June 16, 2024


General will live on forever

South Korea's Oscar submission Decision to Leave — Portland Museum of Art

South Korea’s Oscar submission Decision to Leave — Portland Museum of Art

Decision to Leave

A winner of Best Director at this year’s Cannes Film Festival and South Korea’s submission for this year’s Best International Film category at the Academy Awards, Decision to Leave is a deliriously inventive thriller made in thrall to Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. Directed Park Chan-wook, best known for the cult classic Oldboy and 2016’s period psychosexual thriller The Handmaiden, this film finds the director operating at the height of his powers. The labyrinthine plot is propelled by the death of a wealthy man, who appears to have fallen off a mountain while climbing. His wife, Seo-rae (played by the great Tang Wei, of Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution), is called in for questioning and one of the detectives on the case, Hae-joon (Park Hae-il), is concerned that she doesn’t seem overly bothered by her husband’s death. Because of this, he does what so many Hitchcockian protagonists do: he spies on her. Park has tremendous fun with the visual possibilities and metaphors inherent in a relationship that is initially covert but becomes too close for comfort. Decision to Leave is a remarkably fluid film, full of both formal and structural trickery to the point where it’s often difficult to maintain your bearings in the story. This is intentional, a clever mirror to Hae-joon’s increasingly addled psyche, but the film maintains its force thanks to Tang’s outstanding performance. In a year notable for having films that really stick their landings (Aftersun, Tár, The Fabelmans), none may be able to top Decision to Leave’s devastating final moments.