June 27, 2015

The Indecent Family: Baby, Baby, Baby

When it comes to ancestry, we can only pretend to know who we are. Since the days of Abraham at the very least, people have been cheating, lying, deceiving, two-timing, and unknowingly — and even sometimes willingly — assuming the parentage of children not their own and sometimes not their partner's either. That family tree painstakingly updated in the front pages of the heirloom Bible was never intended to document the extramarital liaisons and illegitimate offspring of each generation. Instead it simply presents a purified blood line, the official record of marriages and baptized babies, the idealized past free from complications.

Just how farfetched that family flowchart can be is illustrated by Park Bo-sang The Indecent Family, a comedy in which father (Chun Ho-jin), mother (Lee Mi-sook), son (Yi Hak-young) and daughter (Ji Seo-yun) all are engaged in sexual pursuits outside their primary relationships. Naturally, since this is a movie, there are further complications: The sexy student (Kim Hyo-jin) being stalked by junior is being banged by daddy; the daughter's fiance (Yoo Tae-woong) is also the ob/gyn doctor for the mother who's been impregnated by the man (Kim Seung-woo) who ends up becoming the family photographer. If everyone here were a sentimental fool, the six adults in the final studio portrait would be celebrating twice as many anniversaries as that final picture would suggest.

As you might imagine in a movie that's also known as The Horny Family, there's a lot of humping going on. What you might not predict is the toe-licking, the semen-swallowing, and the desperation that accompanies mere hand-holding. Yes, The Indecent Family is as corny as it is crude! For me, the funniest bit of comic business involved a discarded ball of tissues soaked with ejaculate that accidentally gets wiped on quite a few mouths. The rest of The Indecent Family isn't that nasty. Despite all the hanky panky, these are traditionalists: married, middle class and monogamous — at least as far as their Bible knows.

June 20, 2015

Crocodile: True Love Kim Ki-Duk Style

I'm going to go out on a severed limb, and assert that Crocodile is Kim Ki-duk's most romantic movie. Duk's feature debut isn't a date movie by any stretch of the imagination, but there's definitely an emotional thaw experienced by its title character (Jo Jae-hyeon), a heartless thug who rescues, rapes, then revenges a suicidal artist (Woo Yun-gyeong) who he's pulled out of a particularly filthy section of the Han River. What causes the change is a couple of things.

1. He discovers a well-executed (and flattering) portrait of himself that she's drawn.
2. He's warned by his surrogate grandfather (Jeon Mu-song): "You won't always be young."
3. He's nearly raped himself by a police sketch artist (who ends up with a cucumber shoved up his arse).

Further tenderizing of our hero takes place when his young charge (Ahn Jae-hong) nearly castrates him with a pocketknife and when he's beaten to a pulp by some unscrupulous poker players who hit him with what appears to be a boar's hoof. (Understatement has never been Kim's bent.) So what makes Crocodile romantic?

I guess it's the way that the title character handcuffs himself to the artist's dead body and then slits — no, saws — his wrist as they sit next to each other on a loveseat underwater. This one-ups the saying "To death do us part" with "Look how death brings us together." Very Romeo and Juliet in a street life way.

As first films go, Crocodile is impressive, and feels like an earlier attempt at the same story which Kim would perfect five years later with the brilliant Bad Guy. Both movies star Jo Jae-hyeon, who can certainly be considered one of Kim's primary muses having also appeared in his Wild Animals, The Isle, Address Unknown, and the insane silent sex pic Moebius. Jo, like Kim, is best when he's making you uncomfortable which he does here for 102 minutes.

June 13, 2015

The Scent: A Formulated Noir

Grisly murders. Mistaken identities. Double-crossing lovers. Extortion. Adultery. Jailbreak. Evidence tampering. A patsy private eye. A flirty femme fatale. Even an increasingly complicated alibi that changes with each new clue. Sum up Kim Hyeong-joon's The Scent and people will no doubt think you're describing a B-movie noir. That is, until you add that final factor: This movie has no suspense. A mystery that goes for giggles more than gasps, this did-I-do-it whodunit frames its hero as the killer (in his own memory-lapsed mind, though never ours) then forces us to watch him discover that the most obvious suspect most probably killed the man who beat her then screwed other women in front of her. Is she's wearing a doped perfume that clouds everyone's judgment? Or, more likely, is writer-director Kim Hyeong-joon sniffing from the same poisoned bottle as he revises each screenplay draft?

Kim's thinking throughout is unclear. Who murdered Soo-jin's rich, cruel, lascivious husband as well as his adulterous lover in the hotel room next door? Why is said lover — who shares the wife's name and bedmate — hiring a P.I. to catch the husband in flagrante delicto? How much does the personal trainer from the gym have to do with the crimes? Are the shelves and shelves of disposable lighters ever going to come into play? Kim's plot is full of more holes than the stab wounds suffered by its two main victims. Even so, this kooky caper could've escaped merciless scrutiny if the following elements had come into play:

The framed detective (Park Hee-soon) sweated more, the jealous wife (Cha Su-yeon) carped more, the man-eating seductress (Park Si-yeon) oozed more, the philandering husband leered more, and the mistress blackmailer wept more. The only ones giving more are Lee Kwang-soo and Jeon Soo-kyeong. Lee, as the former cop's gangly sidekick, is straight out of a Max Sennet movie, in which every misguided gesture sets off a Rube Goldberg machine of disaster. Jeon, one of Korea's comic genii, has a bit part as a terrified witness who retracts everything once she learns her culprit is a cop.