An apology is in order. When I wrote this blog I thought it was nominated for an Oscar, but I was wrong. Some critics had said it should have been nominated. Having read much hype about the movie and actually having seen it I feel it is worthy of prestigious awards which in fact it has already won such as Cannes and Bafta.
"Decision to Leave" (2022 has been short listed for the upcoming Oscar awards. It has already won a director's award at the recent Cannes Festival. A big draw seems to be the director and co-writer, Park Chan-wook. More on him later, but first a bit on the film itself.
Hae-jun is described as an insomniac detective asked to investigate the death of a man fallen from a rock climbing site. It seems simple enough, but when Hae-jun and his partner Soo-wan approach the widow, Seo-rae with the news she takes it too calmly and arouses suspicions. We learn that Seo-rae is an immigrant from China only allowed to stay in Korea because her Grandfather had been a Korean independence fighter We also learn that she killed her mother with fentanyl pills as requested. Hae-jun rules her husband's death a suicide, but Soo-wan is not convinced and later Hae-jun encounters more suggestive evidence, but decides to cover it up.
He is fascinated by Seo-rae, but the script goes 13 months in advance. Hae-jun's wife worked at a nuclear facility in Ipo allowing her to visit only once a week. Hae -jun decided to move in order to be closer to her. He meets Seo-rae with a new husband, Ho-shin, an investment banker. The next day he is found dead at the family pool. Certainly suspicious, but more complicated. Hae-jun agrees to help, but his wife has had enough and leaves.
Along the way a few unusual scenes. A few are devoted to insects crawling around and in dead bodies to demonstrate how grotesque a policeman's job can be. Rock climbing to provide some perilous action on slippery surfaces and also to demonstrate how thorough the police can be. A theme is the role of sleep with various discussions of what works, but Seo-rae has her own methods. Mist was one of the requirements to create the right mood and Ipo fits the bill.
A memorable quote: "Killing is like smoking; only the first time is hard."
To put together requires a lot of talent.
Start with Park Chan-wook. the director and co-writer. The DVD special features and Wikipedia were very interesting. Known for sex and violence, but for this he has toned down (not eliminated) both elements. He commented that audiences remember the violence, but romance is a big part of what he offers. Humor plays a big role, but he tries to make sure it can be understood by an international audience. The best humor reminds the audience of their own experience. Humor off negative emotions causes confusion. He studied philosophy in university and while there formed a cinema club. His first film efforts were not successful and he had to write film reviews to survive. However, "Joint Security Area" (2000) was the highest grossing Korean film to date and was critically acclaimed. He has won numerous awards. His film credits include "Oldboy" (2003)"Thirst" (2009), "Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance" (2002), "Lady Vengeance" (2005), "Snowpiercer" (2013) and "The Handmaiden" (2016).
His co-writer Chung Seo-kyung has helped him on all his features since 2005. She got his attention winning a short film contest juried by him. She has done a few other projects on her own, including most recently a tv. series. Their collaboration has evolved and now essentially involves a discussion, then she does a first draft and then the two get together with two monitors and two keyboards and make revisions simultaneously. At one time she wrote female roles, but now it is difficult to tell which wrote either of the male or female roles. Chan-wook usually polishes the final script.
Music is composed by Jo Yeong-wook. He has been a prolific award winner including for this film. "The Handmaiden" (2016) if one of my very favorite film scores. Other credits include "Oldboy" (2003), "Glove" (2011), "The Attorney" (2013), and "The Tiger" (2015).
Kim Ji-yong, the cinematograher is another prolific award winner including for this film. His film credits include "Miss Granny" (2014), "The Age of Shadows" (2016), "Okja" (2017) and "Swing Kids" (2018).
Editing was done by Kim Sang-beom, another big award winner, including for this film. Some of his other credits include: "Oldboy" (2003), "The Throne" (2015) and "The Handmaiden" (2016)
Park Hae-il plays Hae-joon. He has also won a lot of awards including for this film. His film credits include "Memories of Murder" (2003)
Tang Wei plays Seo-Rae. She is a Chinese actress married to a Korean actor/director. She is still another big award winner including for this film and in Chinese and Korean films. Her screen credits include "Lust, Caution" (2007).
Lee Jung-hyun plays Jeong-ahn and also has won some acting awards, but is perhaps better known as a pop singer across Asia.
Teo Yoo plays Lee June and has a surprising background. He was born and educated in Germany and went to the U.S. and Britain for acting training. He recently played the male lead in "Love to Hate You" (2023). Another film credit is "Chocolate" (2019).
Difficult to predict which film will win the foreign film Oscar, but sorting through the top nominations assures some entertaining high quality productions.
Note: I have bolded the first mention of movies I have seen. In this film there was a great deal of interaction between cast and crew indicating a high level of talent.