tags]film, 4 stars, horror, monster, korea, bong joon-ho, nyff, seoul, sewers, satire[/tags]