Sunday, May 21, 2023

Beurokeo/Broker (2022)

On the face of it this is pretty standard Kore-eda fare, an empathy-squeezing, mildly comic drama about an ad-hoc 'family' group, several of whom are in the midst of leading a criminal lifestyle.

Yet there are some deviations. The location and language are Korean for a start. Was Kore-eda attempting to cash in on the success of Parasite, or merely covetous of an opportunity to work with that movie's stand-out star, Song Kang-ho?

In the Guardian Peter Bradshaw flags up another issue, one of tone. These would-be loveable rogues are murderers and child traffickers. Tut tut. 

"What sort of people might want to pay top dollar for a baby?" he asks. Well, a decade or so ago one only had to board any US-bound flight out of Guatemala to mix with such gruesome folk. 

At the time I had very strong opinions about this trade, so it might be supposed that I'd side with Bradshaw on this, but I can tell the difference between fiction and reality and for that reason choose not to immediately censure the Japanese director for his approach here.

Yet the following question does arise — what kind of wrongdoing cannot be redeemed in this manner?  

I recall how Robby Collin of the Telegraph recoiled at the way JoJo Rabbit turned Nazis into figures of ridicule. Nevertheless, last year in Colombia I met an historian who had just published a book about the Nazi education system of the 30s and she recounted to me how her American publishers had ’encouraged’ her to explicitly tackle 'the Jewish question' even though it was only rather indirectly relevant to her topic. 

There is no question that we are now inhabiting a cultural environment where certain gatekeepers (not just the Twitter mob) determine what can — or indeed must — be said and in which form, so Kore-eda's determination to sidetrack certain ethical preconceptions is refreshing. 

And I think he is quite explicit here in the distinction between people who do bad things for complex reasons and those who are instead just sociopathic by nature and should not be celebrated in any way. 

Kore-eda is one of my favourite directors and although this is not up there with his very best work, it's not to be discarded. 

Surrounded by more established Korean stars, Lee Ji-eun is revelatory as So-young.

No comments: