Mamma mia in Korea

Pasatiempo - - Moving Images - Robert Nott The New Mex­i­can

Mother, sus­pense, rated R, in Korean with sub­ti­tles, Re­gal DeVar­gas, 3 chiles

IThe new film from South Korean film­maker Joon-ho Bong (who brought us 2006’s so­cio-eco­log­i­cal hor­ror film The Host), opens and closes with dance scenes. Nei­ther dance is a happy one; both sig­nal a cel­e­bra­tion — if that’s what you would call it — of bad choices made with good in­ten­tions. Mother is an in­tri­cate sus­pense pic­ture with a strong Hitch­cock­ian feel to it that in­cludes such sta­ples as flash­backs, voyeurism, chases through nar­row al­ley­ways, and se­cre­tive snoop­ing. Yet it’s still very much its own film, one that may leave you breath­less in its abil­ity to sur­prise.

And brace your­self, be­cause, like The Host, the film al­ter­nates shock­ing scenes of blood and vi­o­lence with sur­re­ally dark comic mo­ments. A hit-and-run (with a dog as vic­tim) is fol­lowed by some slap­stick on a golf course. You laugh to re­lieve the ten­sion, and then you’re stopped cold by some­thing as seem­ingly nor­mal as a nose­bleed.

The ti­tle char­ac­ter (played by Hye-ja Kim) is an acupunc­tur­ist and her­bal­ist who has noth­ing and no one to claim as her own but a men­tally chal­lenged son named Yoon Do-joon (Bin Won). Theirs is a strong bond: they sleep to­gether (not in­ces­tu­ously, as far as we can tell), and, as she cryp­ti­cally tells him at one point, “You and I are one.” Mother doesn’t seem to be par­tic­u­larly good

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