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[MOVIE REVIEW]'Bewitching Attraction' delves into hypocritical human nature

2006/03/15 | 968 views | Permalink | Source

It is just remarkable that a marketing company still promotes "Bewitching Attraction" (Yeogyosu-ui eunmilhan maeryeok) as a new Romantic Comedy, featuring Moon So-ri, an award-winning star known for her sophisticated and dedicated acting.

The film, a feature debut by Lee Ha, is not romantic. Nor is it comic in the way typical light-hearted Romantic Comedy entertains audiences. Despite the misleading marketing strategy, the movie is occasionally funny, and the director's disturbing and thought-provoking take on the hypocritical characters is, well, entertaining in a way.

Eun-suk (Moon So-ri) is a sexy professor in a rural university. But the character is not only voluptuous but also multilayered. She specializes in dye - the very cause of pollution - at the obscure school, but preaches the virtue of preserving the environment as an ardent green activist.

On the face of it, she seems arrogant and aloof. But she does not hide her sexual passion: she goes for casual yet passionate sex with a man she barely knows. Her talk is elegant at one point, but horribly vulgar at another. When she throws away trash quite naturally right after finishing her duty as the protector of the lake area, it's hard to miss the point put forward by the director. Eun-suk is a hypocrite; but who isn't in this dysfunctional society?

One of the interesting points is that Eun-suk is limping. She swaggers in a very suggestive way, as if the physical handicap is almost a plus. But there is no explanation, no flashback, no discreet talk by other characters, as far as her physical handicap is concerned.

What is openly described, though, is a group of men chasing after this foxy professor. Most of them are professors, and they have wives. But they do not disclose their desire for the female professor, almost worshipping her attractive features as the supreme value in the small community.

The movie throws subtle attacks on the complacent professor society of Korea. Unlike other countries, the Korean public bestows enormously high social status on professors without asking whether they are truly qualified or what they are actually doing (or, in better cases, studying).

Although there are many hard-working professors, it is widely known that equally many Korean professors do not study hard once they get the much-coveted position. Flaunting the lifelong job security, sizable income and high social respect, some professors just waste away time, as demonstrated by the pathetic characters in the movie.

The plot of this unsettling black comedy gains momentum when Eun-suk confronts Park Pil (Ji Jin-hee), a new professor whose official occupation is a cartoonist. When they first meet, they don't recognize each other. It is understandable. They had parted quite a long time ago, leaving behind their gloomy past.

The past, however, comes back to life when Eun-suk realizes that Park Pil's appearance could disrupt her otherwise cozy and comfy professor's life. Both were the so-called "yang-a-chi", a derogatory term for students who do some bad things instead of studying obediently.

It turns out that Eun-suk was a notorious yang-a-chi who did not hesitate to have sex with other boys when she was just a middle-school girl. And she was a girlfriend of Park Pil's older brother during a period that both have made great efforts to erase from their memory.

The movie's portrayal of the cruel past reflects the view that everyone has a secret he or she doesn't want to reveal to others. The movie, however, does not explain how such bad students have come a long way to grab the respectable professor's status. Such purported omission, which is also applied to Eun-suk's limping leg, is left for the imagination of the audiences, and since the movie is slow-paced, there is plenty of time to think about those intriguing aspects.

Moon So-ri's acting, including her full nudity in some scenes, is overwhelming impressive. Ji Jin-hee also reveals his extra potential by absorbing the character's superficial elements that clearly contradict his previous "nice and handsome guy" image. Anyway, the marketing slogan claiming this is a Romantic Comedy is as hypocritical as the movie's realistically pretentious characters.

By Yang Sung-jin

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