February 1, 2007

DVD Review: Cello

You know, I really enjoy Asian cinema. I may not always understand the films, or give each title the attention it deserves, but I have always enjoyed the energy they contained and just how different and original they came across as being opposed to any domestic entries. That said, the horror films are starting to bore me just a little bit. It seems that rather than expanding on their strong base of originality they are starting to repeat themselves. Cello is a good example of an interesting idea that ultimately falters from moments of seeming similarity to the films that have come before it.

The stories seem to be getting more and more convoluted. They stretch everything out until the final frames where everything is tied together, or at least the attempt is made, in the form of a sloppy bow. If you have seen any Japanese horror films, from which this Korean effort seems to take its cues, then you have probably seen much of what Cello has to offer. Most notably among what is becoming a J-horror cliche, there is the ghostly girl with the long black hair that is ready to give you a scare.

The story revolves around Mi-ju (Hyeon-a Seung), a cellist of great skill who has chosen to take care of her husband and two children while teaching part time. The decision was a seemingly hard one for her, spurred by the death of her friend and primary competition in school. You see, there was this car accident where she was behind the wheel which caused that tragic death of her friend. She blames herself and not using her skills is her way of punishing herself.

As the story progresses, strange things begin to happen to Mi-ju and her family. They are haunted by apparitions, the occupants begin to act strange, and Mi-ju becomes convinced that it is her friend come back to haunt her. Mi-ju becomes increasingly distressed by the goings on. Her live-in sister has some sort of breakdown, her autistic daughter starts acting a little more cruel, and they have a mute cleaning lady who seems to appear out of thin air. Still, it is less horror and more just strange.

Cello drives around a lot, the plot meanders as often as Mi-ju finds herself behind the wheel of a car. There is a sever lack of focus on the story and I was never quite sure what many of the connections were supposed to be. Now, don't get me wrong, I don't need to have my movies tied up in neat little boxes, or have the points spoon fed to me, but I found myself not having the energy to grab onto this one. Sure, there were a couple of interesting moments, like the sister's breakdown and the confrontation with the former student, but otherwise I was rather bored.

Director Woo-cheul Lee does have a pretty good visual style. There is a definite aura of creepiness, and it does seem to want to be more than it is. Sadly, it flounders in the realm of borrowing from others and lacking faith in its own source material. This was Lee's first shot at the big screen, and he does show some potential. Cello is not a complete loss, it may not work itself, but it does hint at future potential.

Audio/Video. Both of these integral presentation qualities look pretty good. The colors are pretty good, if a touch soft. The audio also sound good. I have noticed in these Tartan releases that they usually do not measure up to the releases of a bigger studio, something which has never bothered me, as the film is always more important to me. Just thought I would share that little nugget. Seriously, though, this DVD does look pretty good, no complaints from me.

Extras. There are a couple of extras on the disk. They are led by a director's commentary, subtitled of course. This has always bugged me, I am not a big fan of dubs, but I think if a foreign film has a commentary by the director in their language, we should have a language dub on the film so we can follow the film while reading the commentary. There is also a look behind the scenes with on set footage as well as press conference footage. Rounding out the extras are the trailer and a TV spot.

Bottomline. This is not among the strongest horror films to come out of Asia, it is a little light on the horror, and the story comes out half baked. I did like how the opening sequence was looped back to in the climax, giving a spin on all that you have seen, but still not a terribly original concept. I also had no problem with the lovely Hyeon-a Seung in the lead role.

Mildly Recommended.


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