Kim In-sik's second and last film takes a rather strange approach to the concept of hypnosis and psychiatry in general, through an even stranger narrative.
Ji-soo is a woman committed to a psychiatric hospital after she experiences a nervous breakdown. Seok-won, the psychiatrist who is treating her diagnoses a Borderline Personality Disorder. A bit later, both of them leave the hospital, Ji-soo to continue her life with her adulterer husband, Min-seok, and Seok-won to open his own practice, after a tragedy involving his wife. One year later, the two of them meet again by accident and they agree on a treatment plan, as they also become friends. Through hypnosis, Seok-won manages to steady her, but as he learns the facts of her life, he starts losing himself and gradually becomes obsessed with her. At the same time, her husband's guilt for his behaviour starts getting the better of him.
Kim In-sik directs a movie about the human mind, as he explores paranoia, obsession, guilt, lust, and grief thoroughly, within a noir atmosphere where a femme fatale is the main protagonist. The analysis is quite meticulous, but after a point, Kim In-sik loses his sense of proportion, and the narrative becomes rather confusing, as the borders between reality and thoughts are almost non-existent. Lee Eun-soo-I's editing also moves towards the same direction, heightening the faults of the narrative even more, as the film, eventually, becomes totally disconnected.
On the other hand, in terms of aesthetics, "Faceless Beauty" is on a very high level. Kim Woo-hyung's cinematography is elaborate as it highlights the different psychological statuses of the characters through some extreme imaging and some very fitting and impressive coloring. The framing also adds to the sense of something going very wrong, while the occasional gore provides a well-fitted shock element for the film. Ji-soo's transformations are another point of excellence as her varying haircuts, make-up and dresses highlight her psychological imbalance. Jang Young-gyu's music and Lee Seung-chul-II's sound complement the general atmosphere artfully, while stressing the noir elements of the movie.
Kim Hye-soo is great, once more, as Ji-soo, imperviously presenting her character's paranoia, while managing to appear unstable, dangerous, and very sexy at the same time. Kim Tae-woo is also quite good, in a character whose grief and lust transform him into something worse and more unexpected that he ever imagined.
"Faceless Beauty" had all the opportunities to become a masterpiece, but the rather faulty narrative doomed the film to mediocrity, despite the permeating artistry that derives from its production values and Kim Hye-soo's performance.
Review by Panos Kotzathanasis
Panos Kotzathanasis is a film critic and reviewer specialising in East Asian Cinema. He is the founder of Asian Film Vault, administrator of Asian Movie Pulse and also writes for Taste of Cinema, Eastern Kicks, China Policy Institute and Filmboy. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Panos Kotzathanasis can be contacted via email@example.com.
"[Guest Film Review] "Faceless Beauty""
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