Monday, June 4, 2012

FORBIDDEN QUEST screens--free--at the Korean Cultural Services' "Tribeca" night

Juicy? Oh, honey, you don't know the meaning of the word. FORBIDDEN QUEST (Eumranseosaeng in the original language) is a South Korean ode to pornography that takes the shape of a combination costume spectacle, history lesson, love story, comedy, western, action film, torture fest and martial arts movie. I think I've left out a few genres, but feel free to fill them in when you view the film. The above is a lot to pack into any film, even one, such as this Quest, that runs just over two and one-third hours (South Korean audiences do love their length). I'm not sure, however, that I'd have easily given up even one of the movie's succulent, moist minutes.

First released in its home country in 2006 (it was never released theatrically over here), the film was clearly more than a tad ahead of its time. Written and directed by Kim Dae-woo (shown at left) in a style that manages to be at all times surprisingly calm, philosophical and elegant (even when it's doing action, comedy and, yes, torture), Mr. Kim corrals a quiet, soothing tone (the music is particularly lovely) that belies the irony and humor that is going on almost all the time, just below the surface, except when it bubbles up.

That irony comes from both the hypocritical nature of man (and woman), on display overall, and from the enormous difference between the lewd words and actions we hear and see on paper, and the shock and near-terror the various parties feel when faced with the possibility of turning words and visuals into action. Eventually words do become deeds, and the fun, of course, occurs on the journey to reaching that pinnacle.

The plot involves a nobleman Yun-Seo, played by the legendary and so versatile Han Suk-kyu (shown above, from Green Fish, The President's Last Bang, Tell Me Something and the recently screened White Night), who randomly comes across an indecent novel. Hesitant, frightened nearly, to read it, he’s soon hooked and then inspired to write his own, persuading a crack artist and infamous captain of guards, Gwang-Heon (Lee Beom-Su, of My Wife Is a Gangster 3), to illustrate it for him. Of course the book becomes a hot seller, making its way to the purview of Jeong-Bin, the king’s favorite concubine, played by Kim Min-jung (below, left).

Complications ensue (of many types), all along the way. We be-come complicit in the difficulties of creating art (just what makes a work great?) and in the viewing of what may be the world's earliest pair of celebrity sunglasses, even as ambition, the male ego and how the female wields her power all come into play. There is also a ennuch (below, right) hanging about with his own naughty agenda.

The movie ends on an absolutely lovely grace note to, shall we say, the possibility of describing an even more exotic sort of love story in a future that might be -- who knows? -- "dirtier than ever." Forbidden Quest does not compare to much of anything else TrustMovies has seen. And considering that New Yorkers can view it absolutely free on the big screen in its original Korean language with English subtitles -- tomorrow night, Tuesday, June 5, at 7 pm (remember: first come, first served; doors open at 6:30) at the Tribeca Cinema, 54 Varick Street in Manhattan, courtesy of the Korean Cultural Service -- I'd call this a very good deal.

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