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THE RED CHAPEL (2009)

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THE RED CHAPEL (2009)

Monday, 23 December 2013 20:36

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THE SUMMARY

     A Danish documentarian (Mads Brugger) goes on a trip to North Korea with two Danish comedians (Jacob Nossell and Simon Jul) who were adopted from South Korea as children. The reason they told DPRK officials for the trip was as a small theatre/comedy group intending cultural exchange. The real reason is to try to get an inside look at North Korea. Although the subject seems to be a pretty lighthearted endeavor, the film pretty quickly becomes dark as hell and genuinely unsettling. Jacob has spastic paralysis and is physically disabled to an extent; DPRK is rumored to have an official policy of killing the disabled so as not to reflect poorly on their hermetic, tightly controlled image. So what it ends up being is a deeply creepy 90 minutes of equal parts fetishizing over and loathing of Jacob and a disconcerting painting of how truly fucked up of a nation North Korea is with regards to the disabled as they parade him around the country for wantonly transparent propaganda purposes.

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH THIS FILM

     Our general terminology for the different sections of our review format really just doesn’t fit with this movie, so I’ve altered it to be a bit more respectful of the material. I should stress that although this is one of my favorite documentaries I’ve seen recently, it’s not a fun movie. It’s eye-opening, and if you’re as fascinated by the most totalitarian regime on Earth as I am, you really need to see this documentary. It gives insight into the weird minds of a generations-brainwashed people who, throughout the runtime, respond to Jacob’s disability in bizarre, unpredictable ways. Interactions this (for lack of a better word) real almost never escape North Korea in footage. The result ends up being so surreal that it made me dumbstruck at points. Even though this movie is about comedy (at least on the surface), very few things in this movie are intentionally funny. However, the handlers assigned to the group behave in such an alien fashion devoid of normal reasoning that occasionally the utter weirdness is funny in its own regard. This does not change how dire of a picture this film paints of the plight of the North Koreans. The crescendo of this documentary is jaw-dropping. I will not even sort of describe it, because it needs to be seen with no expectations to be believed.

WHY YOU SHOULD NOT WATCH THIS FILM AT A PARTY

     It’s a soul-crushing film. My heart breaks for everyone in this film. Not a bit of the tension is lost on Jacob, who regularly keeps voicing his discontent in Danish so that the handlers can’t understand him. The picture definitely does not paint the country in a good light, so it is very likely that every North Korean responsible for handling these three guys is dead now. Really, if you have a group of people who want to know more about Best Korea, they’ll already know what to expect, and may not have seen this. Besides that, I can’t really imagine any other demographic of people who’d want to drink to this movie. Make no mistake, this is definitely a movie you’ll want to drink to if this review appeals to you so far, but it’s not for happy reasons.

RECOMMENDED VIEWING: Deep Thoughts, Solo Experience

     The Red Chapel is dark, yet illuminating. If you want to learn more about the worst place on the planet, you really will want to see this film. Could a documentary about comedians be the saddest, most existentially exhausting film you’ve seen in recent memory? Potentially. But it’s worth seeing. Not enough people know about DPRK, and even if you are well-versed in the geopolitical situation in the area, this may be a completely different perspective on it. Watch it; don’t put it on at a party. Sorry if I don’t really have any jokes to make about it.

DRINK

The whole movie. Don’t stop.

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About Us

Tanked Matinee is the place to go for good drinking movies. What do we mean by that? Simply speaking, we evaluate and recommend entertainment media based on how much fun it is to watch with friends on the sofa and a cold beer in hand.

Everyone knows "The Godfather" is a great movie, but is it as great to drink with as "Roadhouse?" We can appreciate "Citizen Kane" as a masterpiece of cinema, but is it as good a centerpiece for your party as "Santa Clause Conquers the Martians?"

Tanked Matinee appreciates film as art, but when you're kicking back on Friday night with a tall Rum & Coke, you're not looking for art, man, you want to be entertained. We're here to recommend the best movies for your night in, whether it's a big party, small get-together, or just a quiet night alone with a bottle of wine or three.

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