Review: ‘Bleak Night’

Schoolboy angst is linked to deeper, darker causes in the moody but inconclusive student film.

Schoolboy angst is linked to deeper, darker causes in the moody but inconclusive South Korean student film “Bleak Night.” Debutant helmer-writer Yoon Sung-hyun’s script flirts with a murder-mystery structure, but is essentially a bro-mantic melodrama turned sour, with solid, naturalistic perfs from a young cast that suggest solid rehearsal as well as impressive improvisation. Prospects beyond international fest exposure are minimal, but the well-handled project, which shared Pusan’s New Currents prize with “Journals of Musan,” marks Yoon as a talent to watch.

Intense friendships among a gang of Korean schoolboys dissolve into violence as Dong-yoon (Seo Jun-young) finds himself the scapegoat of provocative practical jokes led by Ki-tae (Lee Je-hoon). In a flash-forward, Ki-tae’s father (Jo Sung-ha) investigates his son’s death but fails to unearth the heart of the matter. Helmer Yoon pointedly explores the puzzle of aggressive Korean masculinity, going deeper thematically than many of the peninsula’s filmmakers, but auds will be dissatisfied by the film’s unresolved issues. Direction displays gritty flair, but leans too heavily on wobbly HD camerawork rather than trusting the authenticity of the performances.

Bleak Night

South Korea

Production

A Korean Academy of Film Arts presentation in association with CJ Entertainment of a Korean Academy of Film Arts production. (International sales: Korean Academy of Film Arts, Seoul.) Produced by Korean Academy of Film Arts. Directed, written, edited by Yoon Sung-hyun.

Crew

Camera (color, HD), Byun Bong-sun; music, Park Min-jun; production designer, Kang Yung-soo. Reviewed at Pusan Film Festival (New Currents), Oct. 13, 2010. Running time: 116 MIN.

With

Lee Je-hoon, Seo Jun-young, Park Jung-min, Jo Sung-ha.

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