I try not to traffic in the whole Oscar Snub discussion. I mean, what’s the point?
We’ve all tried to go for things and did get them for whatever reason. Most of the time, as Michael Corleone said, “It’s not personal, it’s just business”.
But on occasion there is a snub so egregious, so inexplicable, so head scratchingly beyond reason I feel compelled to engage in the discourse. That’s right Academy. This is your fault. All you had to do is nominate DECISION TO LEAVE for something. Anything. But no. Members for whatever reason chose to just forget this 2022 movie ever. At least South Korea thought enough of the film to submit it as their entry for Best International Feature. But that’s as far as DECISION TO LEAVE got. And it’s not like the film had a middling resume. Park Chan-wook was recognized at Cannes for best director. So yeah, this would not have been some off the wall decision.
The real reason this is such an… ok I’m going to use the “O’ word… yes, outrage is DECISION TO LEAVE is one of my Top 5 movies of 2022. Director Park’s psychological noir thriller is a smoldering, riveting film. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. It definitely has a Hitchcock vibe. Park told the L.A. Times that he didn’t go to film school.. that “Hitchcock was my film school”. Give the man an A+ in that class. The influence of Hitchcock is clear, but it’s not just a lift from a movie like VERTIGO. Park takes the best of his influence and makes it his own.
DECISION TO LEAVE follows a young police detective who is assigned to investigate the death of a middle-aged man in a climbing accident. The dead man is married to a young Chinese immigrant. The detective (Park Hae-il) questions the widow (Tang Wei) for hours. All the while th married detective is falling for the mysterious young woman. Eventually he accepts that the death was an accident, and he moves on to other cases.
That is just the start of this twisty, engrossing film. I will avoid spoilers because you really should see how it all plays out. That said, there is one scene I have to talk about because it is a prime example of Park’s talent and the lessons he learned from Hitchcock. We follow the detective as he recreates the time leading up to husband’s death. It is as harrowing as it is masterful. It is perfectly shot. You get inside the heads of both the detective and the widow at the same time as Park recreates what happened by taking us to the crime scene in two different timelines.
The film is as much about desire as it is about the crime that is being investigated. The smoldering chemistry between the two main characters jumps off the screen and into your head. This is a sexy movie that isn’t obsessed with the act. The detective is married, but his obsession isn’t his wife. Despite what has happened he cannot seem to get the young widow out of his mind. The film is a slow burn builds to an edge your seat climax.
Back the snub discussion. So, what would I kick out of the Best Picture nominations for example? I have not and will not see AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER (not interested. Saw the original when it was released and haven’t watched it since) or ELVIS (I have thoughts on that which I’ll save for another review). See. It’s easy. I did the work for you Academy. You’re welcome.
In all seriousness it is baffling how the Academy could pass this over. Only the members can answer that. The only international feature to be recognized among the 10 Best Picture nominees was ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT. Maybe it’s an availability issue. AQOTWF is streaming on Netflix. For DECISION TO LEAVE I had to sign up for a trial subscription to MUBI. Or maybe Park wouldn’t “play the game” of campaigning for his movie. I don’t know. But a film this good, that was honored at Cannes and received 2 BAFTA nominations (Best Film not in the English Language and Best Direction) deserved better from the Oscars.
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