#1. Ab-normal Beauty | 2004 | Hong Kong
A troubled young woman dealing with something horrible that happened in her past witnesses a fatal accident and then becomes obsessed with taking photos associated with death. Things go from bad to worse for her when a mysterious person sends her a snuff film featuring the brutal death of a young woman. Is she the killer’s next target and if so will she be able to figure out his or her identity and stop them before it’s too late?
Ab-normal Beauty centres around a troubled photographer and it shows her descent into the perverse and macabre after shooting at a vehicle crash scene. Much of the film is a dark psychological drama rather than horror, the whole visual scheme mirroring Jin’s descent. Shots are still, sparsely composed and sometimes richly tinted, an imagery of bleak yearning, of the camera’s power to make beauty from from death, to bring something from nothing and yet in the freezing of image eternally condemn, forever sequester from reality.
All this is perhaps the highlight of the film, its thoughts internalised speaking with so much more eloquence than the occasional fragments of exposition. It’s powerfully acted stuff too, Race Wong subtly moving, quietly pained, and she does well in suggesting the characters’ shadow.
The heart of this film is everything is beautiful. It can be a purple skyscraper. An overpass. Someone died in the middle of the street from a car accident. This movie shows the beauty of the latter, which is good until the character becomes obsessive about these pictures. Then it becomes a nice little thriller. Not jumpy, but it is wince-worthy.