Review: ‘White Night’

Gay-affirmative South Korean pics aren't exactly common, yet Leesong Hee-il's pretentious "White Night" isn't cause for celebration.

Gay-affirmative South Korean pics aren’t exactly common, yet Leesong Hee-il’s pretentious “White Night” isn’t cause for celebration. Meant as a trenchant take on the country’s homophobia and the scars (inner and outer) that result, this intimate drama of a ludicrous one-night stand suffers from a leaden script, ponderous direction and a lead character whose petulant stares register nothing but blanks. The core idea isn’t bad, but the execution backfires; a pity, considering the promise shown by the helmer’s debut, “No Regret.” The gay ghetto beckons.

Flight attendant Won-gyu (Won Tae-hee) returns to Korea after two years away, his mind and body still not healed from a vicious gay bashing that also left his then-b.f., Do-yoon (Hyun-Sung), with a permanent limp. Their tense reunion doesn’t go well, and Won-gyu has an online hookup with bike courier Tae-jun (Yi Yi-kyung). Won-gyu’s disdain and need for control repel Tae-jun, who nevertheless keeps coming back (surely websites like Grindr would provide him more exciting alternatives). Shot entirely at night, every line and camera angle is freighted with meaning, emphasizing the protags’ alienation from a hostile society, yet the message is drowned in affectation.

White Night

South Korea


A Cinema DAL production. Produced by Kim Il-kwon. Directed, written by Leesong Hee-il.


Camera (color, HD), Yoon Ji-woon; editor, Leesong; music, Chris Garneau, Lee Yoeng-hoon, Max Richter; sound, Jo Woojin; sound designer, Kim Soo-hyun, Lee Taek-hwan; assistant director, Park Hong-joon. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Panorama), Feb. 14, 2013. (Also in 2012 Jeonju, Vancouver film festivals.) Running time: 75 MIN.


Won Tae-hee, Yi Yi-kyung, Hyun-Sung.

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