Friday, September 14, 2018

Review: BEAUTIFUL Explores the Ugly Depths of Desire


By Pierce Conran

Beauty and obsession go under the knife in Juhn Jai-hong’s debut Beautiful (2008), a clinical observation of desire that was both produced by Kim Ki-duk and based on his original story. Lensed with a scopophilic yet detached gaze, it is more than a little reminiscent of the controversial auteur’s body of work.

A beautiful woman goes through life with the eyes of all the men she crosses fixed squarely on her. Flowers at reception, voicemails on her phone, each day her manifold admirers make themselves known, yet she rejects and quickly begins to fear the unwanted attention. One day, she is almost attacked by her friend’s boyfriend, but after an unknown admirer breaks into her apartment and rapes her, her psyche begins to shatter. At first putting on weight and then swiftly trying to lose it, she pushes herself to extremes in order to rid herself of her beautiful curse.

The themes of physical ideals and male voyeurism are pushed to their limits in Beautiful, a work that explores real issues plaguing a consumerist and patriarchal society through a narrative that is more caricatured than realistic. Though it is meant to be taken as a parable, the simplistic nature of the film does undermine its message. Some scenes can be effective but the overall narrative is repetitive and the film’s style lacks individuality.

Juhn, who was Kim’s assistant director before making his feature debut, brings a slightly more polished sheen to what is typical Kim territory in his debut. With some compositional flare and a few more visual tricks, Beautiful is a more comfortable work to ease into. Yet Juhn’s touch lacks the immediacy and grit that marks the auteur's films.


Where Juhn’s film also runs into trouble is its casting. Beautiful’s characters veer close to the silent archetypices that fill Kim’s works, but the actors employed here fail to breathe much life into their roles. Cha Soo-yeon is certainly striking in the lead, though her looks may not suit everyone’s fancy, but her performance is very thin for a main role. Alongside her as the policeman protector/stalker, Lee Chun-hee also makes for a gormless co-star.

The film’s initial focus is on the covetous attitude of men towards women, particularly in Korea, a country where men can be particularly possessive, often grabbing unwilling girls by the arm to drag them into dank karaoke rooms or god knows where else. This thematic drive, presented as a mixture of social observation and outrage, is where Beautiful is at its most successful. It’s a common theme in Korean cinema, particularly in recent indie films, and while it is exaggerated here, it remains potent.

Juhn would work once more with Kim on 2011’s Poongsan, a more unique work, though not without its own faults, but he separated from the famed cineaste for his third film Gifted. While he attempted to mark himself apart with his most recent effort, the themes, and particularly the oblique extremities he explored, immediately called to mind his mentor. The director has produced an interesting body of work to date, but will he ever be able to crawl out from the shadow of his mentor?

★★


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 UpdateKorean Cinema News and the Weekly Korean Reviews, which appear weekly on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings (Korean Standard Time).


To keep up with the best in Korean film you can sign up to our RSS Feed, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.

44 comments:

  1. Wow, this piece of writing is fastidious, my sister is analyzing these things, so I
    am going to convey her.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you for keeping us here updated with great article Retrieving data. Wait a few seconds and try to cut or copy again.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thank you for keeping us here updated with great article travel service

    ReplyDelete
  4. I love the way you write and share your idea! Very interesting and different! Keep it coming! Brentwood Plumber

    ReplyDelete
  5. Replies
    1. Really great topics here to learn from, thanks! click here

      Delete
  6. This is so interesting to read tow truck

    ReplyDelete
  7. Excellent information on your content, thank you for taking the time to share with us. House Cleaning

    ReplyDelete
  8. I read your work frequently and I just thought I'd say keep up the amazing work click here

    ReplyDelete
  9. I really like reading articles that cause people to think. Also, thank you for allowing me to comment!
    click here

    ReplyDelete
  10. Such an impressive share! It is well-written and contains all the info, your Post is very unique and all information is reliable for new readers click here

    ReplyDelete
  11. So happy I found this blog. So much inaccurate information out there. Thank you guys for spending the time to put out quality content.
    Little Pet Corner

    ReplyDelete
  12. Awesome, this site is impressive - Tow Truck -

    ReplyDelete
  13. I really like the content of this site!
    Tow Truck

    ReplyDelete
  14. Keep sharing informative posts, so great Warrenton Tow Truck

    ReplyDelete

  15. Hi there i amm kavin, its my first occasion to commenting anywhere,
    when i read this paragraph i thought i could also
    create comment due to this sensible post.

    Visit my page::: 부산달리기
    (jk)


    ReplyDelete
  16. Thank you for taking the time in sharing this post. Click here

    ReplyDelete
  17. Thanks for sharing! I definitely enjoying every little bit of it I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you post. http://www.bakersfieldconcretecontractors.com

    ReplyDelete