I'm a Cyborg (aka I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK) Review
The stills included below are press shots and not from the Blu-ray disc
The praise that came Park Chan Wook's way for Oldboy seemed to me wholly justified in terms of the sheer technical nouse and verve that the opening hour of that movie had. What was worrying though was the complete lack of attention given by critics to the emotional content and humanity of that film, which I felt was a glistening cinematic machine rather than an organic feeling work of art. I thought that the director had started to correct this frigid trait with his final film in the Vengeance trilogy, Lady Vengeance, which seemed warmer and more humane than his previous movies, but he then made the unimpressive Cut for the Three Extremes compendium, which led me back to my original concern that mechanics overwhelm emotional insight in Park's film-making.
I’m a Cyborg is the director's attempt to return to a kinder world where good things can happen to good people. It is the kind of creation that Tim Burton would cut off his right arm for as he has tried in vain for the last ten years to create anything as delightful and wickedly interesting as Park's movie. It lives in a fanciful state of insanity and metaphor, and moves, much like his Vengeance trilogy, towards the revealing of the solution of a puzzle - just what has caused Young-goon to go round the twist?
Opening with a wonderfully satirical assembly line where our heroine starts hard-wiring her unfinished radio into her own veins, I'm a Cyborg goes on to show her stay and cure in a psychiatric ward. And what a hospital it is, not since Samuel Fuller's Shock Corridor has there been such a stylised mental unit created on film. There are mythomaniacs, guilt victims and Il, the soon to be apple of our girl's eye and kleptomaniac, who can steal emotions and experiences. Rather than tee hee from the sidelines or tut tut from above, Park chooses to enjoy the madness by making the delusions more interesting than the reality that they represent escape from.
For example, our heroine can turn into a human machine gun with multiple barrels for finger tips, the lovely couple can escape through literal flights of imagination from the secure rooms, and personal characteristics can be absorbed by Il like some kind of weird faith healer. Park's film celebrates the fantasy, the hallucinations, and the neurotic beliefs of the patients, and gives his heroic couple some kind of deliverance from their predicament along with an understanding of the value of their lunacy. In fact, Park shows the sane world as a place of closed minds, bigotry, and full of an unhealthy compulsion to keep up appearances despite the truth.
There is extreme fantasy violence at times, but a general warmth and whimsy which keeps the viewer involved and watching. No moment in the film is wasted, as ideas crop out of every crevice, and an innate humility doesn't let the audience become superior or condescending. As with films of its kind, I am thinking Amelie for instance, there is a danger of thematic overload, and sometimes the kooky creativity takes the film off course for a little too long in certain sequences. Still, given the film's goodwill to its characters, and its illustration of a kind world lived in by mad people, I am sure the spectator will forgive it for occasionally being indulgent or nonsensical.
After all my concerns about cold clinical film-making, Park's I'm a Cyborg will lift your soul with its joy of humanity. After plumbing the depths of depravity, Park has proved he knows where the light is by making a poetic and caring movie that will give heart to the romantic in all of us.
I’m a Cyborg, But That's OK was shot on digital media so the transfer here is grain free and very impressive. The surreal and intense colour schemes of the film are beautifully presented with exceptional detail and fidelity, images are sharp and clean and edges are natural looking. For some reason the box describes the transfer as 1080 rather than 1080P, but it does seem to be the latter. The sound comes with DTS-HD MA, True HD and 5.1 options which are well mastered and lacking any obvious imperfections in terms of distortion or source problems. Both the 5.1 and DTS track tracks use the surround channels powerfully and are appropriate to the spatial requirements of the action, the 5.1 is bassier but the DTS track has more definition and clarity delivering the wonderful score far more impressively. The True HD down mixed to 2.0 on both my computer and my system so my comments are far from informed about the track’s true quality but it seemed flatter and less aggressive than the other two options here.
The extras include an hour long Q&A session with the director held in November 2007 in London, where Park explains his desire to make a more positive film and explains that this project was born out of the thought of a therapy session in a mental hospital. The session is translated into Korean for Park and his answers are then translated back into English so a lot of the hour is spent listening to the translator, I'm afraid. I didn't find the session particularly surprising nor did it shine new light on the director's methods, other than to show he's a lot funnier than you would imagine. The Making Of featurette is a very short background filming of the actual shoot showing how the flying effects were done and showing the director and his crew in action. There are two trailers included which are letter boxed within the normal 4:3 screen and carry full English subs, and the music video promoting the film had little impact on this old fogey.
A terrific transfer with excellent sound at a few quid more than the SD release, it's also a rather fine film too.