Tag Archives: Snowpiercer

‘Mother’ has touches of David Lynch

What would this mild-mannered woman do to save her son?

What would this mild-mannered woman do to save her son?

I’ve said before that Joon-Ho Bong’s The Host is probably the second-best creature flick I’ve ever seen, trailing only Jaws. I’ve also previously expressed my affection for Bong’s Snowpiercer, a nice piece of sci-fi cinema.

But somehow I’d missed what might be Bong’s finest work so far, 2009’s Mother. The movie opens with titular mother, played magnificently by Hye-ja Kim (pictured above), standing in a field of wheat, dancing dreamily and emotionless, no one around to witness this except the viewers.

Upon seeing this, I immediately thought of Twin Peaks, the soon-to-be revived serial soap co-created by cinematic super-freak David Lynch. Whether it’s Audrey dancing by herself in the Double R or Leland crying and pleading for someone to be his partner at the bar of the Great Northern, Twin Peaks is my screen reference for all things related to weird dancing. Between the music and Kim’s movements, it seemed like it could have been pulled straight from the show.

As Mother unfolded, it continued to remind me a lot of Twin Peaks and what is probably regarded as Lynch’s greatest cinematic achievement, Blue Velvet. Both of Lynch’s creations deal with smashing the American, small-town mythos. America’s small towns are really not what Leave It to Beaver and The Andy Griffith Show would have you believe. Yes, the serene, exterior perfection isn’t hard to find in the burgs and hamlets of the good ol’ U, S of A. But what lies underneath that facade is shadowy and disturbing, made more so because those who live there do their best to keep up the front and ignore the darkness.

Mother has a lot of that, the exposure of hidden sins in what happens to be a near-perfect place to live. Everyone knows everyone, the murder rate is nearly non-existent, eccentrics can be left to their own devices, even flourish in their own way. But as mother tries to clear her son of the murder he has been accused of, we see the classism, the small-town snark, corruption, bullying, underage prostitution, all of this which everyone seems to know is happening but refuses to confront in any meaningful way. Even those who appear to be innocents, as the tale unfolds, we find those people to be just as bad or worse than those in power.

The Host and Snowpiercer are flashier and more accessible, particularly for western audiences. But Mother is a work of great nuance and substance, signifying the work of someone who has greater depths to delve into. I can’t wait to see where Bong take audiences next.

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Three reasons to like ‘Snowpiercer’

Had the pleasure of catching Joon-Ho Boon’s (The Host) Snowpiercer this weekend, and for any action, apocalypse or sci-fi fans out there, I’d recommend checking it out.

The sycophantic, snobby Mason (Tilda Swinton) is the overseer of those poor, miserable wretches living in the tail of a train that never stops.

The sycophantic, snobby Mason (Tilda Swinton) is the overseer of those poor, miserable wretches living in the tail of a train that never stops.

1. Tilda Swinton. Swinton plays Mason, a woman at the top of the caste system on the titular train. The train travels the world non-stop, because to stop is to freeze, and to freeze is death. In an overreaction to global warming, a chemical was released into the air which cause the entire planet’s temperature to drop quickly and significantly, making most of humanity extinct. Mason keeps the “tail” in line, the lowest group in the train’s caste system. She relishes her power, which allows her to lecture incessantly as well as mete out violent discipline. Swinton is always great, and she hits another one out of the ball park with Mason.

On a train, there's nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.

On a train, there’s nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.

2. Claustrophobia. The train is such a great setting, forcing all action into compact spaces. The train allows no place to hide when things go wrong, and faces its own issues such as tracks covered by frozen avalanches. It is the salvation of everyone on it, as well as a curse and a prison. Allocation of resources is a key theme, and when you see how crammed in the folks in the tail are compared to the luxury of those who live closer to the engine, that righteous, 99 percenter rage will rise. All of this and more serve to make the train not just the setting, but one of its important characters.

Another obstacle face by our plucky group of revolutionaries.

Another obstacle faced by our plucky group of revolutionaries.

3. Traveling into the heart of darkness. I thought a lot about both Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now and the novel it was based on, Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. This idea that, at the end of the line, there is a man with answers, who is the answer, who must pay for his sins, for everyone’s sins. The journey, the obsession, the dread of what such a powerful man might do to defend himself and his territory. How that all evolves into myth, making such a man seem almost god-like, immortal. Boon’s screenplay and direction, beyond a talkie third act, create a consistent pace that allows the journey and ensuing action to flow from the tail to the engine.

But don’t take my word for it. See for yourself.

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