"The President's Barber"  in  News

Back by:  gdulri  on  November 1, 2013 06:46 PM

"The President's Barber"

"The President's Barber"

South Korea has an ambivalent relationship with former president Park Chung-Hee (here played byJo Yeong-jin). On one end, he worked greatly to improve South Korea's economic status, and can easily be cited as the man most directly responsible for the country's current condition as a first world country, when only decades earliest it was one of the most impoverished on the planet. On the other, under his rule South Korea was a military dictatorship. And not an especially pleasant one either.

The simple barber Han-Mo (played bySong Kang-ho) is in an ideal position to observe firsthand what these years were like. His business fortunes dramatically improve under the dictatorship, largely because he is personally chosen to be Park Chung-Hee's barber. The situation quickly proves to be an ambivalent one- Park Chung-Hee is, as far as we can tell from the movie, a fairly nice decent guy who really does want the best for his country. But he's still a dictator, and his underlings act like it.

What makes "The President's Barber" such a peculiar film is that the story ends up going to extremely dark territory. Shootings and torture are involved. And yet Han-Mo lives his life with such simplistic earnestness that to some extent the drama of these events is fairly well ameliorated. Han-Mo is simply too dumb to understand complex political questions, or even simple laws. He has to take advice from his friends on nearly every dilemma. All this man knows is how to make his livelihood and stay alive. And that's all the dictatorship really cares about.

The comedic elements are similarly weird, surfacing in South Korea's darkest hours, mainly because humor, like the uncaring dictatorial arm of the government, doesn't really care about whatever petty personal problems people have at the moment. I don't know that this is a funny movie, exactly, but it does an excellent job striking the peculiarities of each situation. Oftentimes horrible events turn out all right simply because of dumb luck.

And yet the film wisely avoids engaging in the just world fallacy. It's all too often painfully clear just how close Han-Mo and his family are to being brutalized beyond all hope of repair. Late in the movie, Han-Mo faces a dilemma and a choice. Given everything that's he learned from the narrative so far, the decision is an obvious one. But there's a certain art in getting this across in just the right way- making sure that the provoked beating is an undeserved one, so that minimum resentment is left over.

"The President's Barber" is a dark comedy masquerading as a tale of nostalgia, and in terms of that goal, it accomplishes what it sets out to do quite well. The movie is no substitute for an actual history book, but it is nonetheless an interesting depiction of what life under a dictatorship is like for the common man, the prole who doesn't necessarily have to worry about the worst in society. This same prole, of course, can have no delusions about what it means to be the best after getting the slightest taste of what the upper-echelon of civilization is really like.

Review by William Schwartz

"The President's Barber" is directed byLim Chan-sangand featuresSong Kang-ho,Lee Jae-eungandMoon So-ri.

Source from :Hancinema

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