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[HanCinema's Film Review] "Mr. Daytime"

2020/04/18

Soo-min (played by Park Se-min) is an art instructor in a seaside village. For some mysterious reason he visits an obvious love motel without acquiring a sexual partner. In an impressive display of restraint, Park Se-min is also the director of his own erotic film...as the only central character to never be seen nude or having sex. For an explicitly voyeuristic movie, "Mr. Daytime" shows surprising self-awareness about the subtle distinctions between artistic nudity and low class vulgar nudity. This sometimes happens even mid-scene, as a drawing class goes awary due to inscrutable feminine jealousy.

But long before that we're treated to odd setpieces wherein a low-class handyman of ambiguous intelligence rejects an enticement of possible free sex. He then proceeds to go over to the local motel and non-chalantly order coffee by delivery. For those of you who don't know, delivery coffee in South Korean culture is just a thinly veiled form of prostitution. Or at least it used to be. I'm not sure anybody actually does it anymore.

Anyway, the ensuing scene where the handyman and the prostitute negotiate for sexual services proves bizarre. They're both using so many abstract euphemisms it's hard to tell whether the handyman even knows he's talking to a prostitute. Yet details in this scene have long-term payouts. There's the three rules. Or how the handyman discovers that a seemingly irrelevant statement made by prostitute has hilariously grotesque consequences after the fact. There's also the subtler joke of the prostitute calling the handyman a term of endearment reserved for older men even as he is obviously younger than her.

This slapstick mainly just breaks up the actual plot of "Mr. Daytime" or at least the pretense of it. Almost all of the action takes place in the motel. Kyeong-sook (played by Jung Ji-hye-I) owns and operates the hotel. She has gained some rather unsavory impressions of sexual relations from this life experience. Kyeong-sook becomes obsessed with room 503 because the other two main characters keep asking for it specifically and she wants to know why.

In addition to having the curious genre distinction of being an avant garde comedy porn film, "Mr. Daytime" is also a movie weirdly yet charmingly out of date with modern sensibilities. The way the delivery coffee shop plays as a huge plot point is one such exemplar of this. But on a political level, I'm obligated to acknowledge that the romantic way "Mr. Daytime" portrays the videotaping or watching of strangers having sex is a bit nasty.

It's acceptable in context because there's nothing even slightly vicious about "Mr. Daytime" in execution. After all, Kyeong-sook's character arc culminates with the woman accepting her sexuality and even fusing this passion with her love of the violin. The handyman moves beyond his own goofiness. Soo-min is...still a bit of a quiet weirdo, but at least we know why. Even the random hotel hookups are portrayed with surprising sympathy, right down to the cute gay couple. Sometimes sex is art, and sometimes sex is silly. Sure, why not?

Review by William Schwartz

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"Mr. Daytime" is directed by Park Se-min, and features Park Se-min, Jung Ji-hye-I, Lee Baek-gil, Lee Chae-dam, Kim Min-kyung-X, Joo Yong-pil. Release date in Korea: 2020/04/15.

 

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