by Colin Lomas
Korean filmmaking has never been in better shape. That’s a powerful statement given it’s 14 years since baby octopus masticating Choi-min-shik fell foul to the most disturbing plot twist in the history of cinema as Oldboy. Just this past 12 months we’ve seen Bong Joon-Ho follow up Snowpiercer and The Host with the wonderful Okja and Hong-jin Na release the utterly bonkers demon-bothering The Wailing. That’s not to mention Sang-ho Yeon’s crazed rail-zombie flick Train to Busan and Chan-wook Park’s beautifully dark The Handmaiden. That’s what Korean’s do best – dark, warped and totally captivating.
Bluebeard is Soo-youn Lee’s second major outing in the director’s chair after the disappointing Uninvited back in 2003, and unfortunately Bluebeard suffers from the same problems as his first film. Jin-woong Jo plays Seung-hoon, a recently divorced doctor specialising in colonoscopies, who has had to move to a clinic in a shadier part of town after his own surgery suffered financial difficulties and was forced to close. Under sedation, patients often give out their innermost and embarrassing secrets, and when Seung-hoon’s elderly landlord and neighbour comes in for a routine investigation, he starts to talk about how to cut up and dispose of a body. Rattled, Seung-hoon starts to investigate the man, who lives downstairs and runs a butcher’s shop, and begins to suspect the unsolved serial murders in the area may have disturbing connections to his new living quarters.
The plot then drags Seung-hoon’s estranged wife, his son, his assistant at work Mi-Yeon and the butcher’s son, Sung-geun into the blood soaked plot with varying degrees of success. A sub-plot involving Mi-Yeon takes you on an interesting side-track but generally the narrative belongs to Seung-hoon’s increasing paranoia and desperation to get to the truth.
Sadly, Bluebeard eventually becomes too clever for its own good. The overuse of dream sequences convolutes the already oblique plot to the point where you expect every action scene to finish with a sudden awakening. Lee attempts to deceive his audience with various clever twists and double bluffs but by the time the final reveal is given, there are too many plot holes to make any sense of the sequence of events. When attempting a seismic twist or two, the details must be absolutely resolute, else the whole thing crumbles around itself like a failed quiche. It’s a shame too as the concept of a man grappling between a perceived conspiracy against him and his own sanity could have been excellent given a little more care to continuity.
For all its annoyances, Bluebeard makes for entertaining viewing with fine performances, great cinematography and enough tension to get you through to the inevitable muddled conclusion.
Dir: Soo-youn Lee
Scr: Soo-youn Lee
Cast: Jin-woong Jo, Goo Shin, Dae-yung Kim, Chung-ah Lee, Young-chang Song
Prd: Yoon Hong-Joon
Country: South Korea
Run Time: 117 Minutes