‘Joint Security Area (JSA)’


Joint Security Area (JSA)

Directed by Park Chanwook

June 15 through 21, Two Boots Pioneer

Both a forerunner of Korean cinema’s current string of box office blockbusters like Tae Guk Gi and Silmido and the foundation stone of Oldboy director Park Chanwook’s wildly overvalued recent rise to fame, the politically, psychologically, and aesthetically schizophrenic 2000 mega-hit
Joint Security Area (JSA) deserves at least one additional accolade. Set in and around the liminal demilitarized zone that separates North and South Korea, and everywhere focused on the blurring of shared boundaries, it’s also the gayest action flick figuration of Korea’s post-war bifurcation ever made, predominantly concerned with the fatal attraction between two pairs of night duty border guards who strike up an unlikely friendship based on pop-culture crossovers and macho mutual admirations. Park’s film reveals its double agency by swinging between emotion-charged flashbacks of weepie male bonding and the investigative longueurs of the icy, half-Korean, half-Swedish
female officer in charge of mopping up the brotherly bloodbath that eventually results. Not that anyone would mistake its moral as, pace Hong Sang-soo, “woman is the future of man,” particularly as JSA only heats up when its men are in the frame. Indeed, while the title of Park’s upcoming feature Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (the completion of his “revenge trilogy”) might posit progression in this Q.T.-sanctioned arriviste’s gender politics, his origins in matinee-style mayhem suggests a rather more grind house motto: “Kimchi isn’t the only dish best served cold.” Chuck Stephens