Combustible Celluloid
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With: Lee Sung-jae, Bae Doona, Kim Ho-jung, Byun Hee-bong, Go Soo-hee, Kim Roi-ha, Kim Jin-goo
Written by: Bong Joon-ho, Song Ji-ho, Derek Son Tae-woong
Directed by: Bong Joon-ho
MPAA Rating: NR
Language: Korean, with English subtitles
Running Time: 110
Date: 02/19/2000

Barking Dogs Never Bite (2000)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Bark Staring Mad

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Bong Joon-ho's debut feature isn't as well-known as his next, the hit Memories of Murder (2003), but it shows him already in command of his craft, and with many of his signature themes in place. Barking Dogs Never Bite is set in a huge apartment complex, where Ko Yun-ju (Lee Sung-jae) lives with his beautiful, but demanding pregnant wife, Eun-sil (Kim Ho-jung). He struggles to achieve a position as a professor, but his wife treats him like a servant. The sound of a barking dog makes him snap and he tries to kill it by throwing it off the roof, but instead he starts a long chain of events involving several others (and several dogs). Bae Doona (later in American films like Cloud Atlas and Jupiter Ascending) plays a clerk at the apartment complex, who helps put up posters for missing dogs; her best friend (Go Soo-hee) is a sullen toy store owner. Bong's sense of place is not only vivid and memorable, but it ties inexorably into his themes. The big apartment building is a soulless hunk of brick, but it also contains many moving parts. He also slyly transforms the movie from what seems to be a dark comedy into something quite a bit more powerful, a squirmy look at the dark underbellies of humans, and the monsters we can turn into without even realizing it.

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