Earlier this year (yes, only this year) Bong Joon-ho made history when his latest film,Parasite, became the first film not in the English language to win Best Picture at the Oscars. To continue the celebration of the South Korean’s career, his first two features are getting re-released this weekend: Barking Dogs Never Bite and the startling Memories of Murder. In the case of his debut, this marks the first time that Barking Dogs Never Bite has received a cinema release in the UK, giving audiences on these shores the first chance to experience the beginning of Bong Joon-ho’s idiosyncratic stylings in the way he intended.
The film is set in a rundown apartment block, where unemployed hopeful academic Yun-ju (Lee Sung-jae) lives with his pregnant partner, Eun-sil (Kim Ho-jung). With anxiety and stress mounting over his career path and expectant fatherhood, as well as a less than loving relationship with his wife, it would seem the world around Yun-ju is getting too suffocating to bear. And if only the neighbour’s dog would stop barking.
As with any debut feature, Barking Dogs Never Bite is never quite up to the task of providing as sophisticated an experience as we have come to expect from Bong Joon-ho. His second film, Memories of Murder, is most certainly more on the level with the likes of Parasite, but there’s something undeniably scrappy and endearing about his first film. It may not walk the tonal tightrope of satire and drama as well as his more celebrated work, but there’s a surprising amount here that signals his path as a filmmaker, with much to admire within.
Full review over at Filmhounds Magazine, originally published September 18th 2020.