"I loved it - and surprisingly, it wasn't for the constant nipple and ass shots supplied by Lee Ji-Hyun."
- Mighty Peking Man
La Belle (2000)
AKA: Mi In; Love Remembered By The Body
Director: Yeo Kyun-Dong
Producer: Yoo In-taek
Writer: Lee Sang-woo, Yeo Kyun-Dong
Cast: Lee Ji-hyun, Oh Ji-ho, Cho Kyeong-hwan, Cho Kyeong-uk
Running Time: 91 min.
Plot: A writer begins living with a beautiful nude model, yet as his feelings for her grow into obsession, she continues to meet her old boyfriend.
Availability: This title is available at HKflix.com
ALEXANDER'S REVIEW: Get two models. Any two will do. Put them in a stylishly furnished loft with a gorgeous view. Lock the door. Encourage your "actors" to improvise their dialogue and fuck each other often. Refer occasionally to the napkins you wrote your script on. Film. The result? "La Belle."
"La Belle" is like a...poor man's "9 1/2 Weeks." But whereas "9 1/2 Weeks" was filmed in a variety of somewhat-pleasing-to-look-at locations, had an OK soundtrack and starred Mickey Rourke and Kim Basinger when Mickey Rourke and Kim Basinger still mattered, "La Belle" tries to go all avant garde on us and makes use of one boring setting for 80 of movie's minutes (a sparsely furnished apartment heavy on the white), uses one (static) camera, is devoid of nealy all sound save for an occasional grunt and moan, and stars a poor man's Takeshi Kaneshiro and a poor man's Shu Qi. In fact, excise the frequent sex (filmed midnight-movie-on-Cinemax-style, with lots of boob and butt but little else) and loooooooooong stretches of silence and this movie would be seven minutes long. Really. I've written longer Post-Its.
And lest you think I'm being overly critical and unfair, one of the few actual conversations in "La Belle" goes something like this:
"My pussy hurts."At one point during "La Belle," Poor Man's Shu Qi moans, "I'm glad somebody loves my body." I almost jumped out of my chair and screamed, "I love your body! I love it!" Because dude, whoever this babe is, she's as hot as any woman I've ever seen. But that is "La Belle's" lone bright spot, and we all know that a pair of hot "actors" isn't enough to carry an entire film or else the "movies" on the Playboy Channel would be competing for Oscars.
I think my biggest problem with "La Belle" isn't its lack of music, near lack of dialogue and the monotony of the setting. "Twelve Angry Men" is one of my all-tme favorite films and that takes place in one ROOM. No, my dislike of this film stems more from the absolute lack of character development and the handful of gimmicks the film's creators use to try to keep the audience interested in the "plot." (A ringing phone! Ooh! Ah!) The two characters are dull. We know nothing about them. There is NOTHING about either that allows us to care about them. They're hot, sure, but they're annoying and super-boring. Ultimately, the film's climax (hehe) falls completely flat because really, WHO CARES?
ALEXANDER'S RATING: 5/10
EQUINOX21'S REVIEW: The first two-thirds of this Korean film reminded me a LOT of a Wong Kar-Wai film. It just had that sad feel of a guy and the love that could not be had. This film focuses on the losing side of a love-triangle, where the girl is still in love with the OTHER guy. It's complete with all the feelings of anger, depression, pain, abuse, jealousy, happiness, etc. all expressed generally quite subtly. There are many interesting uses of voice-over, narration and sex scenes in this movie, none overdone and all quite effective in construing the feelings of the characters.
This is a sad film. It's very bleak. In just about every scene there are only two human characters, and a third mobile phone that you'll grow to despise. Things seem to go so well for a little while, then that dreaded phone rings and the pain starts again.
The acting was pretty good. Both expressed the emotions necessary well, and believe me, there were a lot of them. The music, though, was superb. The piano music punctuated the feeling of each scene perfectly. I don't think there could have been anything better about the soundtrack. It really added a lot to the feelings expressed.
Overall, this is a pretty good movie, but not great. I think it's just far too depressing to be great. Few movies can pull off such sadness and still be a really good movie, one being In The Mood For Love. This one just brings down your day, but it's still worth a watch.
EQUINOX21'S RATING: 8/10
MIGHTY PEKING MAN'S REVIEW: Imagine being deeply in love with a gorgeous woman who you're not quite sure feels the same way about you, yet she shows great sexual affection and shares sweet moments, which leads you to believe that there's hope. You'd be able to have sex with her everyday and enjoy intimate times together, but at the ring of a cell phone you'd lose ALL access to her. She'd temporarily leave you without saying a word - not a kiss, not a hug, not a friendly goodbye or even a half-assed wave. Little do you know, that phone call comes from an ex-lover whom she's still in love with. As she runs to him, you become something that's less than a thing of the past, you'd become non-existent. That is, until she returns to you the next day for some mysterious reason. On that next day, it's back to normal. The sex, the feelings and the good times are all there again. However, it's just a matter of hours before that cell phone of her's rings again... now it's back to square one, and back again...this goes on for days. It's driving you nuts, to the point of silent screams.
You've just read the plot to Yeo Kyun-Dong's emotionally-charged film, "La Belle". It's filled with a tremendous amount of nudity and softcore sex, but there's a lot more to it than that. Unlike those sleazy softcore films on late night cable, the nudity and sex portrayed here are not for the sake of showing nudity and sex. They're actually a strong part of the plot which backs up it's alternate title, "Love Remembered By The Body". Since the sex scenes are crucial to the film's heart, they're filmed with beautiful photography in mind (according to www.koreanfilm.org, dancer Ahn Eun-mi served as "body choreographer" for the film's love scenes). If softcore sex on late night cable is the pure wilderness, then softcore sex in "La Belle" is a tropical beach with the whitest sands and the bluest waters.
"La Belle" is also a character study that revolves around all aspects of abuse. Two people, on two sides (although, in the woman's case, most of it happens off-screen), that wrongfully give their hearts, receive little or no love at all - at least not in the normal sense. Oh Ji-ho, who portrays the male reporter who obsessively falls for the woman, gives a very moderate, but outstanding performance. Lee Ji-Hyun, the female model, is very top-notch. Unlike Oh Ji-ho's calm character, her part is all over the place. Down-to-earth, happily excited, sitting quietly in tears, dancing around aimlessly and even singing drunk in the shower. Definitely a difficult role for her to play, but the reoccurring nudity and sex may blind people of her true performance.
"La Belle" is a film that's not suitable for everyone. For some it might be too slow, too depressing or simply too tedious to take in as an entertainment piece. It just depends on that person. Like Mike Figgis' 1995 film "Leaving Las Vegas", it can be a difficult film to watch. It's not exactly the most uplifting film, in fact, there's barely anything positive or happy about it. By the second half of the film, it's no surprise that it will end in some kind of melancholy state no matter what kind of jolly tidbits or happy moments pop up.
One thing's for sure, "La Belle" is visually a beautiful film. You can pause almost any scene of the movie and end up with something straight out of an interior design magazine and/or a desktop background for your computer. The music, which consists of exquisite Korean love ballads and orchestrated piano numbers are catchy, and accompany the film's tone to sheer perfection.
To sum it all up, "La Belle" is definitely a film of acquired tastes. I'd never bet any amount of money that any single human being will like this movie. As for me, I loved it - and surprisingly, it wasn't for the constant nipple and ass shots supplied by Lee Ji-Hyun.
MIGHTY PEKING MAN'S RATING: 8/10