August 11, 2013

White Night: Selfish Pretty Boy Meets Equally Cute Courier for One Crazy Night

Two gay men meet. One's moneyed. The other's working class. (Or perhaps, he's just "working...") Sound familiar? Maybe because writer-director Leesong Hee-il did it before with his less-effective No Regret! But before you start shaking your head dismissively at yet another gay "trade" romantic fantasy, shut up and listen. White Night doesn't climax with a passionate night of sex during which secrets are shared, and class-defying bonds are forged. The climactic moment here takes place not in a queen-sized bed but in a Jong-no pool hall where the two guys get revenge on a homophobic asshole who gay-bashed the pretty rich one a few years ago.

A certain satisfaction comes with seeing two queer guys exact revenge on a bully who's literally scarred one of them. But what's true-to-life in White Night isn't the righteousness, it's the dissonance. In the aftermath of this second beating, the courier (Lee I-kyeong) hasn't necessarily become closer to the airline steward (Won Tae-hee) than they were before the retributive attack. (Unless you think a sordid encounter in a men's restroom is a profound bit of intimacy.) And Leesong's refusal to get sentimental or pat or cornily romantic is what makes White Night so curiously engrossing. The movie isn't relating an unlikely love affair so much as capturing a youthful, sexually-driven obsession that's laced with a longing for intimacy that's universal. The complexities of this one night stand aren't those of soul mates drawn together by a chance (online) encounter. They're the crazy, irrational complications that come from searching for something more, even when you're not sure what that something is.

It may interest you to know that the movie's title refers to a night in which the midnight sun extends daylight to the midnight hour. I only learned that after looking it up. (For some reason, I never bothered to research that for the similarly titled Into the White Night.)

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