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  •  REVIEW: H


    "H"-y and scratchy

    Not as smooth as you'd want in an enigmatic crime thriller, "H" is still an absorbing piece of twisting and turning entertainment.


    Like the earlier Korean film "Tell Me Something" (which also starred spookily beautiful actress Yum Jung-ah), "H" sets up its enigmatic premise with a gruesome style and intensity, and finally ties up the mystery with ... well, nothing a little suspension of disbelief can't fix.

    Written and directed by: Lee Jung-hyuk.
    Cast: Yum Jung-ah, Ji Jin-hee, Sung Ji-ru, Cho Seung-woo, Min Woong-ki, Park Yong Soo, Kwon Hyuk Poong, Lee Eol, Kim In-kwon, Park Kil-soo, Kim Sun-kyung.
    Cinematography: Peter Gray.
    In Korean with English subtitles.
    ImaginAsian 239 East 59th St. Wed., Aug. 18, 2004, 7:20 p.m. Bam Cinematek 30 Lafayette Ave., Brooklyn (718) 636-4100 Fri., Aug. 20, 2004, 9 p.m.

    New York Korean Film Festival 2004
  • H
  • Memories of Murder
  • Official site
  • The movie starts with a grisly discovery at the garbage dump: In a heap of garbage being moved by a front-end loader lie a woman's body, a dead baby, and an umbilical cord she bit off with her teeth. (Except, oops, tests show it's an umbilical cord from a different mother.) Soon afterwards, another woman is found strangled aboard a bus, and police recognize that there's a serial killer on the loose. They also recognize the killer — only he's been behind bars for ten months for an identical set of crimes.

    Impetuous Detective Kang (Ji Jin-hee) goes to confront the first killer, Shin Hyun, in prison. "I'll ask you simply," he says, trying the direct approach. "Who the fuck is it?"

    Shin (Cho Seung-woo), enjoying this little paradox, gives him a lot of spiritual mumbo-jumbo in return. Arranging the pictures of his own victims in some aesthetic order that make sense only inside his own mind, Shin speaks of hearing them speak from beyond as if it's an ethereal music that only he is privy to. "When you are facing the abyss, don't forget that you are facing yourself," he warns the detective.

    "Crazy bastard," exclaims Kang.

    Kang and his partner Kim (Yum) go off on an odyssey that features more murders, severed body parts, two-bit gangsters, a blood-splattered basement, a medical technician fired for stealing his bosses' scalpels, and an unsettling psychologist who smiles pathologically when discussing her patients' killing sprees. Somehow the whole twisty mystery seems to involve a latticework of interrelated impossiblities, timed according to a woman's menstrual cycle. In time, perhaps, answers will be revealed.

    "This is a case where waiting is required," Kim cautions Kang.

    It's hard to say whether all the elements of this mystery are resolved by the end or whether some of them were thrown in just to creep you out. The movie's stated solution is one that was pretty much in front of your eyes all along, and it seems certain that some of the puzzle pieces have been allowed to fall under the table. It's certainly not the first time the "Wait, the killer is already in jail!" story has been told, nor is it the first time the writer/director has found this way out of the box. But if only in terms of intrigue and atmosphere, "H" is an absorbing piece of entertainment that's intelligently made even if it's an imperfectly constructed tease.

    AUGUST 18, 2004

    Reader comments on H:

  • .............   from yi ri, Jan 29, 2006

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