With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013
With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

Thursday, February 28, 2008

ACF 080: "A Bloody Aria" DVD Available!

O-guen's bloody bat.

A Bloody Aria (Guta-yubalja-deul), a terrific 2006 thriller from South Korea, recently became available from Genius Products, ImaginAsian Home Entertainment and Prime Entertainment. I reviewed the film in ACF 059 on January 2, 2008, just prior to its limited theatrical releases in New York and a bit later in Los Angeles. In that review I urged those who couldn't make it to a screening to "seriously look into finding A Bloody Aria on DVD." And now you can, easily!

Won Shin-yun wrote and directed this rivetting tale about two people who fall into the clutches of a quartet of demented villagers. Yeong-sun (Lee Byuong-jun), an arrogant music professor, and In-jeong (Cha Ye-ryun), a former student, are returning to Seoul from her first singing audition in his gorgeous white Mercedes. They wind up on an isolated rocky area alongside a river.

The four local villagers seem to have come from a seriously limited gene pool and an environment in which physical violence and psychological torment are the dominant way of life. O-guen (Oh Dal-su, of Oldboy fame), is one sick f*ck, a pig butcher who has a unique way of hunting birds. Bong-yeon (Lee Mun-shik), the leader of the group, has a smile that initially masks his sadistic streak. The other two have motorcycles and have brought along a young male student in a bag that's tied to the "sissy bar" of one of the bikes.

Yeong-sun in a contemplative moment.
(Not many of these in this film.)

If you imagine the scene in Deliverance in which John Voight and Ned Beatty have been captured by two locals in the wilderness, change the local to an out of the way place in South Korea, and make it into a feature length film, you'll have a pretty fair idea of what's going on here.

Having watched the DVD after seeing the film in a theater, I can definitely say that it holds up really well to repeated viewings. The first time I saw it I was often cringing in my seat and holding my breath, wondering what the hell's gonna happen next. Watching it a second time on DVD, even knowing the story, was still pretty creepy. I usually don't get that caught up in this kind of fare., but A Bloody Aria is damn well scripted, acted, filmed, and edited.

I also found more moments in the film to be humorous the second time around. Not roaring, laugh-out-loud funny, but bring-a-smile-to-your-face humor. As I recall, the first time I watched it I was too blown away by what I was seeing to notice the funnier moments, such as they are.

The DVD release has only the original Korean soundtrack, which is fine with me, since most of the time I find dubbed soundtracks not very good.. One thing I was really happy to see is that the optional English subtitles were in yellow.

The film has a deliberate monochrome look, and in the theatrical release I saw first, the subtitles were white and without a dark outline. That made them rather difficult to read much of the time because the lower portion of the screen was often light. Here there's no problem at all with the subtitles blending into the picture; they're crisp, clear and perfectly legible.

There's not a lot in the way of extras. The single behind-the-scenes featurette is decent, but nothing to rave about. At the end of it, the director and cast appear at some sort of premiere or special screening. I have to fault the release for not including a couple of subtitles indicating when and where this was taking place.

The only other extras thirteen deleted scenes. There's an optional director's commentary available for each one, and although Won Shin-yun doesn't have a lot to say, his comments (subtitled) are often interesting for some additional insight into the movie, or for describing plot points that were deemed unnecessary or scenes that didn't quite work. Usually deleted scenes don't do much for me, but here they really show how smart editing can increase suspense and make a film much more taut.

But this is not the kind of DVD that one buys, or rents, for the extras. Its for the film's gripping depiction of violence and torment, an intelligent and powerful drama that'll grab you by the throat. The film works because it's so damn believable overall. A Bloody Aria will haunt your mind long after you've put the disc back in its case. And it'll call for you to come back to see it again, and again. Don't miss this one. Really.

For the official A Bloody Aria website, click here.

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