When Yang Mi-kyung (Seo Yeong-hee) fails to impress TV producer Baek with the discovery of a martial artist who professes he can levitate (to which he ultimately disappoints) she’s belittled and told to go kill herself. Taking it to heart Yang, who has been struggling as a reporter for quite some time, wonders if that might not be such a bad idea after all. That evening she enters an internet bar and happens upon a suicide-website that was run by a man who eventually killed himself, which has also amassed quite a loyal following. The site leads her to a village called Moodori, situated in the Kangwon province, high in the eastern mountains of Korea. The village is rarely visited by outsiders, and only local sheriff Chang-soo (Ryu Seung-mok) delivers a regular supply of food and goods, not to mention airmail, to three elderly men: Hae-gu (Choi Joo-bong), Bong-gi (Park In-hwan) and Bang-yun (Seo Hee-seung).
One day a young man visits the town and asks for a place to stay. The next day the three men find his shoes at the top of a cliff and realise that he’s jumped to his death. When the man’s family arrive to claim the body, one of his relatives offers a substantial amount of cash to make up for such a burden. Soon enough another visitor turns up, and soon enough they end up dead as well, resulting in yet another shower of gifts. Hae-gu, Bong-gi and Bang-yun decide that there might actually be something to this suicide malarkey, and seek to turn their new suicide hot-spot into a profitable enterprise. As the three old chaps enjoy their new found wealth, Yang eventually turns up at the village, but when she realises that she just might have a top story for producer Baek entailing tens of people coming to “The haunted town” and topping themselves, all thoughts of suicide quickly leave her head. But her good fortune is soon turned upside-down, when a group of suicidal online friends show up and mistake her for one of their own.
Lee Hyeong-seon’s low budget debut feature, despite having crept silently from cinemas and onto DVD, is a fairly brisk and enjoyable flick examining, if anything, the exploitative desire of humanity brought on at the expense of a lost life. But although we have three elderly men, seemingly without any scruples, trying to make a rather questionable living as visitors readily plummet toward the foot of a mountain, atop which their little village sits, Moodori is everything but pessimistic. The notion of suicide might easily have negatively affected the production, and yet it’s handled in a manner that sees the idea not so much being mocked or satirised, but existing simply to allow our main characters to reach some kind of catharsis. It’s a welcome step from Hyeong-seon in that films depicting suicide as a central theme often remain rather ambiguous affairs, due the subject being nigh on impossible to truly fathom from an individual standpoint. Its obvious strength is that it does in fact use the repercussions of suicide to drive home a simple message: that everyone should at least try to enjoy life for whatever it’s worth. That’s certainly a sweet enough sentiment. As a comedy, however, Moodori does have a job to do and it does so without causing any offence. It’s no surprise to see a little toilet humour thrown in, which the Koreans seem to regularly lap up, no matter how repetitive it may become, in addition to a slightly cynical stab toward television production (the director having started his career in such a field), but on the whole Moodori derives all its fun from a cast of more than capable film veterans, a welcoming runtime and an absolutely terrific score.
While the story seems to revolve around Seo Yeong-hee’s character Yang and her attempts to become an ace reporter, Moodori is effortlessly carried by the highly entertaining threesome of Park In-hwan, Choi Joo-bong, and Seo Hee-seung. This is as much their characters’ tale and how each of the ex-Vietnam soldiers get by day to day in a village that otherwise rarely receives visitors. When Yang arrives, Yeong-hee soon injects a full dosage of zest, which then results in a consistently amusing story, whereby these elderly folk are taken back to their teen years. There’s a great repertoire shared between all parties, which turns quite the unusual cast into a highly expressive force. As the film draws toward its climax the emotions of some of players gradually becomes unstable, but they’re admirably handled, even when sentiments inevitably reach a high point. There are some weak elements in relation to characters, however: Bang-yun’s son Yong-soo has little need to be in the tale, neither does his crazy old mother. There’s no proper look into Bang-yun’s family life, whereas Bong-gi ultimately enjoys (enjoy being loosely applied) a far more awakening experience in the form of an unexpected twist, which may make or break the film for many. But perhaps the point is less on the overall family unit and more on simply appreciating the value of a life, when it seems that in such a cynical world a stranger can be looked upon as being a worthless entity.
Although there’s very little else to elaborate upon I should at least point out that Moodori also happens to be quite a beautiful looking picture. Cinematographer Choi Soon-gi does wonders with such an apparent low budget. The film is intimately set in a mountainous region, largely restricted to the village itself, which is often surreptitiously lit. But when the action is forwarded to its outer boundaries Moodori becomes an even livelier affair, with some breathtaking scenery that offers a slice of life rarely seen by city-dwellers.
Another “limited edition” that certainly doesn’t feel particularly special, Moodori is presented by CJ Entertainment on R3 DVD.
Moodori is presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and has been given anamorphic treatment. As for the overall transfer, it’s quite an odd one. Saturation is all over the place, with colour temperature going up and down like a yo-yo. It appears as if most of this may come down to stylistic choices, but upon watching the theatrical trailer I’m not totally convinced if what we’re seeing is intended by the director. Skin tones are the biggest problem and never look 100% natural, ranging from being overly pink, to turning orange, depending on scenes taking place in broad daylight or the evening. Contrast is also high, which reflects fairly poorly on night scenes and dark clothing. Otherwise detail is good, though somewhat marred by edge enhancement, and there doesn’t appear to be any major artefacts.
Our only audio option is Korean 5.1 surround, and again its wholly underwhelming. I’ve never known a film with a 5.1 mix make so little of its surrounds. Moodori is largely a talkative film and on that front dialogue is excellently reproduced across the front channels, always coming across crisp and clear, with no drop outs or other such deterrent factors. The score, which is lovely and upbeat all round sounds good, but it’s given little surround attention. In fact on the whole the rear channels are quite lazily mixed, with even ambient effects such as blowing winds really struggling to envelop the viewer. The film sounds good, but one wonders why they bother with 5.1 remixes in favour of simple 2.0 sometimes.
Optional English subtitles are included and they’re perfectly acceptable, despite more than a few grammatical errors.
Right, let’s see how well I do in the face of no subtitles again.
First up is an Audio Commentary, with the director and some other chaps. Moving on we have a Making Of, running for sixteen minutes. As with most it includes a bunch of clips from the film and the cast and crew larking about behind the scenes. Interviews with the director and producers are also placed intermittently throughout. Next we have an eight minute piece referred to as Suicide Spot, followed by two and a half minutes worth of Deleted Scenes. Despite having no subs the deleted footage is quite good fun, with one scene dealing with Hae-gu’s sexual encounter with a woman who is only spoken of in the actual film. There are also a couple of brief song and dance routines. The Poster Shoot is next, again running for just two minutes. This involves principal cast members donning some witches hats. Very silly but fun. The Advanced Screening is given three minutes to entertain, featuring cast and director in front of an eager crowd, who presumably express their hopes that people will enjoy the feature, prior to its screening. Finally we have the Theatrical Trailer and a Music Video.
Moodori is a nice little surprise indeed. It’s not a hugely demanding film and the laughs are never more than amusing, but it’s carried along by a lively cast who see it through to a suitably touching finale.