Part of MKC's coverage of the 3rd Yeonghwa: Korean Cinema Today event at NY's Museum of Modern Art. (previously published).
First impressions are important and as film viewers we are particularly prone to making rash decisions based upon the opening moments of anything we watch. This is perhaps even more important in this day and age as multimedia is so readily accessible. Our already short attention spans are dwindling ever further as we can easily switch between TV channels, on demand, stored digital, and portable media. Those first few minutes of a film can dispense a large volume of information but even so, they cannot always prepare you for what you are going to see. Opening scenes are important but not every kind of film can benefit from a flashy beginning.
One of this year’s most successful Korean films, Blind does not get off to the greatest start and blunders on through the first act with heavy feet, trampling through the early stages of the plot. Subtlety is not the film’s strong suit and the quicker this is accepted, the better. Once I got used to the heavy-handedness of the proceedings I was able to enjoy myself but the film walks a dangerous line from the start. It doesn’t really announce itself properly and seems like a relatively sober affair at first, it is only as it continues in unsubtle fashion and when things become even more ridiculous that you begin to understand the intent of the film, which is to be a trashy and entertaining potboiler. It does succeed on that last count, but it takes a while to get there and is not without its fair share of problems.
Although it starts with a big dollop of melodrama, Blind mainly indulge in dribs and drabs. In fact most of the melodrama that appears in the film relates to that opening scene. Gi-seob serves as a stand-in for Min’s deceased brother and his relationship with her mainly serves as an instrument for her to forgive herself for her sibling’s untimely passing. There are a lot of none-too-subtle parallelisms linking Gi-seob and her brother and as a result things play out exactly as you would expect them to. More glaring is the manipulative sentimentality on display courtesy of Min’s guide dog Wisdom who provides a connection to the world for her. Besides being cute and protective he will serve one unavoidable purpose which for me amounts to no more than a cheap trick.
Blind features a number of remarkable similarities to the much superior The Chaser (2008): the principal protagonists both used to be in law enforcement; nighttime chase sequences through decrepit but stylistically lit alleys abound; the villain in both is an amoral serial killer of young women; and the leads don’t realize that they are chasing a serial killer until about the halfway mark. The tone is admittedly quite different but there is a surprising amount of common ground all the same and it hardly seems coincidental. Of course it is only natural to ‘borrow’ from something that is proven to work (The Chaser sold over 5 million tickets domestically).
Besides a strong supporting turn from Jo Hee-bong, a fantastic subway chase sequence that could double as a 10-minute ad for the iPhone, and a few clever investigatory tricks, Blind often fails to impress. However its gusto is admirable and if you catch it in the right frame of mind you may end up really enjoying yourself.
Reviews and features on Korean film appear regularly on Modern Korean Cinema. For film news, external reviews, and box office analysis, take a look at the Korean Box Office Update, Korean Cinema News and the Weekly Korean Reviews, which appear weekly on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings (Korean Standard Time).