With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013
With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

Sunday, September 23, 2012

ACF 1635: Korean thriller BLIND at MoMA tomorrow afternoon

MIN Soo-ah is followed in a subway car by a psycho-killer
Blind / Beul-la-in-deu
Directed by Ahn Sang-hoon
South Korea, , 111 minutes
Where: Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53 Street, NYC

One night MIN Soo-ah (KIM Ha-neul), a bright young woman who's a student at the police university, makes a terrible mistake. As a result someone dear to her dies, and she goes blind and loses her chance to join the police.

Three years later she is still struggling to adapt to her condition, this despite the assistance of Wisey, her female guide dog. One day she goes alone to visit the House of Hope, the orphanage where she grew up. Prideful, she gets angered at a suggestion that is made and takes off on her own. Consequently, she is drawn into the case of a psychotic killer who targets young women.

Using her skills of observation -- sound and smell, if not sight -- and of her police training, she's pitted against this maniac. Will she be able to save herself and at the same time find redemption for her earlier mistake in judgement?

For me, there were some serious problems with the film. One was what I perceived as an overly melodramatic linking of the terrible consequences of her mistake of three years earlier with the situation that develops later.

Secondly, we know nothing about the killer until near the very end of the film, and even then what we learn doesn't really give us enough information to make him anything more than a cardboard cut-out of a psychopath. The explanation -- such as it is -- for his actions are simplistic and don't begin to meaningfully account for his motivation to kidnap and kill young women, nor for his physical abilities.

Finally there are some developments that are just way too implausible. Why, for example, would a cop who's assigned to guard Soo-ah and the young man, sit out in his car in the rain and not be with them inside the building where they are staying? It's clearly to allow the killer to get to his targets, but it's also just plain dumb. I might give this sort of thing a pass in a teen horror/thriller -- such as House at the End of the Street -- but Blind aspires to a higher level of cinema. Sadly, it falls a bit short.

But while the plot could've been better fleshed out, the acting is uniformly good, particularly that of KIM Ha-neul and Jo Hie-bong, who plays the rather out-of-his-league detective who's assigned the case. Also the cinematography is well done, and there are some truly suspenseful moments.

ACF Rating: 2.5 out of 4 stars. Flawed, but overall a fairly good film for the genre. Certainly worth seeing.

This screening of Stateless Things is part of the third edition of Yeonghwa: Korean Film Today. This joint presentation of The Korea Society and MoMA includes 11 distinctive contemporary narratives, from genre films to unclassifiable features by some of Korea’s leading renegade filmmakers.

And if you're drawn to the theme of blind women effectively dealing with really bad guys, then consider checking out Audrey Hepburn in Terence Young's Wait Until Dark (1967).

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