March 29, 2015

Bewitching Attraction: Femme Fatale in Eco-Academia

Maneater Cho Eun-suk (Moon So-ri) has sex on the brain, so much so that you may wonder how she has time to keep up with her professorial duties and her environmental activism. Maybe she's wearily let those go. She's certainly acting as though her expertise can take a back seat to her insatiable carnal desires: With career advancement in her mind only in part, she bonks a married TV producer (Park Won-sang) and a graphic novelist (Ji Jin-hee) even as a department full of lascivious male colleagues are looking for a way to get their sweaty hands on her pencil-skirted ass. Though the movie itself may have a misogynist streak, you feel like its lead character couldn't give a damn. She's past judgment!

Be that as it may, one of her cohorts (played by Yoo Seung-mok) confounded by her amorality is driven by jealous desperation to dig into Cho's past until he discovers that her warped psychosexual development is rooted in a middle school incident involving three boys and one untimely death. This is as much as I've pieced together. Her cohort may know more. I'm not so sure. I do have a sense that Lee Ha's convoluted plot intends layers I can't fathom but I maintain that the two greatest pleasures of Bewitching Attraction lie well outside his nutty narrative.

The first is compositional. Lee knows how to create a picture, something established early on with his magnificent group portrait of a priest and a gaggle of nuns on the coast. Those photo-worthy moments — the conversation under umbrellas, the drunk encounter in the hallway, the nude face-off in bed — keep coming throughout Bewitching Attraction so that you almost feel as though Lee's written a story simply to connect the pictures in his head. The movie's second pull is performative. Moon, the same actress who blew me away in Oasis, lives up to this movie's title by managing to slink with a limp and play nude scenes in such a way that the men's shirtlessness feels as revealing as her own. She's never less than fascinating. You can understand why the men want her character, why the director wanted Moon and why Moon wanted the part, given how much she's made of it.

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