Crossing the Line (2006) A Defector’s Second Life, Embracing North Korea

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“Crossing the Line” tells of four American servicemen who defected to North Korea, with an emphasis on James Joseph Dresnok, a k a Comrade Joe, who became a privileged North Korean citizen and appeared in propaganda extolling Communism.

Mr. Dresnok, a poor, abused orphan from Virginia, was already married when he deserted in 1962. He married twice more in North Korea — to a woman who was probably Romanian, then to the daughter of a Korean woman and a Togolese diplomat — and has three stunningly beautiful children there.

Directed by Daniel Gordon, the movie is fussily photographed and edited, and it falters at critical moments, particularly during a court-martial trial when Mr. Dresnok’s fellow deserter Charles Robert Jenkins accuses him of beating him in captivity. The director dices Mr. Dresnok’s furious after-the-fact reaction into Oliver Stone-style flash-cuts rather than letting it play out.

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