301, 302

"Movie Magazine International" Review

(Air Date: Week Of 5/1/96)

By Alex Lau

Most of the movies coming out of Hollywood nowadays are either screwball comedies or big, violent action flicks. Same old, same old. To get something truly different, you have to either keep an eye on the independents, or look at some of the avant-garde foreign films.

A Korean movie, though, is not what you would usually call avant-garde. Most of them are, well, screwball comedies or action flicks, and very few make it across the Pacific to American movie screens. Director Chul-Soo Park's "301, 302," on the other hand, is a dark, moody, and tense character study that takes a look at two women who live next door to each other; the title comes from their apartment numbers, 301 and 302.

We meet 301 as a police inspector comes calling. Apparently 302 has gone missing, and 301 may have been the last one to see her. As we learn more and more about 302's strange habits, including the inability to eat or even smell good food, we also learn about 301's quirks, including her fascination with cooking and eating.

The two women are as alike as they are different, though, and their uneasy friendship leads to some traumatic revelations.

Director Park tells the story in flashbacks and voiceovers, and it blurs the line between dream and reality. When the truth is revealed about 302's disappearance, it really hits home. The scenes of the wonderful Korean cooking are reminiscent of "Eat, Drink, Man, Woman," but "301, 302" is disturbing enough that I almost didn't feel like eating dinner afterwards.

"301, 302" is Korea's entry for the 1996 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, and it deserves a look. Just don't go on an empty stomach.

Copyright 1996 Alex Lau

"Movie Magazine International" Movie Review Index

"Movie Magazine International" Home Page