Missing the Madness at The Good, The Bad, The Weird

POSTED: September 14, 2008 09:03 | By: Carol Borden

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Watching Kim Jee-woon‘s The Good, The Bad and the Weird at the Elgin, all I could think was, ?I wish I were seeing this with the Midnight Madness audience.? It’s interesting to see how the daydwellers live, the Elgin is beatiful and being short I love nearly any theater with stadium seating. I’m not ashamed to admit it’s a big part of why I miss Midnight Madness at the Uptown. But still, I missed the enthusiasm.

I guess I should also admit I’m exaggerating just a little how much I thought about the daytime crowd since from the opening shot, I didn’t think about anything but the movie.

I like Kim’s films (A Tale of Two Sisters, The Foul King and The Quiet Family, remade as The Happiness of the Katakuris by Takashi Miike) and he makes a damn fine Western. The opening tracking shot following Song Kang-ho‘s (The Host and yay!) back as he walks up a train selling rice cakes and candy rivals the opening tracking shot in JCVD. Not in the complexity of action, but maybe in the beauty and in a different low tech complexity. I think that Kim Jee-woon’s ?steady cam? wasn’t just a ?human-cam? as he mentioned in the Q&A. It seemed like it might’ve been hanging from a board a la Sam Raimi‘s Evil Dead films. Kim Jee-woon mentioned Sam Raimi’s Spider-man as an influence, so I can’t help wondering. But regardless, the shot’s amazing.

The Good, The Bad and the Weird is funny and there are anachronistic elements intended to translate through time, but it’s not detached from the characters or the situation. There’s no fear of engagement. Kim Jee-woon told us afterwards that he always thought that Manchuria in the 1930s was incredibly postmodern. Miike uses similar postmodern elements in his Western, Sukiyaki Western Django, and they seem to move his film out of time. But I never doubted that The Good, The Bad and the Weird was in a particular time and place. Even the Sergio Leone references aren’t intended for abstract appreciation and it didn’t really matter that many in the audience might not catch little things like Park Chang-yi’s (Lee Byung-hun) suit or hat-shooting.

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Look at that suit!

You can line parts of The Good, The Bad and the Weird up against Sergio Leone’s Man With No Name trilogy, but it doesn’t matter all that much. Kim Jee-woon isn’t playing collect them all. There’s a lot more to this film than that.

I did really like the musical references, though. Westerns are about landscape, it’s true, but they’re also about sound, or maybe about silence and when to break it.

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Look at him go!

Also, Jung Woo-sung rides better than any actor I’ve seen. Maybe even better than Mifune Toshiro in The Hidden Fortress.

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Toshiro says, “Hmph!”

He also successfully wears a cowboy hat in Manchukuo.

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Dead Lau Ching-Wan also successfully wears a cowboy hat.

After The Good, The Bad and the Weird, Sukiyaki Western Django, Tears of the Black Tiger and even Johnnie To‘s Exiled, the world is clamoring for more Asian Westerns. Or at least I am. They seem like the best ones around right now. Well, except maybe weird Westerns, like J.T. Petty‘s The Burrowers.

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