They say that the secret of producing a commercially, not to mention artistically, successful parody film is to use the sillier aspects of your target genre as a source of creative inspiration to write a screenplay chock-o-block full of in-jokes, references and send-ups of the cliches.
Fortunately for us, auteur Jang Sun-woo
) was attending film school on the day they lectured on how to produce a movie that parodies the self-importance of a big-budgeted blockbuster such as "The Matrix". The only problem is that he must have fallen asleep after the first five minutes, because "Resurrection of the Little Match Girl
" (2002) is an absolute debacle, so thoroughly bad that it makes for fascinating viewing.
Opening with a hilarious grainy sequence, which feels like a homage to Lars Von Trier's ("Dogville") silent film-making technique, we are informed that "This film is based on a poem", before being treated to a re-enactment of Hans Christian Anderson's "The Little Match Girl" (substitute matches for cigarette lighters), in a world where the cult of celebrity and video gamers rule.
Delivery boy Joo, played by Kim Hyun-sung
("My Beautiful Days
"), is a wannabe gaming champion who believes that he can win fame and fortune, not to mention the love of a girl (Lim Eun-kyeong
) he's been stalking at the local arcade, by playing a computer-simulated game. With the goal of seeking out, rescuing and then getting a Little Match Girl, also played by Lim Eun-kyeong
") to dream about them as she freezes to death, the players enter into world where the boundaries of reality and fantasy are well and truly blurred.
Confused? Well, it only gets better because after Joo whips out a machine gun and blows away an entire office block, he finds himself sucked into a virtual reality world filled with characters such as a transsexual man-hating lesbian named Lara (of which a bubble on screen informs: "Remember Lara Croft? Only here she's a lesbian".), a god-like, unseen Frenchman speaking Korean-subtitled English, too many gun battles to count, a helicopter that can enter the fourth dimension, and the assassination of a luminescent butterfly.
At over $10 million, "Resurrection of the Little Match Girl
" is one of the most expensive Korean films of all time. It's an awkward, artsy, eye-popping movie, which despite its faults (and there are many of them), makes for enthralling viewing. The scene where the Little Match Girl loses her cool and begins killing random citizens, commuters in a crowded subway station and orphans - all to the sweet sounds of Aaron Neville's version of "Ave Maria" - is absolutely priceless.
By John Scott Marchant