The Academy could’ve easily rewarded multiple areas of “Decision to Leave” to an overwhelming degree.
Take the incredible visuals authored by cinematographer Kim Ji-yong, for instance. The painstaking compositions and realism-shattering moments of connection prevalent throughout the film have already made waves in certain corners of Film Twitter, displaying a master’s appreciation for filmmaking fundamentals that works hand-in-hand with the twisting and turning story. As Jang Hae-joon investigates the suspicious death of a mountain-climbing hobbyist, the all-too-calm and shockingly lackadaisical demeanor of the victim’s widowed wife Song Seo-rae only invites more and more interest. A detective yarn in the vein of classic romances and procedurals, the detective develops an ill-advised obsession with the suspect that spirals with as much chaotic precision as the blocking and framing that quite literally boxes the character in at times.
If that’s not enough, there’s the deceptively nuanced performance by actor Tang Wei. Saddled with a classic archetype that typically shuns any deeper exploration — a femme fatale’s inherent sense of unknowable mystery is part of the appeal, after all — Tang Wei adds all sorts of fascinating touches that only enhance Park Chan-wook and Chung Seo-kyung’s script. Though gifted with some absolutely killer lines (“The moment you said you loved me, your love is over. The moment your love ends, my love begins”), Tang Wei communicates even more with only the flicker of her eyes, a quirk of a smile, the hint of innocence and malevolence in equal measure. Acting nominees tend to go to the showiest displays, but it’s criminal that this co-leading performance has gone unnoticed.
Every filmmaking choice made in “Decision to Leave” reflects the confidence and storytelling acumen of a filmmaker of Park Chan-wook’s caliber, but his latest came up short there, too, denied the coveted Best Picture nomination.
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Author: Jeremy Mathai
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January 24, 2023