M (2007) • South Korea

M is a simple story of a writer, Min-woo, in search of his muse. Director Myung-se Lee tells it with a painter's instinct and a poet's dream logic. It's meant to be observed more than diagnosed, as one would a series of paintings in a museum. The story isn't difficult to take in unless you're really anal about wanting to know, definitively and with assurance, at every given moment if what is going on is real or a dream, a hallucination, a memory, or simply muted perception. This isn't way-out-there and what-the-fuck like David Lynch even though it will likely conjure up comparisons. There is none of the creepy, challenging nastiness of Lynch whose fun and absurd stylings make appearances here but call attention to themselves gently, as they reflect and infuse the story.

M is lightly sprinkled with odd/absurd dialog throughout, but it's appropriate to the characters as they are drawn. Min-woo is an up and coming writer who can't write a word of his new novel as he suffers a massive dose of writer's block, sleepless nights, crazy editors, possible hallucinations, an oppressive sense that he is being followed—which he is—and the haunting memory of his long lost first love as she infiltrates his present reality. Yeon-hee Lee plays the long lost first love, Mimi, who doesn't seem to know anything about Min-woo except that she loves him very much. She is also being followed, in a twistedly logical sort of way, probably by Min-woo. She isn't sure, however, if it's in life or in death. Yeon-hee Lee brings a good-natured goofiness and a remarkable innocence to the film, her presence is a continuous delight.

I wanted to applaud almost every scene in this movie. Director Myung-se Lee's attention to detail in setting up shots, how they are photographed and manipulated, his use of vivid colors and their changing saturation along with a generous use of black, the camera's movement during scenes and how the movement sets up transitions to new scenes, and how harmoniously, remarkably, the soundtrack keeps up with the intricate strangeness and beauty of the visual art—all these things push the boundaries of storytelling to its limits without being overambitious. Nothing about this film feels experimental because the control of the audio/visual terrain is so clearly, to the point of obsession, masterful. This is an Art Film without pretension.



  1. Well then. Finally a review of a film you've made me want to see. It's unlikely I'll ever find it, Korean film isn't big in Utah, but I loved this review and the clip. You're right she is goofy. My favorite character in the clip is the bartender. The black and blue of the color scheme is sumptuous. It's a very stylish looking piece of art.

  2. I don't think the style gets in the way of the story here, as others have suggested. It's a good film and very pleasant to look at.