February 24, 2014

Role Play: Three Characters in Search of a Novel

Novelist Jung-ho (Lee Dong-kyu) has an unconventional creative process. He likes to act out and photograph potential narratives as a way to generate new material for each of his books. For his latest pseudo-memoir, he invites Hye-in (Han Ha-yoo), a student who attends the university where his wife Ji-soo (Kim Jin-sun) teaches, to come over and dress up like an orphaned female cousin on whom he had an unhealthy crush and who committed suicide after being raped by local boys. The role playing only gets weirder from there. He insists Hye-in memorize a poem then do certain things to enrage his wife (like having sex while the Mrs. is preparing a meal for the three of them in the kitchen downstairs). Hye-in is surprisingly acquiescent. She's what you might call a seriously devoted fan who'll do anything for an autograph. But even her zealousness pales when compared to that of Ji-soo who, one easily suspects, is gulping down antidepressants largely because her self-worth is constantly being undermined by a husband who demands his muse undergo all forms of psychological torment -- and anal sex -- because that's what leads to his most productive writing sessions out in the country. (He couldn't give a damn that his bucolic existence has added over an hour to her daily commute.)

Is the novel any good? I'm guessing it's pulp. Jung-ho himself admits it's melodrama (and with its penny dreadful ending you'd be hard pressed to disagree). As to Bak Sang-yeol's Role Play, which can feel like the cinematic equivalent of a Russian nesting doll with all its stories within stories within stories, it careens from a self-conscious artiness to a lewd soft-pornography (with soft jazz accompaniment) and from Hitchcockian thrills to Ed Woodsian nonsense. As a representative of a genre best referred to as "titters and tits," Role Play is best viewed late at night with irreverent friends willing to crack wise and leave you alone if you fall asleep. Which isn't to say Role Play will put you to sleep. It just won't keep you awake either.

No comments:

Post a Comment