Sexy comedy ‘Working Girl’ gets a trailer

Working Girl (워킹걸)

Working Girl (워킹걸)

Working Girl – also known as Casa Amor: Exclusive for Ladies – has released a series of promotional posters and a trailer.

The sexy comedy stars Jo Yeo-jeong who, following a mistake in the work place, joins forces with neighbour Clara to open a store that sells adult toys and other paraphernalia exclusively for women.

Jo Yeo-jeong is no stranger to films with sexual content, baring all in erotic period dramas The Servant and The Concubine. Model Clara, meanwhile, has acted largely in cameos yet captured the attention of the Korean public following a baseball pitch wearing skin tight clothing, and has since gone on maintain a presence in the spotlight.

Check out the trailer, character trailer and posters below:

Working Girl - Jo Yeo-jeongWhile the film looks to be a light-hearted sexy comedy, it remains to be seen whether Working Girl will be an empowering film about female sexuality, or simply exploitative. 2014 has not been a particular good year for Korean actresses due to the predominately male-centered narratives, with many female performers ultimately forced to occupy explicit sexual roles. Due to the incredibly limited roles for women, even up and coming actresses Lim Ji-yeon (Obsessed), Lee Tae-im (For the Emperor) and Esom (Scarlet Innocence), despite being considered rookies in the industry, have all performed in graphic sexual scenes, scenes which often border on rape.

Working Girl - ClaraHopefully director Jeong Beom-sik – who has previously helmed mostly horror fare including Horror Stories 1 and 2, as well as Epitaph – will construct a comedy where the heroines of the story take charge of their sexuality, and will usher in a brighter and more diversified year for Korean actresses.

Working Girl will hit Korean cinemas on January 8th, 2015.

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Ga-heun and Jin-pyeong begin their steamy affair in secret

Obsessed (인간중독) – ★★★☆☆

Obsessed (인간중독)

Obsessed (인간중독)

Erotic drama Obsessed (인간중독) is the latest tale of sexual seduction by director Kim Dae-woo (김대우). Upon release in Korean cinemas, audience expectation for a lustful period drama – chiefly due to director Kim’s resume as director on The Servant and Forbidden Quest, as well as screenwriting duties on Untold Scandal and An Affair, and furthered by a marketing strategy emphasising sexual content – propelled Obsessed into the number one spot at the box office in its opening week.

Yet, with the exception of the notably lavish production design as well as moments of gorgeous cinematography, Obsessed is one of the director’s weaker films. The story is bland and uninspired while most importantly the romance itself is particularly contrived. Audiences hopeful for racy erotic scenes will also find themselves disappointed, as aside from two attractive leads the encounters are clumsy and sparse. Obsessed is an entertaining erotic drama, although one with little depth.

Jin-pyeong helps Ga-heun wear an earring after he saves her from a life-threatening incident

Jin-pyeong helps Ga-heun wear an earring after he saves her from a life-threatening incident

The year is 1969. Commander Kim Jin-pyeong (Song Seung-heon (송승헌) is a respected Vietnam War veteran at the military base he now resides, making great effort to hide his dependence on anxiety medication due to past trauma. Life is generally quite agreeable, except for Jin-pyeong and his wife’s (Jo Yeo-jeong (조여정) struggles to become pregnant. When a subordinate (On Joo-wan (온주완) arrives on base with his Chinese wife Jong Ga-heun (Lim Ji-yeon (임지연), Jin-pyeong feels an immediate, uncontrollable attraction…one is equally reciprocated. As he and Ga-heun begin their passionate affair, their desires threaten to destroy everything around them as well as their very sanity.

From the outset, it becomes very clear that director Kim is attempting to emulate Ang Lee’s masterful Lust, Caution mixed with classic American melodrama. He moderately succeeds yet mostly in terms of production design, as the sets, mise-en-scene and costumes are truly impressive and are wonderful in creating the world in which the affair takes place. The care and detail applied to each scene, whether in the homestead, hospital, or local dance bar, is consistently remarkable and does wonders in drawing the audience into the narrative, and the production team deserve to be congratulated. That said, Obsessed feels more skin to an American production as aside from the actors, there is very little evidence of Korean culture on screen. Interestingly efforts are made to convey ’50s era American housewives through hierarchy and gossiping, and to authenticate Ga-heun’s Chinese nationality through the crude inclusion of bird cages, yet surprisingly, other than the language, there’s little to suggest the film is Korean.

Ga-heun and Jin-pyeong begin their steamy affair in secret

Ga-heun and Jin-pyeong begin their steamy affair in secret

Despite the strength of the production values, it’s not enough to distract from the poor script and mediocre acting. The power of a film of this nature lies primarily on the build of passion and the chemistry between the lead actors, and in this respect Obsessed is lacking. The event at the hospital that initially draws Ga-heun and Jin-pyeong together is silly at best, conveying the commander as inept rather than a strong military leader, with later confrontations equally as contrived. The quiet stoicism both actors exude, particularly Lim Ji-yeon, makes such cliches stand out all the more meaning that when the couple declare their love it feels more like a leap in logic rather than a natural and sincere build of emotion.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, such impassive traits lead to erotic moments that are lacking in passion. The scenes are perfectly serviceable, yet are crucially lacking the raw intensity intended. Luckily director Kim avoids the rape-esque scenes of The Servant to present more equal sexual encounters in Obsessed, but bizarrely in eschewing such latent misogyny the choreography sufferers. Sex between Jin-pyeong and Ga-heun is indeed erotic but clumsily so, akin to inexperienced teenagers rather than two lovers addicted to each other.

Despite such criticisms, Obsessed is entertaining for the most part. Fans of the genre will undoubtedly enjoy the story and derive pleasure from witnessing such cliches play out, while others will find the drama to be a watchable experience. Obsessed is generally a competent film though one of little depth, leading to a final act where the narrative jumps head-first into the pitfall of attempting to melodramatically wrap up all the narrative threads, yet as the film is generally dispassionate such scenes have little emotional impact.

Jin-pyeong suffers a crisis of morality, and must come to terms with his actions

Jin-pyeong suffers a crisis of morality, and must come to terms with his actions

Obsessed (인간중독) is a competent erotic drama from director Kim Dae-woo, the filmmaker responsible for several noteworthy racy period films. While the production design in Obsessed is lovingly crafted and wonderfully absorbing, the lacklustre story and stoic acting from the leads make the film a mediocre affair, and as such the intensity and passion is lacking throughout. In conjunction with some clumsily choreographed sexual scenes, Obsessed is a mildly entertaining romp that never fulfills the promise insinuated in the title.

★★★☆☆

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Director Park Chul-soo - 20/11/1948-19/02/2013

BIFF 2013: Park Chul-soo Special Commemoration: Eternal Movie Youth

The 18th Busan International Film Festival

The 18th Busan International Film Festival

While walking home late on February 19th after a day of filming, director Park Chul-soo was hit by a drunk driver and tragically died. He was 64.

To celebrate director Park’s significant contribution to the Korean film industry, the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) has prepared a special program entitled Park Cheol-soo Special Commemoration: Eternal Movie Youth.

Park Chul-soo made his directorial debut with Captain of the Alley in 1978, yet it was in 1985 that the director had a big break with Mother, a film that continues to be celebrated as one of the most prominent rape-revenge productions to emerge from the industry. The 1990s saw the release of his most revered films in the form of 301, 302 (1995), one of the first Korean films to receive a theatrical release in the US, and Farewell My Darling in 1996.

Director Park Chul-soo - 20/11/1948-19/02/2013

Director Park Chul-soo – 20/11/1948-19/02/2013

More recently director Park helmed independent erotic dramas that explored sexual relationships, including Green Chair (녹색의자) (2003), Red Vacance Black Wedding (붉은 바캉스 검은 웨딩) (2011), B.E.D. (베드) (2012), and Eating, Talking, Faucking (생생활활) (released posthumously in March 2013). When his death occurred, director Park was in post-production on Green Chair: Love Conceptually (녹색의자 2013 – 러브 컨셉츄얼리), a re-imagining/remake of sorts to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the original.

Each of Park Chul-soo’s 5 films in the special program at BIFF 2013 are profiled below.

Park Cheol-soo Special Commemoration: Eternal Movie Youth

301, 302 (삼공일 삼공이)

301, 302 (삼공일 삼공이)

301, 302 (삼공일 삼공이) – 1995

Synopsis: 301, 302 became a cult hit upon release, and jettisoned director Park into one of the most popular Korean film makers at the time. The story contrasts two different woman in an apartment building, and through their attitude to food, conveys the suffering they have endured from patriarchal culture.

Farewell My Darling (학생부군신위)

Farewell My Darling (학생부군신위)

Farewell My Darling (학생부군신위) – 1996

Synopsis: Heavily influenced by American independent cinema, director Park turned his attention on Korean funerals in Farewell My Darling. The ceremony features the clash of traditional and new, as well as religious ideologies, that examines Korean culture through the tragic event.

Green Chair: Love Conceptually (녹색의자 2013 - 러브 컨셉츄얼리)

Green Chair: Love Conceptually (녹색의자 2013 – 러브 컨셉츄얼리)

Green Chair: Love Conceptually (녹색의자 2013 – 러브 컨셉츄얼리) – 2013

Synopsis: Green Chair: Love Conceptually depicts the  relationship between a married woman in her thirties and a twenty year old man. The film explores the issues of divorce and age, with erotic twists and turns.

Mother (어미)

Mother (어미)

Mother (어미) – 1985

Synopsis: Starring Yoon Yeo-jeong (Woman of Fire (1971), The Housemaid (2012)), Mother is still revered as one of the best rape-revenge films of the period. When her daughter is raped and later commits suicide, a mother decides to find those responsible and enact her grisly revenge.

Stray Dog (들개)

Stray Dog (들개)

Stray Dog (들개) – 1982

Synopsis: The bleak outlook of the early 1980s is captured in Stray Dog, a film about two extremely poor students who live in a dilapidated old house. As the two struggle to survive and even to find food, they are filled with desperation and longing.

Busan International Film Festival (제18회 부산국제영화제) Festival News Korean Festivals 2013
The hysterical mother severs her son's penis, sparking a chain of events

Kim Ki-duk’s Moebius (뫼비우스) – His Most Controversial Film to Date?

Kim Ki-duk's Moebius (뫼비우스)

Kim Ki-duk’s Moebius (뫼비우스)

No stranger to controversy, director Kim Ki-duk’s latest film Moebius (뫼비우스) appears to be pushing more boundaries than ever before. Billed as his most controversial film to date, sexual thriller Moebius explores the themes of incest, genital dismemberment, and dark sado-masochistic desires within a family unit, employing the director’s trademark silent characterisation in emphasising the severity of their actions.

The story depicts a mother (Lee Eun-woo (이은우) who, sick of her husband’s (Jo Jae-hyeon (조재현) constant infidelities, plots her own unique brand of revenge. However the conflict dramatically backfires upon their son (Seo Yeong-joo (서영주), with the resulting shame forcing the mother into exile. While the father and son attempt to build their relationship once again, their lives are once again thrown into turmoil when the mother returns, sparking a dramatic chain of events towards an even darker path.

The poster for Moebius reveals disturbing imagery

The poster for Moebius reveals disturbing imagery

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Moebius was initially rejected by The Korean Media Rating Board upon submission, bestowing a ‘restricted’ rating upon the film. Yet as there are no cinemas in Korea that are licensed to screen ‘restricted’ rated films, the decision effectively meant that director Kim’s latest could not be released domestically. In a statement the Board explained, “The story and contents of the movie are highly violent, terrifying and harmful to underage audiences. The unethical and unsocial expressions of sexual activity between immediate family members make it only suitable for screening in limited theaters”. However, after director Kim edited several of the more controversial scenes from the film, Moebius was finally approved for domestic release, which should occur sometime in early September.

Interestingly such issues have not effected director Kim’s reputation abroad, as the film has been selected by both Venice and Toronto for their respective film festivals. Kim’s Pieta was the big winner at last year’s Venice Film Festival, scooping the highly coveted ‘Golden Lion’ award for best film, while this year’s Moebius will be screened as part of the ‘Out of Competition’ category. Toronto Film Festival are due to screen the film under their ‘Masters’ program, describing the film as bearing, “the clear mark of Kim’s singular genius. It’s a modern Greek tragedy bordering on psychological thriller, a pitchblack comedy, a crazy-weird depiction of pain-induced pleasure.”

Love him or loathe him, Kim Ki-duk’s films are consistently fascinating. Audiences will be able to form their own opinions regarding Moebius in early September. Please see below for the trailer.

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