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The President's Last Bang

In 1961, the government of South Korea's Second Republic was overthrown in a military coup led by Major General Park Chunghee. For the next 18 years he dragged South Korea into the 20th Century through a combination of exuberant economic policies and an even more exuberant exercise of raw, authoritarian power. In October of 1979, he was assassinated at a private dinner party by the Director of the Korean CIA.

"The President's Last Bang" chronicles the events of that October evening in 1979.

I'm not going to say much about this movie, except to say that it's well worth seeing, though you should probably have the stomach for watching blood pooling on marble floors, and a liking for stories wherein the best laid plans of mice and men unravel with increasing alacrity on account of simple, straightforward ass-hattery. The film looks great, has some wonderful sight gags (probably some good verbal gags too, but since it's in Korean with English subtitles, who can tell?), and it takes a close look at a subject I never realized I was interested in:

"But what's it really like to be caught up in a coup d'etat?"

Watching this movie, I found myself sinking into a deeper and deeper consideration of my fear of death by ass-hattery, which I would describe this way: the fear of knowing during that patch of time between the moment you discover you are certainly going to die, and the moment when you actually do die, that the reason you are going to die is because some ass-hat did something indescribably stupid or inept.

I think it's a little bit like the special fear many people have of being eaten by a shark. At the moment when you know you are about to die, you don't want to be reminded that you are a helpless piece of meat.

You want to be spread out there on the pavement, breathing your last out after having jumped in front of a bus in order to save a small child's life, or be sprawled there on the grimy linoleum of your local fast food eatery, bleeding out your last after having wrestled the Maniac With The Automatic Rifle to the ground, knocking him unconscious and saving untold numbers of lives.

As opposed to being a member of the Korean CIA standing around the Secret Presidential Retreat, minding your own beeswax, the night the ass-hat director of your agency decides to assassinate the President, mostly because he's just fed up.

Actually, this movie is really, really interesting in a lot of different ways but I don't feel like writing it all up right now. I'm a baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad movie critic. Just rent the damned thing and watch it. And don't forget to check out the extra feature interview with the director on the DVD.

He's the guy I want to show me around the next time I'm in Seoul.

[Netflix, B & N, ]


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Asshattery, yes, but misadventure of any sort: the time you have to realize a) it's going to happen and b) you can't do anything about it. The truck, looming in the windshield. The plane, lurching sickeningly. (There's that scene in Watchmen where the writer looks up and sees the bomb and his lover says what is it? and he says it's nothing, love, and holds her, and then.)

Yeah, the space between knowing it will happen and then it happening is a great part of the fear, and source of pathos for that matter, as we are reminded by the recently released 911 tapes from people trapped above the fires in the World Trade Center. The local media here was playing a great many of them yesterday. I reach for the dial to change it as the tapes come on, but then hesitate. Awful to listen to, difficult to not listen.

But for me, there is a special fillip added by the ass-hattery element. Even though I am subject to occasional bouts of stupidity myself, stupid people and stupid behavior are really unbearable to me. And to actually die of someone else's stupidity...

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