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[HanCinema's Film Review] "Lost Flower: Eo Woo-dong"

2014/12/26 | Permalink

Hye-in (played by Song Eun-chae) is a young Joseon-era woman who is for political reasons arranged to marry Lee Dong (played by Baek Do-bin). While Hye-in's loyal retainer Moo-gong (played by Yeo Wook-hwan) disapproves, for a brief period it seems like maybe the situation won't be so bad. Lee Dong then exposes himself as being a tremendous jerk, and so inevitably the narrative moves toward a typical revenge trajectory. "Lost Flower: Eo Woo-dong" ultimately distinguishes itself via sex, historical backdrop, and general misandry.

Let's start with the sex. Song Eun-chae has a pretty great body, and surprisingly, her performance is a pretty good match too. Hye-in is a mostly conservative woman and her moans, far from being the excess one might expect to see in porn, definitely portray a strong modest streak. In this regard "Lost Flower: Eo Woo-dong" makes very good use of the Joseon-era backdrop. It's precisely because Hye-in is covered up most of the time that her naked body comes off so impressively.

Ironically, in terms of actual content it's ultimately not Hye-in's body that's the instrument of her revenge, but rather her more lady-like courtesan equivalent skills. These too, are an obvious callback to a long-ago era rather than anything really erotic in the modern sense. A gayageum is a prominent musical motif here, and it's a testament to director Lee Soo-sung that the music actually comes off so well in context. Seduction, as it turns out, really is more mental than it is physical.

...Thus leading into the misandry. Which I actually consider to be a point in the film's favor. Modern sexual politics frequently dictate that it is wrong to portray women as bad for being sexually open. Rather than trying to romanticize courtesans, though, "Lost Flower: Eo Woo-dong" instead flips the perspective around by exposing the men as the ones being morally depraved- while the courtesans obviously enable this behavior, it's equally obvious who's actually calling the shots. Note one scene in particular where a courtesan is clearly weirded out by the direction this sexual encounter has gone, and only reluctantly continues after being ordered to do so.

It's this misandrist element that ultimately makes Hye-in's revenge so satisfying. She's deliberately and quite literally flipping the emotional perspective around so that Lee Dong is the who ultimately ends up humiliated, through the very same emotional means that he used to try and control her. I particularly liked how Hye-in's overall countenance never really changes. While she does put on a bit of a show for the sake of the men, right to the end it's only her relationship with Moo-gong that provides a genuine sense of intimacy.

Overall "Lost Flower: Eo Woo-dong" is just a fairly simple story, but it is nonetheless a simple story done rather well. While the sex is the obvious titillation factor intended to get people interested, Hye-in is a well-defined, simple conservative woman whose strike against the patriarchy is motivated largely by a strong sense of traditional, personal ethics. Naturally, it all ends rather tragically, particularly given that Moo-gong repeatedly offers a more pleasant solution. Really, though, it's hard to resist the fantasy of putting a jerk in his rightful place.

Review by William Schwartz

"Lost Flower: Eo Woo-dong" is directed by Lee Soo-sung and features Baek Do-bin, Song Eun-chae and Yeo Wook-hwan.

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