I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK (2008)

I’m Not a Psy-cho.  I’m a Cy-borg.

Samrizon made the request for today’s movie a pretty good amount of time ago, but I just didn’t feel like I wanted to watch it, even though it’s available on Netflix streaming.  A good portion of the reason I didn’t want to watch it is because it’s a foreign film, and I hate reading whether there’s moving pictures accompanying it or not.  It also seemed pretentious, and I usually just get annoyed by movies like that.  But it was a request to be certain, so it was going to happen eventually, whether I wanted to or not.  I finally decided to sit down and try to read my way through a movie called I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK, written by Jeong Seo-kyeong, co-written and directed by Park Chan-wook, and starring Im Soo-jung, Rain, Dal-su Oh, Su-jeong Lim, Choi Hie-jin, Lee Yong-nyeo, Yu Ho-jeong, and Kim Byeong.

A young Korean factory worker girl named Young-goon (Im Soo-jung) hears transmissions that lead her to believe that she’s a cyborg.  It’s unknown at this point whether or not that’s acceptable.  She also believes that she’s low on power, so she cuts her wrist and puts a power cord into the wound, plugging it in and almost killing herself.  She’s taken to a mental institution where she speaks only to appliances and listens only to her radio, which tells her what she must do to be a better cyborg.  She also refuses to eat, believing that it would cause her to break down, and sustains herself by licking batteries.  She also meets a young man named Il-sun (Rain), who is antisocial and a kleptomaniac, believing he can steal personality traits from people while he’s wearing any number of homemade rabbit masks.  The other people in the institution hate him for him stealing things from them, but this actually helps him, as he believes he’ll shrink to the size of a dot if people stop paying attention to him.  He starts to develop a sort of crush on Young-goon and tries to help her reunite with her institutionalized grandmother.

I found myself completely spellbound by this for the first bulk of the movie.  Not so much by how good of a movie it was, but just by how friggin’ crazy balls it was.  It’s a super quirky and goofy movie, but very little of it struck me as funny.  I would say it was largely amusing though and, by the end, found that I actually enjoyed it.  But I didn’t enjoy it for its quirkiness; I enjoyed it for the romantic story.  It wasn’t a typical love story, but it was a really sweet and innocent relationship that develops between Young-goon and Il-sun.  With their mental states, it’s almost like watching two young children fall in love, as if I was watching a Korean version of My Girl on LSD.  With the quirkiness comes a great deal of imagination, and that’s pretty evident in almost all aspects of the movie.  I’ve seen a lot of movies, but I don’t think I’ve seen a movie like this before.  I would say that my enjoyment of the movie was probably hindered by the fact that it’s a foreign movie.  I know most purists hate to think of watching a movie in anything other than its natural language, but I really wish I had been able to watch the movie dubbed instead of subtitled.  I just don’t read fast enough (or pay enough attention to things) to keep up with a really verbose foreign drama/comedy.  Most of the foreign movies I’ve seen are martial arts movies, and you can usually get by just fine in those movies without reading any of the dialogue at all.  But I was able to get by on the story of this movie anyway.  I guess if the majority of the things that the characters are saying are completely nuts, you can miss a line or two.  And the look of it successfully captured my attention anyway.  The movie is very colorful and cheerful looking, even when the scene might not have been.  They also made good use of computer generated images, like the opening credit sequence with the cool gears turning like a mechanical version of the X-Men movie opening.  A similar look showed up later when Il-sun installed a rice conversion tool into Young-goon.  I also thought it was a nice idea to have Young-goon show how much charge she had with the little lights on her toes.  When she turned into a robotic death machine, it was interesting, but typically goofy.  That’s what they were going for though, so I guess that’s okay.  I also had a problem with the look in that they kept zooming in on crazy gibberish early on in the movie that I assume they figured I would be able to read, but Netflix didn’t feel the need to translate them.

The performances were mostly over the top, but they were trying to play mental patients, so you really can’t say they should have toned it down.  Im Soo-jung was really cute in her role, typically acting as you would expect a cyborg to act and mostly seemed to not really understand or be interested in the things going on around her.  I also thought Korean pop singer Rain did a good job as Il-soon.  The only other time I had seen this guy was when he was in Ninja Assassin, and he wasn’t playing anywhere near that character in this movie.  I thought he had the most moments of comedy that actually worked for me, like when he would walk down the hall like Dr. Zoidberg for no particular reason.  He also played the character really earnest and childlike, and I found him really endearing.

I got off to a rough start with I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK, but that was really more my own problems than theirs.  Once I got over the bitterness I feel over having to read a movie, I got taken in by the movie’s imagination and quirkiness, and then got to feel that the love story was really sweet and innocent.  All of the performances of the crazy people were good, but I particularly liked the two main performances from Im Soo-jung and Rain.  Even though you’ll have to read it – or understand Korean – I think this is a sweet movie and worth watching.  Check it out on Netflix streaming.  I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK gets “Sweet” out of “Psycho.”

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