This is how Decision to Leave, Master Park's first movie since he gave the world the stone-cold masterpiece The Handmaiden in 2016, kicks off -- a dead body, a pop of orange, and approximately one thousand question marks scratched down the wall of stone that the man's body tumbled along to its death. There are also mysterious scratches in the man himself, not to mention lingering close-ups of the hungry ants currently strutting their business across his unblinking eyeballs because, again -- it's a Park Chan-wook movie. But this murder mystery to-be is also a strange and wonderful romance, turns out, and those ants will come up in conversation a little bit later as a sort of romantic foreplay? Like I said: Park Chan-wook movie!
To that mind there's a reason this movie is set in a seaside town shrouded in mist -- besides the fact that "seaside towns shrouded in mist" are one of the greatest of all the movie settings. It's because like those orange gloves and like those eyeball-ants Park's delicious stylistic flourishes, which seem to obscure intent to some critics -- he gets (wrongly) accused of the ol' style-over-substance so often -- become metaphorical markers through the mist along the way. Park, film to film, seems intent on creating a new language every single time, where the progression of colors indicate story-arcs as clearly as do sly longing glances between characters. The wallpaper is telling us a story, y'all! The story, even! Park is a filmmaker from the Hitchcock School where every dollop of production design and costuming is informing every beat, and you're wise to pay close attention -- I have no doubt this movie will unveil itself even further with multiple viewings, all its unexpected savory flavors rising to its fore.
And that's all I really feel like saying about the plot. It's not about the plot, it's about how it's about it, if you catch my drift. And Park, novelistic and dense and stirringly achingly beautiful to behold, is firing on all his master filmmaker cylinders here. There are five second long shots of hands in handcuffs sitting centimeters apart that say more and stir more emotion than some filmmakers manage with entire movies. And effortless wit -- the man can frame a shot so it's immediately funny, without ever forcing it an iota. it just happens, and it's over, and you're reeling, catching up. Watching a movie like Decision to Leave is just like being fed, it's a feast of color and framing and character, of story so rich you smack your lips. Park Hae-il and Tang Wei are broken-heart and throbbing-soul and diabolical silliness -- this is another master love story from the master, bubbling with perversity and sweetness in perfect appointment. There just ain't nothing sweeter than soaking in the full Park Chan-wook experience, finest hair to smallest toe.