Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
NYAFF ’16: Alone
David Hemmings in Blow-Up, Su-min
inadvertently takes a photo of a murder in progress, but he sees it right away—and
they see him. The ski-masked assailants quickly start hunting the grungy
witness, or so it seems. It is hard to say for sure, because reality is dicey
proposition in Park Hong-min’s Alone (trailer here), which screens
during the 2016 New York Asian Film Festival.
is not very fleet of foot, but for some reason, the masked men choose to toy
with him, rather than immediately executing him. Several times, Su-min is
knocked unconscious, coming to in the darkly foreboding shanty-town district of
Seoul, usually in rather awkward positions. We soon conclude Su-min is caught
in some sort of looping nightmare, especially given the presence of his mother
(always a dead giveaway), his girlfriend, and perhaps the eight-year-old
version of himself.
should be readily granted Alone represents
a quantum step-up for Park from his underwhelming A Fish, which frankly played like the feature film version of Park
Chan-wook iPhone short, Night Fishing.
This time around, Park Hong-min maintains a palpably tense mood. He gets a
massive assist from the wickedly atmospheric back alleys and staircases of the
shanty neighborhood. It is rather entertaining to merely watch Su-min navigate
the ominous passageways, which is fortunate, because he does so constantly.
Hong-min and his cinematographer Kim Byeong-jung do bravura work following
Su-min through the ancient maze. Visually, Alone
manages to be both gritty and stunning. However, Park eventually has to
leave sufficient clues for the audience to add up, but he prefers to play coy
until far too late in the game. Still, Lee Ju-won (who had a small part in Lee
Kwang-kuk’s A Matter of Interpretation, which
could be considered Alone’s more
upbeat cousin) is terrific as the ever-evolving and often battered Su-min. It
must have been a tricky role, considering how often Park changed the ground
rules on him.
It is always encouraging to see a filmmaker significantly
improve over their first films. Alone is
far from a masterwork, but it is a distinctive work. New Yorkers who really see
a lot of films should check it out, because it is different, but it will still
befuddle anyone hung up on a conventional three-act structure. Recommended for those
with adventurous tastes, Alone screens
tomorrow (7/6) at the SVA Theatre, as part of this year’s NYAFF.
Labels: Korean Cinema, NYAFF '16