Tuesday, July 30, 2013

My New Favorite Movie: 2006’s “Aachi & Ssipak”

If you are in any way, shape or form a fan of weirdness, then you owe it to yourself to see 2006’s Aachi & Ssipak
Hilarious, action-packed animation from Korea as punk hoodlums battle government killer-cyborgs, the mutant Diaper Gang and porn-obsessed gangsters to make it in a future where poop is money!
Coming soon to a theater near you! (If you live anywhere near Brooklyn, that is…)

[Aachi & Ssipak will have three screenings in August at Brooklyn’s Spectacle Theater—more details below!]

Aachi & Ssipak
Dir. Jo Beom-jin, 2006
South Korea, 88 minutes
In Korean, with English subtitles

Rude, but very smart and funny, with extremely fast-paced animation that’s slick and distinctive, Aachi & Ssipak (2006) follows its eponymous petty crooks as they try to get rich in a world where feces is money. Literally.

It’s an action “Buddy Movie” from another dimension—as if Gary Panter, Takeshi Miike and Paul Verhoeven collaborated on a Hope & Crosby flick: “The Road to Shit City.”

Aachi is the short one, with more plans than brains, and Ssipak is the big, bald bruiser who thinks with his fists—and he’s fallen hopelessly in love with a wannabe-porn starlet, the very pneumatic Beauty (who’s much smarter than our heroes, and belongs next to Jessica Rabbit or Tex Avery’s Red Hot Riding Hood in the Sexy Cartoon Bombshell Hall of Fame).

After her anal-chip is tampered with, Beauty becomes the “MacGuffin” of this movie, the object everyone will kill for.

It seems the rulers of the future need human excrement for both fuel and building materials, and in exchange for each dump, citizens with an implant get one delicious, bright-blue mind-altering “juicybar.”

But these yummy narco-popsicles are so addictive that some people are turned into blue mutant dwarves, the “Diaper Gang”—who cause chaos with their juicybar raids and demands to rule society. “Did they appreciate us for our crap!?!” bellows the megalomaniacal Diaper King rhetorically as he calls for rebellion.

A government that would stick ID-chips up people’s rectums would do anything to maintain power, and so have unleashed a sadistic and homicidal cyborg to enforce their draconian alimentary laws by slaughtering the Diaper Gang wantonly.

When sleazeball porno-producer Jimmy’s plan for Beauty’s “magical anus,” uh, backfires, all these forces are aimed at each other in a pulse-pounding climax that rips off—and totally improves on the coal-car chase from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

Obsessed with defecation but tasteful enough never to show any brown ploppies, Aachi & Ssipak is lysergic speedfreak anime for the mayhem crowd—that’s surprisingly good natured (when it’s not willfully gross or gory).

The violence is so excessive and over-the-top, it is hilarious, but (thankfully) explicit scatological scenes are nowhere in sight—which in itself may be a socio-political comment as well…

But the movie also has heart: the two hoods care about each other; Ssipak’s love of Beauty is genuine; pathetic Jimmy is funny but human; and even the grotesque Diaper Gang deserves some sympathy—they didn’t ask to be mutated and addicted.

Almost an exhausting movie, and overloaded with delightful eyeball kicks, Aachi & Ssipak is packed with multiple cultural references (including graffiti—keep your eyes open for “Neckface”! Remember him?), but especially to action films: Structurally, the film is much like Robocop (plenty of rewarding “media blasts”), with tributes/spoofs of John Woo, Hitchcock and Terry Gilliam—as well as countless anime—littered throughout.

This South Korean production combines a tight and twisty script (co-written by director Jo Beom-jin with Yeon-won Jeong, and equal to the best episodes of The Venture Bros. or The Simpsons), with exciting animation (characters look hand-drawn; and the backgrounds are a combo of CGI and hand-painted) to create a crazy, non-stop, almost sacrilegious meta-movie: “An animator isn’t a real director!” screams Beauty before kicking someone’s face in. (BTW, in all press material, she’s referred to as “Beautiful,” but the subtitles on the version of this film I saw said “Beauty.”)

Aachi & Ssipak is hyperactive, but hardly incomprehensible—even while trying to read the subtitles and keep up with frenzied cartooning at the same time—and looks really good: The movie reportedly cost only $3.5 million—a low amount for an animated flick (Pixar’s Cars, also released in 2006, cost $120 million)—and every cent is on the screen.

But aside from the anarchic 1970s work of Ralph Bakshi, it’s almost impossible to think of Pixar or any other U.S. animator making a film so, ummm, “earthy.”

Like all good B-movies, there’s a metaphorical political message here, but it’s surrounded by so much quasi-exploitative “good stuff,” that even action fans with one-track-minds will be satisfied.

This film makes me wish I was fluent in the Korean language and culture—it’s already so dense that I feel there is so much more that I don’t get, stuff that only a Korean could appreciate or understand, lots of in-jokes. But there is a definite psychic connection between this and much of the contemporary boom in Korean genre filmmaking—that transgressive blast of nightmare id that Oldboy, I Saw the Devil, Memories of Murder and The President’s Last Bang, among others, unleashed. (And I cannot recommend any of those films too much, either.)

Aachi & Ssipak is manic, unadulterated weirdness that deserves a massive cult following!

And you can get that cult started by attending one (or all!) of the Aachi & Ssipak screenings happening in August at the Spectacle Theater.

Aachi & Ssipak will be shown:

The Spectacle Theater is located at 124 South 3rd Street, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York, between Bedford Avenue and Berry Street (but closer to Bedford; and just a short walk from both the “L” and “J” trains).
Tickets always $5! (CHEAP!!!)

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