With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

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

Sunday, February 07, 2010

ACF 469: Beautiful - pre-screening review and reminder

Beautiful / A-leum-dab-da
Directed by Juhn Jai-Hong
South Korea, 2008, 88 minutes
New York Premiere

Let's start with a reminder about this coming Tuesday night's screening:

Beautiful, the next film in Korean Cultural Services' series of free screenings, will be shown on Tuesday, Feburary 9th at 7:00 PM. The screening will take place at the Tribeca Cinemas, 54 Varick Street, on the corner of Canal Street, one block from the A, C, E and 1 train Canal Street stops.

Although admission is free, you must RSVP to info@koreanculture.org or call 212-759-9550 to be admitted. I suggest you do so right away, as this - not surprisingly - has proved to be a very popular series. If the screening is "sold out," and if you're willing, show up anyway for the stand-by line. My understanding is that 20-30 people made it into the first two screenings this way.

One of her male "fans" obsesses over pictures of Eun-young

Now for my review.

Eun-young (Cha Su-yeon) is a lovely, young woman who has one problem: she's beautiful. Not just beautiful. but way too beautiful. So much so that giggly, teenage girls want to take her picture and get her autograph even after she assures them that she's not an actress.

When it comes to men, her looks are a liability, because men just can't help falling in love with her, wanting to have her. Although she is not a tease and does nothing to encourage them, men fall under the enchanting spell that he ethereal beauty passively casts. When one of them takes his obsession to far, Eun-young decides to make herself less attractive, first by over-eating, then by trying anorexia. As her mental state deteriorates, a police officer who started out as her "guardian angel" begins to succumb to her charms, much like other men.

This psychological thriller is the first feature film from Juhn Jai-Hong. He also wrote the screenplay, which is based on a story written by his mentor Kim Ki-duk (The Isle, Bad Guy). Juhn has done a masterful job depicting Eun-young's plight and deterioration. I especially admire him for keeping the film to a crisp run time; so many first-time directors can't resist the urge to include more-and-more, as if it might be their last chance to put something on the screen. The film deservedly won the grand Prix at the 2008 Fukuoka Asian Film Festival. (I'm scheduled to interview Juhn on Tuesday before the screening. If that goes as planned, I'll transcribe and edit the interview and post it her as soon as I can.)

Cha Su-yeon is perfectly cast as Eun -young. Not only does she have the requisite looks for the role, but she also brings the emotional frailty and vulnerability that it calls for. She also does a mean display of primal outrage.

Elements of the film are certainly reminiscent of Roman Polanski's Repulsion (1965), which starred Catherine Deneuve. The ending also brought to mind that of Nagisa Oshima's In The Realm Of The Senses (1976). But make no mistake about it, Juhn Jai-Hong's Beautiful stands on its own and does so marvelously. It's a terrific thriller that'll leave you impressed with what you've seen and looking forward to more from both the director and his female lead.

ACF rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars (highly recommended).

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.