I wouldn’t be surprised if Ab-Normal Beauty is actually a very good, very well-crafted movie. But it’s just not the type of movie I enjoy or appreciate.
It is an Asian film about a photography student who becomes obsessed with death, blood, murder, suicide, etc., evidently at least in part due to abusive experiences in her childhood. She, and her lesbian lover, sense that her sanity is gradually slipping away as she loses herself in images of the dead and dying. Late in the film she receives anonymous photos and snuff film type videos that she’s not sure are real or fake, and then encounters the person who’s been sending them.
This film is shot in a very stylistic, artsy manner. In other words, lots of weird angles, extreme close-ups, echoing sound effects, jump cuts, lack of dialogue, unexplained scenes, etc.
I think if you really lose yourself in that, it can be pretty cool. Just imagine you’re taking an acid trip or whatever, and appreciate the visuals without having to understand it all.
But rarely am I able to do that with a movie. I find I have little patience for this kind of thing, and my mind wanders.
With this movie you have the further complicating factor that there are indications parts of it aren’t happening anyway, that we’re seeing her (or in some cases possibly other characters’) fantasies, dreams, flashbacks, etc.
So it’s hard to tell what’s going on, and even when you can sort of figure it out, you don’t know if it’s real or not anyway.
Again, some people I’m sure totally get into that. And it inspires them to pay close attention and catch every clue and every nuance the filmmaker has tossed in there. But almost always I’d rather know what the heck’s going on when I’m watching a movie.
I know this is a terrible cliché about people of other races that “they all look alike,” but I was also hampered by the fact that I generally couldn’t tell one of the Asian lesbians from the other. So another level of confusion.
I’m also not thrilled with the sexualization of violence against women in this movie. Granted, the protagonist has fantasies and temptations regarding committing murder, to go along with her fantasies and temptations regarding being murdered (and raped and in bondage and so on), so it’s not like it’s all one way, but it’s still unpleasant to see women chained up and having their skulls bashed in and such.
So, Ab-Normal Beauty is probably a movie a film school class could analyze and get a lot out of, but it’s one that simply didn’t connect with me.