January 7, 2012

Muoi: The Legend of the Portrait: Seeing the Bad Side of Things

Way back when, some time before the widespread use of electricity but after the invention of acid, Muoi (Anh Thu) -- the tenth-born child of a very poor family -- had the great misfortune of falling in love with a man named Nguyen (Binh Minh), a handsome, young swain with a gift for portraiture and a talent for womanizing. Both skills came into play when Nguyen decided to seduce Muoi while painting her picture. One mission accomplished (the seduction), he abandoned the other (the picture) and hurried off to resume his romance with a richer, former love. Back home, this original girlfriend (Hong Anh) caught wind of Muoi and decided to break her rival's ankle and throw acid in her face, as a way to let her know "You don't mess with my man!" Muoi took revenge by killing herself then returning as a ghost with a bone to pick. Nguyen then tricked her ghost into becoming an artist's model again so he could finish her portrait. Then some priests entered banging on gourds and Nguyen stabbed the picture to trap the evil spirit inside. End of legend.

Unlike me, the character Yun-hui (Jo An) thinks this story has the makings of a really good novel. Her last book, a thinly-veiled pseudo-memoir called Lies and Secrets, did pretty well but not so great that she's worried that Seo-yeon (Cha Ye-ryeon), the friend who she mercilessly defamed in it, would have read it since moving to Vietnam. So Yun-hui stays with Seo-yeon and asks her to help research the book. Hallucinations follow as part of the creative process. Eventually, Yun-hui realizes that even if you've betrayed your friend, who far from being a slut was videotaped -- being raped -- by the guy you have a secret crush on, you still have to kill your friend if she's possessed by a demon.

How does she knows there's a ghost at work? Well, a doorbell rings in the middle of the night right after a shower goes on mysteriously. That's one sign. Wallpaper uncurls off the wall in her bedroom, and lights flicker when there's a storm outside. Those are two others. Admittedly, they're not conclusive evidence, but fueled by the gossip of Seo-yeon's co-worker (Hong So-hee), who's half-Korean, half-smirk, Yun-hui doesn't let loose logic or a lack of lucidity get in the way of her mission. Her ex-best-friend may not be the kleptomaniac slut that she made her out to be in her mud-slinging roman a clef, but Seo-yeon did have the nerve to dance with that passably attractive white guy at the bar who Yun-hui had her eye on. Some betrayals can't be forgotten, no matter how many shots of Black Label you consume. Bring out the daggers!

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