Before he directed 2019’s Best Picture winner Parasite, Bong Joon-ho was already a pioneer filmmaker on the forefront of Korea’s New Wave. Films like Okja, Snowpiercer, and The Host garnered him worldwide popularity of his biting social commentary, acerbic wit, and deft tonal twists. Bong’s 2003’s procedural homicide thriller Memories of Murder is often touted as not just one of his finest, however one of the best Korean movies ever produced.
Based on a real story from the Nineteen Eighties, Memories of Murder finds two detectives struggling to seize the wrongdoer behind a then-unprecedented collection of murders of ladies in the agrarian city of Hwaseong. As the stress of the case wears on and the our bodies pile up, Seo (Kim Sang-kyung) and Park (Song Kang-ho) are pushed to their brink by a determined search to deliver the killer to justice.
Memories of Murder is an emotionally taut and exquisitely plotted crime thriller that encompasses many if not all of the aesthetic touchstones that will go on to change into Bong’s signature throughout his later movies: darkly comedic undertones, evocative cinematography, and spectacular blocking. It’s a movie whose consummate craft and tone rivals, if not outright surpasses, David Fincher’s Zodiac from 2007, with terrific performances courtesy of Song Kang-ho and Kim Sang-kyung and a last scene and shot that’s certain to devastate and hang-out you lengthy after the credit roll.
Following the discharge of Bong’s movie in 2003, the true case remained unsolved for one more 16 years. But in 2019, Korean authorities confirmed the identity of the killer as Lee Chun-jae, a 57-year-old serving a life sentence since 1994. He finally confessed to the homicide of over 14 ladies, 10 of whom have been victims in the Hwaseong murders.
This week, Criterion will launch a new 4K digital restoration of Memories of Murder, full with additional dvd options together with commentary tracks, interviews with admirers akin to Guillermo del Toro, and interviews with the director himself. In the clip above, critic Darcy Paquet speaks with Bong Joon-ho in regards to the analysis that went into developing the profile of the killer as they have been portrayed in the movie, the emotional pressure of filming some of Memories of Murders’ most harrowing scenes, and his sophisticated response to the information of Lee Chun-jae’s confession.
Criterion will launch the 4K version of Bong Joon-ho’s Memories of Murder on April 20, and it may be bought through Amazon or the Criterion retailer.