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PRINT March 2010

film

Bong Joon-ho’s Mother

BONG JOON-HO’S MOTHER is not as great a movie as the director’s devastating police procedural Memories of Murder (2003) or as entertainingly edgy as The Host (2006), which pits South Korea’s favorite actor, Song Kang-ho, against a rapacious mutant sea monster with a knack for parkour, who grows to Godzilla-like proportions feasting on pollutants tossed into Seoul’s Han River by the resident American military. But in the larger scheme of things—that is to say, movies in general and Korean cinema in particular—Mother attempts something far more difficult and taboo: a non-judgmental depiction of an overprotective, middle-aged mom driven to madness by a society in which über-masculinity is practically a precondition for survival.

Set in a rural backwater similar to the milieu of Memories of Murder, Mother, too, revolves around a murder investigation. In both movies, the iconic victims are young

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