Ms. Purple Is Bold, Fresh, And Vivid

Purple isn’t just the color of the bruises on the outside.

Not rated. Opens Friday at the Embarcadero Center Cinema.

Filmmaking is all about the right visual tool for the right job, and Justin Chon’s Ms. Purple makes use of lush colors to tell its contemplative story as effectively as his far talkier 2017 Gook found immediacy in its glorious, high-contrast black-and-white. In Ms. Purple, Kasie (Tiffany Chu) is a young woman living in Los Angeles’ Koreatown, where she works as a hostess at a karaoke club frequented by wealthy but grabby men to make ends meet while she takes care of her bedridden, dying father (James Kang). Her mother has long since abandoned the family, so Kasie reaches out to her estranged slacker of a brother Carey (Teddy Lee). Ante Cheng’s lush, every-frame-a-painting cinematography for Ms. Purple has been compared to Christopher Doyle’s legendary work for Wong Kar-Wai’s In the Mood for Love, probably because both films have Asian or Asian-American directors and casts. But thematically, Ms. Purple is far more evocative of Douglas Sirk’s 1950s “woman’s weepie” melodramas, which were famously shot in bold, emotionally expressive colors by Russell Metty. Chon and Cheng also one-up Terrence Malick by using the magic hour to show a woman being thoughtful and expressing her inner life, rather than just frolicking for a gawking male. In doing so, Ms. Purple sheds new light on an old trick.

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