• Woman Chasing The Butterfly Of Death (Mondo Macabro) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Mondo Macabro
    Released on: October 22nd, 2019.
    Director: Kim Ki-young
    Cast: Kim Jo-ok, Nam Kung-Won, Kim Man, Am Park, Hyang Lee, Po Yeo, Lee Hwa-si
    Year: 1978
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    Woman Chasing The Butterfly Of Death – Movie Review:

    Directed by the late Kim Ki-young in 1978, whose better known The Housemaid was included in the Criterion Collection release of Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project #1, Woman Chasing The Butterfly Of Death is every bit as bizarre as its unusual title suggests.

    Young-gul (Jeong-cheol) is a college student with an affinity for harmonicas and butterflies. When we meet him, he’s running about a riverside park with his massive net in an attempt to secure a specimen for his collection. He’s watched, and seemingly judged, by a strange but attractive woman wearing a butterfly pendant while resting under a tree and muttering to herself, providing a bit of a running commentary on his actions. She offers him a drink of orange juice and, after he accepts and imbibes, she tells him that it was poisoned because she didn’t want to die all by herself. He runs away and gets medical attention while she passes away.

    Later that same night, Young-gul decides to hang himself but not before a man, who we’re left to believe is probably insane, stops by to offer him a book that will teach him how to use his own willpower to defeat death. Young-gul is understandably cautious about this until the man insists that he stab him. The man dies, or so it seems, but keeps coming back to visit Young-gul as his body starts to basically disintegrate until he’s basically left a skeleton – even more so when Young-gul burns him. Seemingly unmoved by all of this, Young-gul goes to explore a cave where he finds a skeleton he figures is of some importance. He takes it back and cleans it up and learns that it belongs to a woman, now dead, who was cursed – but at this particular time, she’s back and she’s gorgeous and she’s more than happy to thank Young-gul with a night of carnal fun. The sex is appropriately weird – she tries to eat his liver at one point - but things get even weirder as the man the girl in the park was originally supposed to kill herself with shows up, a grave robber robs some graves, Young-gul’s obsession with butterflies intensifies and, well, you just need to see it for yourself.

    Stunningly bizarre but somehow completely engrossing, Woman Chasing The Butterfly Of Death is, in a word, unique. There’s a story here to be sure, but the film is content to get there when it feels like it. The movie is long at two hours, but never slow, there’s always enough cinematic weirdness going on in pretty much every scene to keep viewers engaged should they be in the right frame of mind (altered or otherwise). It’s a trippy picture, never truly scary but always truly odd, and it benefits from some gorgeous lighting and macabre visual set pieces. It’s a picture that definitely places mood and atmosphere over narrative, and it certainly won’t be a film for all tastes, but Kim Ki-young’s direction, as strange as it might be, has no trouble pulling us in to Young-gul’s increasingly unusual plight.

    Jeong-cheol is pretty good in the lead. He’s not really all that charismatic but neither is his character, he suits the part well enough. The guy who plays the old man with the book is great, stealing every scene he can, while the actress who plays the resurrected woman vamps it up wonderfully and looks great doing it. The score is pretty great, it suits the tone of the movie very well, and overall the production values on display are impressive.

    What a weird movie this is!

    Woman Chasing The Butterfly Of Death – Blu-ray Review:

    Mondo Macabro gives Woman Chasing The Butterfly Of Death its official North American home video premiere with this Blu-ray release, which is taken from a brand new 4k transfer of the film’s original 35mm negative and presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 2.35.1 widescreen on a 50GB disc. There is some minor print damage visible here and there but some scenes look to have been shot softer than others but this is by and large a really solid effort on Mondo Macabro’s part. Colors, which play a very important role in the picture, are reproduced very nicely here and we get pretty strong black levels as well. Skin tones look fine and detail, aside from those sporadic soft scenes just mentioned, is generally really nice.

    The Korean language DTS-HD Mono track, which comes with optional English subtitles, sounds quite good on this disc. Dialogue is clean and clear, the track is properly balanced. There aren’t any problems with any hiss or distortion and the score sounds just fine.

    Extras start off with an audio commentary track from Kenneth Brorsson and Paul Quinn of the "What's Korean Cinema?" podcast that is definitely worth listening to. They’re quite upfront about the troubles involved in figuring out who did what in front of the camera but detail the cast as best they can. They spend a good bit of time talking about Kim Ki-young’s work on this and other pictures and provide some information about his place in Korean cinema history. They also do their best to decipher just what exactly is going on in the movie – this wouldn’t have been an easy tack to complete, but they do it and it proves both interesting and entertaining to listen to.

    Mondo Macabro have also provided some welcome featurettes starting with an interview with actress Lee Hwa-si runs eleven-minutes and features her speaking about how she first came to collaborate with Kim Ki-young. They made seven pictures together so she got to know him quite well and she tells some interesting stories about their work together and her time in the film industry. Producer Jeong Jin-woo is interviewed in a sixteen-minute piece and then a second thirteen-minute piece about how he got his start in the business, his early years and the evolution of his career, getting to work with and produce three films for Kim Ki-young, his thoughts on the state of Korean cinema, making pictures geared towards a younger audience and his own personal feelings regarding Woman Chasing The Butterfly Of Death. Up next is an interview with cinematographer Koo Jong-mo where, over six-minutes, he speaks about working with Kim Ki-young, how this picture did financially when released in Korean and how it was received by audiences as well as working with Kim Ki-young and his untimely death. The fifteen-minute Eleven Questions With Darcy Paquet piece interviews with American film critic, author and man behind Koreancinema.org about his efforts to bring Korean cinema to a western audience, his thoughts on the importance of Kim Ki-young’s work and quite a bit more.

    Rounding out the extras on the disc is the ever-expanding Mondo Macabro preview reel, menus and chapter selection.

    Woman Chasing The Butterfly Of Death – The Final Word:

    Woman Chasing The Butterfly Of Death is a tough nut to crack in a lot of ways but if you’re willing to just go with it, the movie is pretty hypnotic. Never lacking in style, it’s a spirited work of abstract horror, a film where logic matters less than mood. Mondo Macabro has done a great job bringing this genuinely obscure picture to Blu-ray with a very strong presentation and a nice array of supplements that do a solid job of exploring the history of the film and its director as well as offering some welcome insight into just what the heck this thing is all about. Definitely one of the most interesting Blu-ray releases of the year!

    Click on the images below for full sized Woman Chasing The Butterfly Of Death Blu-ray screen caps!