Jun-seok Bang

Paradise Murdered (2007, Kim Han-min)

Paradise Murdered is particular kind of murder mystery… I’m having trouble coming up with a good adjective. I need something to take various elements into account: it’s uncanny, post-paced, engaging… it’s also laugh-out-loud funny. So I guess it’s madcap. Or zany. I’ve never seen a film so deftly toggle between being funny and being disturbing.

As a mystery, Paradise is basically an Agatha Christie mystery, just without a detective. There are seventeen people and one of them is a murderer (or isn’t). Red herrings and McGuffins come up from the second scene in the film and some of them are neon, making the dimmer ones’ digestion discrete. It’s all very masterfully put together, because the element of the uncanny, at times, gives it a bit of a Shining feel… only less embarrassing… and better. (There is one neat Shining reference I’m not sure I would have noticed if the fiancΓ©e hadn’t made the comparison a few minutes before).

The acting is all first rate, which is a bit of an achievement, since a) everyone’s a suspect and that situation usually lends to some real hamming and b) because there are at least two crazy characters and crazy characters are hard to pull off. Park Hae-il is the lead, I guess, but he’s that great kind of lead who fits in with the rest of the cast. It’s a combination of the direction, the script, and Park’s performance. I knew there was someone famous who I should have recognized but it wasn’t until afterwards I looked it up and realized it was Park. He integrates really well, an important factor in such a large cast.

The director, Kim Han-min, also wrote the film and it’s a surprise. His direction and attention to characters is entirely dispassionate. While his composition is adequate and he directs actors well, he can’t sustain any urgency for more than a few minutes. The times when Paradise actually gets disturbing or scary (though my fiancΓ©e wholly disagrees–she didn’t find it scary at all) obviously took a lot of work and Kim really has to pull all the stops (is that expression correct?) to get it to register.

But, like any Christie-esque mystery, the point is to engage while the film is running and Paradise Murdered does so… even introducing that adroit comedic element.



Written and directed by Kim Han-min; director of photography, Kim Yong-heung; edited by Shin Min-gyeong; music by Bang Jun-seok; produced by Choi Du-young; released by MK Pictures.

Starring Park Hae-il (Woo Seong), Park Sol-mi (Gwi-nam), Seong Ji-ru, Choi Ju-bong, Kim In-mun and Park Won-sang.

…ing (2003, Lee Eon-hie)

While the Koreans do make the best ‘dying girl with mysterious illness falls in love’ better than anyone else, I’m not sure it’s an honor one would want. The amazing thing about how well they make these films is I don’t have any complaints with the writing of …ing. It’s fine. It’s effective, engaging, occasionally too much, but only once or twice. As far as a melodrama goes, it’s got a great base. There’s a really unique element–the dying girl doesn’t know she’s dying for the majority of the film, another surprise I actually can’t give away, and then there’s a nice coda on the film. The problem is the director. I could use a baking metaphor here, but basically, the director dropped the ball over and over and over again. The film’s got two great endings it doesn’t use, it’s got some easily correctable mediocre scenes–all from a directorial and editing standpoint, so… yeah. Lee just dropped the ball.

See, the girl’s a great artist and it never comes up. Beginning and end, those times are it. It’s not just a missed opportunity, it’s a logic problem. She doesn’t have time to be an artist because we spend the whole movie with her. The handling of the mystery illness and the deformed hand are questionable too. They come up in some really good scenes, but it’s real clear the filmmakers are skirting the issue.

The acting’s excellent. Lee Mi-suk is great, not much of a surprise there, as the girl’s mother. It gives Lee a lot of different angles to play–sad, funny, whatnot–which lets her give the character some resonance, because once the romance takes off, she becomes a device more than anything else. The lead, Lim Su-jeong, is good too, but since the film never firmly establishes she doesn’t understand her condition… it’s a bit of a guessing game. The guy, played by Kim Rae-won, gets to have the most fun and he shows a lot more range than initially visible.

It’s a stalely directed tear-jerker with bad music choices, but if you’re going to watch one, it’s one of the better ones.



Directed by Lee Eon-hie; written by Kim Jin; edited by Lee Hyeon-mi; music by Bang Jun-seok; production designer, Lee Jong-pil; released by Tube Entertainment.

Starring Lim Su-jeong (Min-a), Kim Rae-won (Yeong-jae), Lee Mi-suk (Mi-suk), Yun Chang (Kyung-soo) and Kim In-mum (the crossing guard).

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