Since State of Mind, Daniel Gordon has succumbed to the allure of dubious documentary practices: dour celebrity narration (by Christian Slater), there’s-a-serial-killer-behind-you background music, and cutting that implies an interest in facilitating television syndication (“Coming up on Crossing the Line…the answer to the question I just asked!”). Again the director returns to North Korea with unprecedented journalistic access, this time hoping to shed light on the experiences of James Joseph Dresnok after the military man defected to the country in 1962 while stationed in the Korean Demilitarized Zone. Gordon relishes divulging this largely unknown scandal, delving into North Korea’s demonization of the United States during the Cold War and our country’s vigilance to downplay the defection of Dresnok and three other American soldiers. Once in North Korea, the four Americans would all marry under suspicious circumstances (Charles Robert Jenkins, the only other surviving defector, was paired with a woman kidnapped into the country from Japan), and the film is most interesting as a chronicle of their deteriorating friendships and the government’s attempt to transform them into national heroes through a series of anti-American films. But Crossing the Line is compromised by Gordon’s questionable aesthetic tactics and trite psychoanalysis of Dresnok, whose rationale for defection is reduced to mommy and daddy issues and struggles with poverty. Of course, there is a sense that Dresnok isn’t telling Gordon his entire story, in which case the director may be highlighting all that Dresnok was willing to reveal. So, Crossing the Line is a mixed bag—a scary journey into the belly of the beast but a sketchy psychological portrait—that happens to offer a rare opportunity to access if the Supreme Commander’s crude mixture of Douglas Sirk melodrama and Glauber Rocha political militancy for the 20-part serial Unknown Heroes is enough to admit him into the auterist pantheon.
- Kino International
- 94 min
- Daniel Gordon
- James Dresnok, Charles Robert Jenkins, Christian Slater
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