[Marxism] Save the Green Planet
lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Mar 23 11:04:27 MST 2005
"Save the Green Planet" (Ji-gu-reul ji-kyeo-ra!) is a grand guignol comedy
that evokes "Silence of the Lambs." The kidnapping victim in this instance
is a powerful Korean chemical factory owner who we first meet as he
stumbles drunkenly out of his limousine in a basement garage only to
encounter a young man and woman in what appears to be Halloween costumes
fashioned after 1950s outer space movies and consisting of construction
hard-hats with tiny rotating antennas, yellow rubber boots, silver-colored
vinyl ponchos, etc.
When the startled businessman demands to know what they are up to, the
young man, who is named Lee Byeong-gu (Ha-kyun Shin), announces that they
are there to save the planet earth from him. Byeong-gu has convinced
himself that the industrialist Kang Man-shik (Yun-shik Baek) is the leader
of a conspiracy directed from the planet Andromeda to take over the earth.
Only Byeong-gu and his girl-friend Sooni (Jeong-min Hwang), a homely
professional tightrope walker hopelessly in love with him, have discovered
the secret plan. It soon becomes clear that Sooni puts up with his
delusions because she is hopelessly in love with him.
After subduing the powerfully built but still drunk businessman, the two
kidnappers spirit him away to their mountain-top hideout. The first thing
on the agenda is to cut off his hair since Byeong-gu has convinced himself
that the space aliens can communicate to their mother-ship through their
hair. Sooni's reaction to her boyfriend's bizarre revelations is always an
open-mouthed "oh" followed by a wide smile. Desperate to retain his
affections, she will believe anything he says or at least pretend that she
Although the film starts off on a rollicking comic note that suggests
Scorcese's "King of Comedy," it soon becomes very dark as Byeong-gu submits
the businessman through a series of "tests" to prove that he is really from
outer space. They amount to the kinds of tortures used to extract
confessions from witches or Jews in the middle ages.
Although your sympathies are with the kidnapping victim forced to put up
with this ordeal, you still manage to empathize with Byeong-gu. We discover
that his mother is in a long-term coma, the result of an industrial
accident caused presumably by unsafe conditions in Kang Man-shik's factory
where she worked. His father was a coal miner who died in a cave-in.
Beyong-gu is a perpetual victim himself of Korea's cruel social and
economic realities. In high school, he is stripped and beaten before his
classmates after coming late to school. When he becomes a factory worker
himself, he is treated to a new round of indignities until finally snapping.
Cinematically, "Save the Green Planet" is a tour de force mixing in
slapstick comedy, animation, send-ups of 1950s science fiction movies and
clever references to a wide variety of more recent films, including a
hilarious homage to Kubrick's "2001".
Although you are initially convinced that the antihero is quite mad, the
stunning apocalyptic conclusion of this 2003 film leaves open the
possibility that sinister forces really are at work to destroy the planet.
Whether they are being mounted by space aliens or by the capitalist class
is left open.
"Save the Green Planet," directed by Jun-Hwan Jeong, joins a number of
other brilliant Korean films that I have seen over the past 3 years or so.
It would appear that semiperipheral countries such as Korea, Brazil,
Argentina and Turkey are in the forefront of film art today. With their
combination of ready investment capital, the result of uneven economic
development, and a cadre of politically and artistically inspired directors
and screenwriters, these countries can teach Hollywood a lot.
This is especially true in light of a review of two recent books on the
Hollywood film industry that appeared in the March 20, 2005 NY Times
review. Tom Shone's "Blockbuster: How Hollywood Learned to Stop Worrying
and Love the Summer" and Edward Jay Epstein's "The Big Picture: The New
Logic of Money and Power in Hollywood" both describe a Hollywood more
interested in profits than art.
Of particular interest is Epstein's discovery that studios "are not so much
makers of movies as they are clearinghouses, collecting money from a
hundred enterprises associated with any given film and then parceling it
out to an army of participants and investors. Those Monday morning
box-office figures we hear every week suddenly feel as phony and naïve as
One can easily connect this decline with every other symptom of imperialist
decline in the United States. As it progresses inexorably toward the same
kind of dotage that finally met the British Empire, it would seem that the
only thing that this country is good at is killing people--but only from a
(I watched a critic's VHS screener of "Save the Green Planet" and am not
sure when it will open in NYC, or even if it has already appeared. When I
receive schedule information from the distributor, I will pass this on.
This is an amazing film.)
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