Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Abigail Harm: A Shy, Quiet Brand of Urban Fantasy
come to New York from nearly everywhere, perhaps even including the fairy
realm, or some such place. One mousy New
Yorker will open her home and perhaps her heart to a decidedly foreign visitor
when the Korean fable of the Woodcutter and the Nymph (that shares common
elements with the Swan Maiden and Selkie myths) get a quietly modern makeover
in Lee Isaac Chung’s Abigail Harm (trailer here), opening this
Friday in New York.
and retiring, Abigail Harm reads to the blind because she does not like to be seen. Her garrulous father was also a storyteller,
but her relationship to the old man was complicated in ways we will never
understand. One fateful night, she
shelters a strange fugitive, who seems to believe he is a mystical being
trapped in our world because someone stole his robe. To thank Harm, he gives her directions on
where to similarly entrap one of his fellow visitors, who will become her
faithful lover as long as she keeps his stolen garment in her possession.
Harm is ordinarily quite taciturn, she is rather talkative compared to the
strange visitor she ensnares. Yet, a
romantic relationship duly develops between them. Nonetheless, questions regarding the
sustainability and legitimacy of it all seem to nag at Harm’s subconscious.
to play misfits, Amanda Plummer (who is currently appearing on the New York
stage in an excellent staging of Tennessee Williams’ eerie Two Character Play) suggests a lifetime of angst and insecurity
without revealing any of Harm’s secrets.
She stirs viewer empathy, but subtly suggests there is something damaged
and maybe a little bit off about her.
her visitor, Tetsuo Kuramochi expresses much without dialogue, but his
character still largely remains a cipher during the course of the film. However, Will Patton makes the most of his
brief appearance as Harm’s agitated visitor, giving the film its most
substantial jolt of energy, as well as performing the narration, which
elegantly evokes a sense of once-upon-a-time.
is no getting around the film’s deliberately paced artiness and its defiantly
unsatisfying third act. Nonetheless, it
remains one of the smartest urban fantasies of the year. It gracefully hints at cosmic goings on,
lurking in plain sight on the streets and subways we use every day (the Union
Square station, in this case), without cribbing the adolescent melodrama of the
Buffy and Twilight franchises. Adults
will find it a welcome antidote to Mortal
Instruments and similar copies of copies.
Although it is headed to a very different destination,
Abigail Harm would be an appropriate
companion film to John Sayles’ Secret of
Roan Inish. Strangely, it is also
thematically compatible with The Two
Character Play, a surreal two-hander about alienation and confinement. Recommended for those who appreciate more
demanding manifestations of the fantastic, Abigail
Harm opens this Friday (8/30) in New York at the Quad Cinema.
Labels: Amanda Plummer, Urban Fantasy