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2 reviews, 4 user ratings

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I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK
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by William Goss

"Sympathy for Lady Crackpot"
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2007 SXSW FILM FESTIVAL: How do you follow up an acclaimed trilogy of somber vengeance dramas? If you’re Chan-wook Park, the answer is simple: don’t even try.

Young-goon (Lim Soo-jung) is assembling radios at a factory, same as always, obedient to the instructions of the loudspeaker… even when, in the same dulcet tone, the speaker instructs her to shove a stripped wire or two into her wrist and plug them right into the wall. It’s this incident that get Young-goon shipped off to the local psychiatric ward, where she meets the requisite assembly of eccentrics, including a kleptomaniac (Asian pop star Rain) who may just be able to help her complete her mission of returning to Grandma her dentures, finding a purpose in the world, and eliminating her captors in the white coats.

Sure, there’s a colorful cast of characters constantly hovering about the periphery – the chronic liar, the perpetual apologist who walks backwards, the obese bully who claims to fly with her socks – but the story’s backbone ultimately develops along with the relationship between Young-goon and her newfound companion, which thankfully doesn’t fall under the typical romantic trappings (for example, when she starves herself, for fear that her mechanical components can’t process food, he proceeds to ‘implant’ a device that will convert the food into fuel for her).

It’s refreshing and even impressive to see Park change it up, considering the nature of his vengeance trilogy. With co-writer Seo-Gyeong Jeong (last year’s Lady Vengeance), he crafts a realm of sublime humor and vitality, thanks in no small part to the vibrant production design, spot-on cinematography from Jeong-hun Jeong, a frothy score by Yeong-wook Jo, and a gentle sense of whimsy throughout. It becomes less a scenario of laughing at the patients and more of laughing with them, as their characteristics and inner logic grow on the viewer. Park even gets to let loose with some particularly inspired scenes, such as whenever Young-goon makes her occasional transformation into a doctor-targeting android, practically Park’s shell-spewing equivalent of a Stepford Wife.

Fortunately, Park doesn't oversell the quirk factor, keeping matters carefree but not careless. Paranoid schizophrenic or not, Young-goon is still confronted with finding her way in the world, even if her world's confined to a single building and a handful of familiar faces. There's an underlying frailty to each delusion that keeps the more fantastical touches grounded and yet potent. Everyone wants to be special, but Park almost seems to find it more romantic when these individuals simply allow themselves to be.

Thoroughly inspired, genuinely charming, and gloriously bizarre, 'I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK' may showcase a gentler Chan-wook Park at work, but his vision is no less human in the end.

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originally posted: 04/09/07 13:59:15
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2007 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

9/14/09 Halcyon Dawn i'm sorry, but i frankly found it boring and strange and so vague. 2 stars
9/15/08 Renelson This is not just your ordinary "rom-com". The film is inventive, weird, funny, touching. 4 stars
4/24/08 Karamashi A wierd yet utterly charming gem. One of the year's best so far! 5 stars
4/23/08 Nathalie N Bizarre, amazing and charming... 5 stars
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Directed by
  Chan-wook Park

Written by
  Chan-wook Park
  Seo-Gyeong Jeong

  Byeong-ok Kim
  Su-jeong Lim
  Dal-su Oh

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