Monday, September 23, 2013

Fantastic Fest 2013 Review: THE FAKE - Javi's Take

Directed by: Yeon Sang-ho
Written by: Yeon Sang-ho
Starring: Yang Ik-June, Oh Jung-se, Kwon Hae-Hyo, and Park Hee-Von
Synopsis: When a drunkard is release from prison, he must convince his town that the new pastor and his team are actually con men looking to steal their life savings.

It's refreshing to live in a world where most cinephiles do not dismiss animation as merely kid's fare. Thanks to various studios including Pixar and Hayao Myazaki's Studio Gihbli's' animated movies have become something that are revered and respected in a lot of critical circles. Yeun Sang-Ho's THE FAKE is one of those movies eschewing traditional live-action constraints and creates a bleak world where corruption is rewarded and the lines of morality are very thinly drawn where you if a protagonist is actually an antagonist and vice-versa.

THE FAKE tells the story of a town that is in the process of being flooded as part of a new dam construction. A lot of the citizens are being forced to sell their land and relocate elsewhere. And sure enough, a miraculous new Father comes to town with a miraculous new parish lead by the miraculously charming Father Sung to miraculously save the souls of the people by building them a new commune after the town is flooded. All they have to do is to give up all of their worldly possessions. Out of jail, stumbles Min-chul, who is the biggest asshole to grace the screen in the last year. He beats his wife and his daughter, he spends her college money on a poker game and booze, but thing is, he knows that the priests and the men around him are a bunch of swindling con men, but no one will believe him.

THE FAKE is a fascinating and bleak examination of the lines between "good" and "evil", and the merits of lies and what we make of them, specifically with religion. This movie will be colored depending on your religious beliefs or lack thereof. Here are a few undeniable facts: the congregation leaders are con men, they are stealing money, and Min-Chul is a complete asshole who is trying to do good in the worst way possible. Beyond that, how you see the actions of the characters is up to you. However, there is no denying that this is an relentlessly bleak movie that brings with terrible consequences to all people involved.

The palette of the movie is appropriately dark. The sky is brimming with dark clouds that seem to be ready to pour down rain on the town a moments notice. The backgrounds are gorgeously painted to show the grime and the dirt of the town. Everyone in the congregation seems to hanging on to their sanity or the happiness by an emotional thread. There are various characters that are terminally ill or elderly that don't won't make the move out of their homes. It makes sense that they would be so eager for any glimmer of hope in Father Sung.

Where the movie really shines is how relatively tight the pacing is. Given the premise of the movie, the movie could have easily lingered and tried to play up the "no one believes Mun-Chil" aspect, but once the con men get a hold of what Mun-Chil is doing the plot accelerates. Sociologically, the people have to battle of their perceptions with the supposed good guys conning them and the drunk and belligerent Mun-Chil being the voice of reason. In the second half of the movie, it wrestles with he very important question of religion's place in the world, and how people choose to believe or not believe in something. Once again, depending on your point of view, there is a positive message somewhere in all of the darkness and manipulation.

THE FAKE is one of the most interesting animated movies in the recent years. It tackles issues of faith and perception and even love (as tough as it can be) in way most live-action Oscar bait movies won't.

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