Eye For Film >> Movies >> Barking Dogs Never Bite (2000) Film Review
Barking Dogs Never Bite
Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson
Dogs are of the small and fluffy kind in Bong Joon Ho's debut feature - which is now available to stream on Curzon Home Cinema - and are much more likely to be endangered than any sort of danger themselves. That doesn't stop hapless lecturer Yun-ju (Lee Sung-jae) from feeling dogged by them, however. Waiting for a professorship that may well only come with a hefty bribe attached, he spends his evenings cracking open walnuts for his pregnant wife and his days being annoyed by the yapping of a neighbour's pet. A small thing, perhaps, but one that - in a life where he seems to control little - sparks him to embark on a course of action that will have unforeseen consequences and lead to other problem pups.
As Yun-ju's canine campaign gathers pace, bored but sympathetic administrative clerk Hyun-nam (Doona Bae), who adds the official building stamp to missing dog posters among other jobs, becomes involved as the doggy disappearance count mounts.
Bong's film is a sprawling affair, taking place mainly in Yun-ju's apartment block, complete with a shadowy basement, with the jazzy score reflecting the way the action bounces forward and backward to unexpected places. Even in this first film he shows an aptitude for clever digression into other stories - a drunk lecturer and a subway train, the ghostly tale of "Boiler Kim" - while managing to keep the main narrative on the rails. He also shows a good eye for colour and composition, using red and yellow to add emphasis to scenes and the linear lines of the apartment block to accentuate the thrill of a chase. As with all Bong's films, there's a balance struck between the macabre and the comical, alongside commentary on society's more unattractive attributes, which here plays even its more grisly moments for laughs.
The film is filled with moments of casual but sharp observation about relationships - from an argument between Yun-ju and his wife about the distance to the local store to the way Hyun-nam and her kiosk clerk friend get drunk together before breaking a wing mirror off a car - but Bong also throws in some energetic action scenes for good measure.
It might be baggy at the seams in terms of story and less finely honed in its social commentary than the more recent Parasite but its anarchic spirit is seductive.Reviewed on: 24 Sep 2020