November 21, 2008

M: Not Letter Perfect Symbolism

In Lee Myung-se's mindnumbing melodrama M, maudlin muse and memory-figment Mimi (Lee Yeon-hee) mentions meditatively that she's mad for things starting with M. She loves Mozart, Modigliani, and more to the point Min-woo (Kang Dong-won), a momentarily manic memoirist made miserable by a millstone that's either money-related or a premarital misgiving. Maybe mostly it's the man's miserable case of writer's block. Whatever the mundane matter, Min-woo is majorly mixed up: See how he moons over the mercurial mystery woman; watch as he demeans his milksop/helpmeet/roomie (Kong Hyo-jin), imminent marriage be damned. (As to his book, it's a mawkish mess.) What to make of this murky material... M may mean a mystifying, metaphorical memory of Mimi or a morbid mental case in a midlife crisis! Most likely, M means high-minded masturbation. As moviemaking goes, M is Lee's meandering manifesto for maximalism with all the methods misapplied; the montages are technically masterful yet mildly meaningful. If Lee meant to make an imagist marvel with M, he missed by a mile.

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