Wednesday, August 28, 2013

You little deer! Mythic Korean folk tale turns urban in Lee Isaac Chung's ABIGAIL HARM

It's almost always a pleasure to see Amanda Plummer at work, though how much enjoyment you derive from her new movie, ABIGAIL HARM, will depend, I think, on your tolerance for somewhat heavy-handed whimsy (we need a new word for this sort of thing: maybe whamsy). This new film from Korean-American filmmaker, Lee Isaac Chung (shown below), is said to be based on a Korean folk tale, The Woodcutter and the Nymph, though here the sexes seem to have been transposed, for Ms Plummer plays an odd middle-aged woman, evidently in no particular need of money, who reads aloud to the blind and has no compunctions about what she reads or says. With her first client, she is asked to describe some naughty pictures and seems to thoroughly enjoy doing it, just as the client enjoys hearing it. (Her second client is played by Burt Young, who has so little to do or say that the sole reason for the character's being here would seem to be the fact that he is played by Mr. Young.)

Abigail appears a very private person, who herself tries her best to keep from being seen by others. She lives in a surprisingly deserted area, somewhere in New York City's five boroughs, and keeps to herself in what appears a nearly unoccupied apartment building. Not quite unoccupied, however, as suddenly we see a large deer ambling up the hallway. The deer then (I think --all this is very fable-like with little connecting tissue) turns into Will Patton, an actor who is always interesting to watch and who gives our gal helpful hints on how to land a love interest -- and keep him. Before you can say bibbity-bobbity-boo, Abigail is more or less following his instructions, looking quite lovely and vulnerable against flaking paint (below) and, sure enough, finding her significant other.

He, who was most likely also a deer just a tad earlier in the game, sheds his magical cloak and takes a bath (Mr. Patton has a bathing scene, too, by the way), and then, just as predicted, moseys along home with Abigail. The two bond slowly, as she introduces her guy (played by a sweet and lovely-looking Tetsuo Kuramochi, below, left) to life, lunch and finally lovemaking. He's adept at maybe two out of three.

But, ah, can Abigail keep him, trust him, and form a real bond with her new friend? Perhaps. Abigail Harm is a parable about love -- how to get it, how to keep it, how to lose it and how to play with it a little -- the moral being , I  am guessing: If you love it, let it go. Chung's film does have a fairy-tale/myth-like quality, but it's not accessible enough or specific enough on any level to make a great deal of sense or hold our attention. For awhile, you may find yourself wishing for more dialog. But then, around 50 minutes in, when Abigail starts talking more, you realize that this does not help the movie at all.

Visually, there are some nice touches, lovely compositions (see above) and so forth. These, together with the dreamy, urban myth-like quality, may be enough to hold you. They didn't hold me. The combination of the barely-told story, together with the overly-bizarre title character, proves too much. Abigail Harm, more so, I suspect, than are most movies, is very much a matter of taste.

The movie -- from Almond Tree Films and running 80 minutes -- after a number of festival plays, opens this Friday, August 30, in New York City at the Quad Cinema for a week's run.

Personal Appearances: Director Lee Isaac Chung (and select crew members) will appear for a Q&A after the 7pm & 9:20pm shows on Friday 8/30 and Saturday 8/31. Star/Lead actress Amanda Plummer and Director Lee Isaac Chung will appear for a Q&A after the 7pm screenings on Sunday 9/1 and Tuesday 9/3.

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