Every so often in Korea, a director with robust artistic aspirations and less concern for the commercial bottom line finds an unusually supportive (or naive) producer. Tempted by hopes of festival glory, or perhaps anxious to prove their artistic credentials to their colleagues, such producers give their director an artistic blank check in the hopes of getting something special. The results are always fascinating, whether or not they succeed. Think of Jang Sun-woo going through $9 million in shooting Resurrection of the Little Match Girl, or Park Chan-wook realizing his dream project Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance. Hypnotized Two years after struggling against a micro-budget, a rebellious crew and an indifferent public to make the critically acclaimed feature Road Movie, Kim In-sik returned to make his second film in a far more supportive environment. Though at just over $2 million it is hardly a big-budget film by local standards, Hypnotized represents a newfound freedom for the director to realize his visual and narrative ambitions onscreen. And if anyone ever doubted that Kim was a filmmaker with a unique style and vision, the first few minutes of this film will convince them otherwise. Which is not to say that most viewers or critics will necessarily like it. Kim practically redefines the words "over the top" in his opulent interiors, sensational dialogue, big hair, and sudden bursts of noise, color, sex, or blood. Whereas Road Movie inhabited the lives of homeless drunks, manual laborers, and prostitutes, here we go to the other economic extreme. Money seems to infuse the livestyles of our heros as much as their strong emotions. The operative color scheme is red and purple. Main actress Kim Hye-soo wears bright lipstick, is usually lit from above and holds her cigarette like Greta Garbo. The plot focuses on a married woman who suffers a mental breakdown and is then assigned to a psychiatrist for counseling. Soon after, the psychiatrist (played by Kim Tae-woo from Woman is the Future of Man and L'Abri) leaves the hospital, but the two meet a year later by chance and start spending time together. As they reveal painful memories from their past to each other in passionate confessions, their present lives start to veer off in ever more precarious directions. The gay-themed Road Movie was at its strongest in the nuanced portrayals of its marginalized heroes and their complicated feelings for each other. Kim was remarkably successful in making us identify with and care about the leads as the film progressed. Hypnotized's strengths lie elsewhere -- we always remain on the outside of the characters, but the film's boldness and invention can surprise us at times. I suspect that many viewers are going to hate this film and the way it thrusts its overcharged emotions into your face. On the other hand, if you let go and allow it to just carry you along, it can be an exhilerating ride. More than anything, this movie lives or dies on its style. Think of it as an outlandish fashion show rather than a carefully-constructed novel.
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