Borderlands (Zev Berman, 2007): 6.5/10

The Magic Flute (Ingmar Bergman, 1975): 7/10

La Guerre Est Finie (Alain Resnais, 1966): 7/10

Speed Racer (The Wachowski Brothers, 2008): 8/10

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Sunday, June 17, 2007

Lies (Jang Sun-Woo, 1999)

Although the internet tells me the French translation of the above poster is "fantasies," the US title of Lies fits Jang Sun-Woo's film far better. Whereas fantasties are idealized, romantic versions of what might be, lies are concrete, often dirty things that hide what really happens. The two characters in Sun-Woo's movie lie - to themselves, to each other, and to everyone else in their lives. There's really very little fantasy involved after the initial meeting.

Y is a 38 year old Korean sculptor with a wife studying in Paris, while J is an 18 year old student who wants to lose her virginity before she has a chance to be raped (as she admits in a painful monologue on the state of Korean womanhood). They begin a consentual sexual relationship, where she takes the train to his city every weekend to spend the whole time in bed, which evolves from just sex to extreme BDSM play. The BDSM in the film is entirely real, and when Sun-Woo focuses the camera on the welts and bruises after their sessions, we can really feel the actors' pain. The relationship morphs even further from BDSM enthusiasts to extreme pain/pleasure-seekers, when finally, something has to break.

Apart from Y and J's story, Sun-Woo makes the interesting postmodern choice to film the actors talking about their roles and inserts that footage into the fictional story. We get Sang Hyun Lee, who plays J, taking about how she's nervous about doing nude scenes, and the next scene is Y and J having sex. This brings a second level to the film, and even more lies into the equation.

Most of the negative reviews I've read of the film are about how the sex is excessive, or that it's not titillating. The sex is supposed to be excessive and unsexy - this is a film about reality, and not about, ironically enough, lies. My problems with the film lie in the lack of characterization of Y and J and in my own discomfort with some elements of BDSM. But this is a movie that deserves to be seen by those who are interested in the more extreme, yet human, elements of sexuality.


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