Jarv’s Top 10 2000-2009. Number 8: Daisy
Daisy is part 3 of my “big softie” triptych, and arguably the best film of the three. Occasionally, some films get criminally and disgracefully overlooked for various reasons, and this is a case in point. The amount of, to be honest, utter rubbish that gets a cinema release (let alone a DVD release) on a massive scale is a depressing statement about our times when real quality such as this (or OUTLANDER/ what those pricks at Lionsgate did to Fierce People) gets neglected.
This film has not yet seen the light of day in the United Kingdom, and for the life of me I cannot work out why. The director has a “name” and track record (Andrew Lau- who has the sublime Infernal Affairs on his resume), the lead has been in such monsters as The Good, The Bad and The Weird (Woo Sung Jung), it has a European setting and is highly accessible to western audiences. Given that there is a Distribution company (if it was music I would call them a label) called Tartan, who specialise in films from Asia (the series is even called Asia Extreme), how on earth have they missed this- especially considering some of the crap that they have put out?
Daisy is basically a tragic love story between a hitman, a street artist and an Interpol policeman. The story is somewhat formulaic (I’m going to spoil heavily, sorry), but if anything the simplicity allows the film more time with the three central characters. The structure of the film is key here, with each character effectively having a chapter that comes complete with their own voiceover. The film opens with the female section, and gradually builds the relationship between the love-hungry street artist, Hye-yeoung and Jeong-woo who always seems to be looking beyond her at something else in the square. He’s distant, but attentive, and gradually she comes to believe that he’s the man that has been anonymously sending her flowers for some time. She’s completely wrong, but that’s neither here nor there. The second “chapter” is Jeong Woo’s, and reveals that he’s an Interpol agent, and the reason she thinks he is looking at something else is because he is- he’s looking at what he believes is a front for drugs smugglers. The first two chapters dovetail perfectly, leading up to a spectacular shootout in the main square that leaves Jeong-woo injured and Hye-yeong critical.
After this, the film then introduces the third character: Park-yi and resets the plot to the beginning. Park-yi is a hitman scumbag, and he’s been in love with Hye-yeong for a long time. He’s the man that saw her fall in a stream so built a bridge for her to cross (she repaid him with a painting of daisies), and he’s the poor sap that’s been leaving flowers for her. The film tracks his growing love (it isn’t obsession, but it’s not far off) for her- we see that he watches her from his apartment, he times his coffee break to co-incide with hers, he’s learning about art so that if he were ever to talk to her he wouldn’t sound like an idiot. Really, he’s above and beyond the call of duty. This section of the film is simply spectacular. Let’s face it, he’s a stalker. There’s no other way of saying it- he’s watching her from a distance, and doing frankly weird things for a woman he professes that he’s never going to meet. Somehow, and I haven’t the foggiest idea how Lau manages it, Park-yi does not come across as a stalker. He is hugely sympathetic, and if anything a tragic figure doomed to watch forever from the sidelines. When the shootout comes, we get to see it from his perspective, and he becomes even more tragic- he saw the Korean gangsters coming for Jeong-woo, and fired in an attempt to save the love of his love- his action, however, results in the wounding of Hye-yeoung that renders her mute.
From here it all goes completely pear-shaped. For some reason, he decides to introduce himself to Hye-yeong, and the film gradually builds to a blood soaked climax that no character survives.
I have to be honest here, Daisy is an openly manipulative film. Jonah mentioned the other day that it is a blatant melodrama, and he’s quite right. However, what he isn’t really giving it credit for is that it doesn’t pretend to be anything else and the execution is so perfect that the film transcends melodrama and becomes high tragedy. The ending is somewhat forseeable, but when it comes every fibre of my being was praying for something else- I felt that the characters deserved a “happily ever after”, simply because of the trauma that they had already suffered.
This is, and there’s no way of putting this lightly, a heartbreaking film. It’s a love story with real teeth, a melodrama with a difference, and above all else a film that relies on simplicity to deliver an emotional punch. The characters are fully rounded, Jeong-woo is crippled with guilt about using Hye-yeoung, and Park-yi has martyred himself because of his profession. When he meets Jeong-woo he says “I’m the bad guy”, but the film isn’t as simple as that- he isn’t the bad guy. There are plenty of bad guys in Amsterdam, but he just isn’t one of them. The performances all do justice to the writing, particularly Gianna Jun who has to spend half of the film mute, but manages to convey a spectacular range of expression without speaking. The cinematography is also brilliant- with the use of colour (there’s a shot with paint melting in the rain that’s filmed in black and white that is absolutely beautifully composed) and the soundtrack relies on classical music as an emotional enhancer.
As for the downside- well, I can’t really think of one. This is, and there’s no other way of putting it, a chick-flick weepie. I normally absolutely detest those. I’m the person that agrees with Lisa Simpson’s summary of Love Story (“He’s dull and stupid, and she’s shrill and annoying”). These films usually go down like a cup of cold sick with me, and yet this one doesn’t, rather I find it touching and sad, a beautiful paean to love and the potential of love.
I think, however, that the reason it doesn’t annoy/ offend me as much as others of this type(I’m looking at you Beaches) is that there are plenty of pyrotechnics to keep me interested. Park-yi is a hitman, and therefore it is in the rules that people have to die. And they do. And it’s great. There’s a curtness to the executions that reinforces the brutality of them- these are murders after all, and the film deliberately curtails any glamour of glorification- he’s like a panda in that he eats, shoots and leaves.
To conclude- This is a wonderful film that’s in severe danger of being forgotten. It tugs on the heartstrings enough to keep women happy, with a smattering of hitman action for the men. There’s very few films that manage to be the best of both worlds, and the glory of this film is that it performs this balancing act with aplomb. Do whatever you can to see it, as I cannot recommend it highly enough.
In the meantime- any UK reader that would like to see this film get the proper release that it deserves, please email your complaints to this fuckmonkey email@example.com
I would like to thank the Donor for introducing me to this film- top work, and I hope this year kicks some ass for you.
Number 7 is next and the only horror film to make the list- Neil Marshall takes me caving in The Descent.