Barking Dogs Never Bite
Director: Bong Joon Ho Run Time: 110 min. Format: DCP Rating: NR Release Year: 2000 Language: Korean with English subtitles
Starring: Lee Sung-jae, Bae Doo-na, Byun Hee-bong
Released in 2000, Bong Joon Ho’s debut feature film Barking Dogs Never Bite arguably remains the most under-seen of his works. Though the movie, which follows academic Yun-ju (Lee Sung-jae) as he desperately vies for a job as a professor, was critically fairly well-received, it bombed at the box office, to the point that Bong thought he might never work in the industry again. Perhaps as a direct result, Bong has since described the film as “very stupid” and actively discouraged audiences from seeking it out. Against his advice, we are screening it at Nitehawk now.
While the film isn’t as airtight as his later works, it is something of a blueprint for the rest of Bong’s oeuvre, as the story explores shifting scales of morality and class division. It’s also quite stylistically playful, as lively camerawork and an unusually jazzy score lend a noir-like feel to a movie that is, in plot, somewhat mundane. As Yun-ju despairs over his unemployment, his sense of frustration finds focus in canine form. Annoyed by the constant sound of a dog’s barking throughout the apartment complex in which he lives, he resolves to kill the unfortunate pooch, thus setting off a chain of misunderstandings, not least of his own ability to actually do the deed. Meanwhile, Hyun-nam (Bae Doona), an aimless young woman who works at the same complex, decides to investigate the recent string of missing dogs.