Wednesday, May 06, 2009

"Lies" ("Gojitmal"): an adult film reduced to a thought experiment?


Wellspring and Fox Lorber offer a curious Korean film from 1999, “Gojitmal” (“Lies”), directed by Sun-Woo Jang and based on the novel by Jung-II Chang. The film is officially not rated but obviously is intended as a legitimate NC-17 experience. The film seems to have an informal tagline, "Pain is their pleasure."

What is curious is the “meta-film” format. The central story concerns an affair between a 38 year old engineer and an 18 year old graduating high school senior, with all the “strange ideas” therewith. This includes the straw whips, that take too much of the screen time. There is a subplot involving relatives who might retaliate. The characters have abstract names, “J” and “Y”, to show that this is just a “thought experiment.”

The film begins with the actors talking about the movie they are making, and gradually the talk or “docudrama” merges into the story. Is this technique designed to make the material more socially acceptable?

The objectification does make the whole movie rather clinical, and curious. There is nothing “exciting”. Everything is too smooth, too slick, so much so that you don’t even wince when the Y gives J (the engineer) a tat on his leg. There’s plenty of college dorm talk (or Army barracks talk) copied into clinical terms, too, even in the chapter headings.

The outdoors scenes show modern South Korea, and we can see that even in 1999 it looked wired. The smog is noticeable in some scenes (reminding me of the Malaysian film “I don’t want to sleep alone”.

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