September 16, 2012

Searching for the Elephant: One's Crazy, One's Horny and One's Non-Descript

Actor Lee Sang-woo needs to get a new agent. In Jhung S.K.'s Searching for the Elephant (a lopsided portrait of the tawdry affluence experienced by three childhood friends who never really grow up), Lee's saddled with a role so uninteresting that you wonder why he's in the movie at all. Compared to his co-star Jang Hyuk's schizophrenic who hallucinates hacked off fingers and photographs that reassemble in the shape of an elephant's head, and Jo Dong-hyeok's narcissistic plastic surgeon who can't stop screwing his patients because of his addiction to sex, Lee's part appears to be not so much a normal guy as a bland one. A financier with a mysterious history -- he disappeared for twelve years for reasons unknown -- Lee's businessman has invested in many money-making schemes but forgot to spend a little energy on a meaningful personality.

Maybe Lee's agent is prudish. Because the only other thing that distinguishes his character is the absence of screen time for his ass. Jang gives us two nice shots of his rear (one in the shower; the other, getting out of a pool); Jo can't help but share his bare bottom via a number of passionate sex scenes. The raunchiest Lee gets is sucking a paramour's toe while hidden, from the shoulders down, beneath a tubful of soap suds. Murder ensues because this paramour (Lee Min-jung) happens to be the wife of Jo's character and the sister of Jang's.

Who gets killed how eventually proves a bit farfetched, although what's bothersome about Searching for Elephants aren't the unanswered questions, it's the unrequested answers. Why do we need to learn the back story of Lee's renegade psychiatrist Dr. Jang (Hwang Woo-seul-hye)? Why do we have to watch antiqued footage of the three kids at the fair? Why can't Jin-hyeok exist in the Korean police's computer database? Each of these plot points suggest that the three screenwriters were getting paid by the minute (which would also explain the 2 1/2 hours running time).

Side Note: Time Warner Cable has Searching for the Elephant listed as Penthouse Playboys. Don't be tricked by the title. Neither movie is worth $5 via Movies on Demand.

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