So what are we all screaming for today? Robots. I’m going to take a look at two cult cinema films, which might have passed you by. Part fascination, part fear. Robots both equally repel and attract us. Like it or not, it appears our robot overlords are here to stay. Which is why we’re going to take a closer look at these two films. You know, to keep in their good books.
I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK
(aka “Ssa-i-bo-geu-ji-man-gwen-chan-a” & “I’m a Cyborg”)
A tender tale of friendship & romance with a bittersweet humour from Korea, by the same director that brought you Oldboy.
- Release Date – 2006
- Language – Korean
- Rated – 15 (UK)
- Runtime – 1 hour 45 minutes
- Genres – Art House, Comedy, Drama & Romance
I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK is directed by Park Chan-wook who perhaps better known for his visceral work Oldboy. Anyone who is familiar with Oldboy would be perhaps surprised to hear Park has turned his hand to creating such a tender film. After all, this is a love story at heart, despite how unconventional it is.
Cha Young-goon is a young woman who hears voices and believes she is a cyborg. After harming herself at work she is sent to a mental institution. Whilst there she refuses to eat and remains in a mostly catatonic state for the first part of her stay. The only thing Young-goon confides in is inanimate objects, such as lights. She catches the eye of another resident at the hospital Il-sun, who decides to try to help Young-goon. The hospital staff tell the other residents that Young-goon only has 3 or 4 days left to live if she keeps refusing food. Il-sun knows that he little time left to earn his new friend’s trust and try to convince her to eat. He does everything he can to help, but is it enough?
The first thing that should be noted is that despite that fact I tend to find romance movies, dull, inspiring and garish, I really enjoyed this film. I suppose it could be to do with the fact the romance aspect is a long burner in this film. There was a lot of sweetness to the romance as it blossomed, but it took a lot of time to get there. Young-goon is not the most trusting of people, so the way Il-sun tried to accommodate her needs is incredibly thoughtful. Their path to romance is quirky, painful and bittersweet, and I was there for every moment of it.
I adored the odd surreal nature of this film. The way we are able to see the fantasies (or delusions) of the characters through their eyes, made me connect more with each individual. This film is equal parts whimsy, odd humour, gore, romance and tear out your eyes cute. Attention has been paid to colour in this film and it shows. We have a lot of wonderfully coloured shots in this film, which are almost painting-like.
If you like your films pretty, funny, very quirky and featuring robots I would definitely recommend you watch I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK.
You can buy I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK on DVD for £4.85 or Blu-Ray for £11.64 from Amazon.
I give I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK 7/10.
(aka M.A.R.K. 13 )
Often unfairly compared to Terminator, this slice of 90’s cinema carries a message beneath the deep layers of surrealism and terror.
Release Date – 1990
Language – English
Rated – 18 (UK)
Runtime – 1 hour 34 minutes
Genres – Sci-Fi & Thriller
Hardware is directed by Richard Stanley. Stanley is known for writing the screenplay for The Island of Dr Moreau (but don’t hold that against him) and for Dust Devil which he also wrote and directed.
The initial release of this film did not give any credit to the short story “Shok!” which Hardware was based on. Written by Steve MacManus (under the pseudonym of Ian Rogan), “Shok!” was a one-off story published in 2000 AD comics for the 1981 Judge Dredd annual. The similarities between the storylines of “Shok!” and Hardware were not ignored, leading to a court case. MacManus won his case and was subsequently given a screenwriting credit on all re-releases of Hardware.
Look out for a very young Dylan McDermott, also for guest appearances from Lemmy and Iggy Pop. The soundtrack for this film is amazing by the way. I defy you not to be singing The Order of Death by PiL (This Is What You Want…This Is What You Get) for days after you’ve finished watching.
Hardware is set in a post-apocalyptic New York City (very similar to Mega City 1 from Judge Dredd). The year is 2000 and the world has been rendered as nuclear desert by war. There is a distinct class divide. A large majority of the population are nomadic, homeless and desperate whilst the rich few stay locked up safe in their apartment complexes. The main protagonist Mo, works as a scavenger in the wastelands. The story starts with Mo, who buys some robot parts from a nomad and gifts them to his girlfriend Jill. She is one of the lucky few, living in a mid-city apartment complex and making a living as an artist. After using some of the gifted robot parts in her artwork, the head somehow reactivates itself. Things start to take a dark and terrifying turn soon after.
Many have made the comparison between Hardware and Terminator. In my opinion, it’s worth noting that “Shok!” was published 3 years before the release of Terminator. It would seem that the fact both films have rampaging robots, dystopic future scapes and strong female leads, allows many people to immediately jump to this comparison.
The main female character Jill is a force to be reckoned with. Since she is living as one of the few, I immediately thought that she would be soft, screaming and helpless. Not so. Quite the opposite in fact. Jill is here to take nonsense from no one. Not naughty robots, nor her flighty, unreliable boyfriend Mo. This female lead is strong, very smart and well written.
Style-wise, this film is very art house. Lots of beautiful camera shots, odd viewpoints and lighting that makes no organic sense, but looks lush. I felt the director’s love of old Western movies, and this feels like a homage to those. Especially the opening scene of this film.
To discuss the message behind this film, would I feel give away too many crucial plot points. I, therefore, leave you to decipher those for yourself.
You can buy Hardware from Amazon on DVD from £7.29 and on Blu-ray from £14.50.
I give Hardware 6/10.