It’s really rare that you find a perfect movie — one that’s just perfectly written and directed. There’s a handful, though, and it’s a special thrill when you find one where you can honestly say “There is no way this could be done better.” I think Dr. Strangelove is one, Harold and Maude is close. I’m not sure necessarily sure if it definitely is (I’ve only seen it twice so far, so perhaps on the fiftieth viewing, I might think of something), but Save The Green Planet is definitely a contender.
A while ago, I saw a review [Warning: Quite A Lot Of Spoilers!] of it that intrigued me; I figured it’d either be great, or a cool idea done horribly. Luckily for me, about six months after I read it, the Seattle International Film Festival showed the film as the last film of the festival. So, I bought tickets for me and two of my best friends, and we all went down to the theater that night, crossing our fingers that it wouldn’t turn out to be the latter type of film.
Of course, it turned out to be the former. (The theater it was at, the Egyptian, tends to get films that are on the winning side of this dichotomy; this is also where we saw Forbidden Zone for the first time.) The three of us fell in love. As we left the theater, we couldn’t stop talking about the film.
The rough plot: A man thinks the CEO of a chemical corporation is actually an Andromedan working towards the destruction of the Earth, so he and his girlfriend kidnap the alien to get information out of him through rather unsavory methods.
And this is probably the first great thing about this: The director, Jun-hwan Jeon, understands that you don’t need to actually show the torture to frighten or disturb the audience. There are a few shots not for the squeamish, of course — there’d have to be — however, for the most part, this business takes place in the shadows. The material that is visible is only on screen briefly, cutting away as soon as the point is made. He doesn’t linger on excessive and gratuitous violence (one of the many things that made The Frau Plastic Chicken Show fall extremely short of its incredibly excellent title).
Another great thing? It’s pretty much every different genre you could think of. Comedy, Sci-Fi, Cop Drama, Tragedy, Romantic Comedy, Parody. And they’re all done well. Often times better than films that are devoted to only one genre. I mean, I’m floored that they did the cop aspect of this film well; a lot of times, films like this tend to slow down during the police scenes. Save the Green Planet! makes you as interested and entertained by the detective work as by the rest of it… though, I suppose someone could make an argument that “Detective Story” is the main genre. Aside from the actual detectives, the main character could be seen as a detective as well, trying to compile information on the Alien Plot. But that’d do a bit of disservice to the other genres it works expertly in — which leads to the other thing; the film flows between genres. There aren’t any gear-shifts. You never go “Oh, this is the Sci-Fi part of the film. This is the Horror part now!” You just don’t think about it, which is how a film like this should be. There’s not one iota of self-consciousness.
The review linked above (if you’re not reading it because of Spoilers), ends with this:
Perhaps the best comment I can make about this crazy-quilt comes from another medium. Once, after hearing Bitches Brew, a music journalist asked what Miles Davis was supposed to be playing (jazz? bebop? funk?), and he answered, “Music.” In the same way, Save the Green Planet is a movie, the sort of movie I watch movies to discover and savor and adore.
One final thing? When I saw it in the theater, everyone in the audience clapped at the end.
I clapped at the end.
And I never clap at the end of films. (Unless the people who made it are there or something. Which they never are.)
I do realize that by hyping this film so much, I run the risk of setting an idea that it’s impossible for the film to live up to, although I think this film is actually good enough to go against the trend and actually live up to it. This truly is a magnificent, perfect film.
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Previously published June 20, 2007.