Welcome To The Deuce

Monday, October 4, 2010

Beautiful (2008)

Kim Ki-duk has always shown a questionable attitude towards women in his movies, which tends to be blown way out or proportion with the majority of his critics; seeing as men are portrayed in a worse light in the films that are blasted as misogynistic. However, he seems to have out Kim Ki-duk’d himself with Beautiful, a film so bleak and misanthropic that it’ll leave most viewers as suicidal and depressed as the characters within the film! It’s also one of the finest slices of idiosyncratic cinema to come out of South Korea since Kim’s Bad Guy.

Eun-yeong (Cha Soo-yeon) is haunted by her beauty, men can’t resist her and woman won’t trust her. The unwanted attention she receives from men reaches it fever-pitch with Seong-min (Kim Min-soo), a stalker who can not control himself around her and violently attacks and rapes her when she refuses his flowers. Destroyed after the incident, Eun-yeong tries to ruin her looks by gouging out on junk food in a bid to become ugly. When this doesn’t work she changes tact and refuses to eat and doesn’t stop working out, eventually forcing anorexia and bulimia upon herself. A policeman, Eun-cheol (Lee Chun-hee), watches as this woman slips further down a spiral of self destruction and eventually becomes obsessed with her.  As her behaviour becomes increasingly more erratic and violent, he decides to take action.

As you can tell from the premise, not much happiness abounds in Beautiful and it’s a better film for it. Not many films are this hell-bent on destroying its audience. This rivals Kim’s previous effort like Bad Guy, Address Unknown and The Isle in the nihilism stakes but also manages to be thoroughly engaging; especially with the performance turned in by lead actress Cha Soo-yeon, which is truly devastating. Lee Chun-hee also proves a quality counter for Cha, whose mental deterioration isn’t as devastating but is equally as disquieting. As the finale once it arrives, it’s a triple-whammy of gut punches that will shock, astound and have you applauding for the sheer balls of the filmmakers or will leave you completely ruined and in need of a hard drink.

This brazen style of filmmaking is what attracted me to Kim Ki-duk, and it’s been lacking in his movies since The Bow. It’s great to see other filmmakers tackling his material and when a talent as bold as Jeon Jae-hong is behind the camera; it’s a privilege to watch the film, and characters, unfold regardless of how dark the film gets. This is cinema at its bleakest, this doesn’t mean its unwatchable but it certainly powerful enough to leave you haunted after watching, those in a frail state of mind should avoid this like the plague until they’re ready to go where the film dares to take them. It’s not a pretty ride, but it’s a journey well worth takind and Jeon Jae-hong just might be the new infant terrible for South Korean cinema, I hope he gets the chance to follow-up on the overflowing potential he shows here.

Unfortunately Beautiful does not yet have a UK release.

No comments:

Post a Comment