은밀한 유혹 (Perfect Proposal)

A Bidangil Pictures/Soo Film Production
Distribution: CJ E&M
Rating: 15 and Over
Genre: Thriller
Running Time: 110 Min
Shooting Time: 2014/02/21~2014/06/03
Release: 2015/Jun/04

WITH 임수정 (Im Soo-Jung) as Ji-Yeon; 유연석 (Yoo Yeon-Seok) as Seong-Yeol; 이경영 (Lee Gyeong-Young) as Chairman; 박철민 (Park Cheol-Min) as Captain; 도희 (Do Hee) as Yoo-Mi; 진경 (Jin Gyeong) as Hye-Jin; Enes Kaya as Victor; Lee Mahbubas Khan;

CREW Director 윤재구 (Yoon Jae-Gu) Screenplay 윤재구 (Yoon Jae-Gu) Executive Producer 민진수 (Min Jin-Soo) | Director of Photography 이태윤 (Lee Tae-Yoon) Lighting 김상철 (Kim Sang-Cheol) Editor 이진 (Lee Jin) Music 심현정 Action Choreography Seoul Action School 권승구 (Kwon Seung-Gu) | Assistant Director 김창후 (Kim Chang-Hoo)
Based Upon Catherine Arley's La Femme de Paille

BOX OFFICE
KOFIC Nationwide
TOTAL REVENUE: 1,135,684,747 Won
TOTAL ADMISSIONS: 145,244
BUDGET: 5,000,000,000 Won

Photo © Bidangil Pictures, Soo Film, CJ E&M

SYNOPSIS

While running a travel agency in Macau, Ji-yeon is ripped off by her business partner. One day, the attractive and benevolent Sung-yeol gives her an irresistible offer: USD 5,000 monthly salary to live on a luxurious yacht and assist the chairman of Cenado, a prominent shipping and casino operator company. Without another option to fall back on, she complies and nurses the ailing chairman, who is impossible to deal with.
Ji-yeon slowly gains the attention of both Sung-yeol and the chairman, and wavers between an opportunity that will secure her future and love. As tension rises among these figures on the yacht, no one can predict the outcome. [KoBiz]

REVIEW

I often fret a little whenever hearing of literary classics transposed by Korean films. Cases where the original's verve and narrative flair are completely obliterated in an effort to establish some kind of quintessentially Korean sentiment abound, even in the case of quality fare like 스캔들 (Untold Scandal) – which gave a sageuk spin to Pierre Choderlos de Laclos's Les Liaisons Dangereuses. It's not even the notion that so many writers and directors would feel the need to change a text's identity to somewhat prove their own that stings; it's more a case of lamenting the fact that all this overpowering “Korean sentiment” turns out to be for the most part is overwrought melodrama that panders to the most visceral, base instincts of the casual moviegoer. It almost suggests that they would intrinsically be unable to handle material with a little more sophistication. So in telling a classic story like that of Chaterine Arley's 1954 French novel La Femme de Paille, you can imagine where all the pungent satire of the original went.

The bestselling novel, written by Arley in her early twenties and then successively becoming the inspiration for many a film and TV dramas, was adapted into an infamously controversial 1964 film by Basil Dearden, where a Sean Connery fresh off his Bond star-making efforts notoriously butted heads with one of 1960s world cinema's fieriest primadonnas, Gina Lollobrigida. That Yoon Jae-Gu of 시크릿 (Secret) fame – in itself a rather meager cinematic affaire – would go all the way to write the adapted screenplay that eventually convinced Im Soo-Jung out of her self-imposed “hibernation” shows how confident he was about the material. And, knowing what came before it, perhaps condemned it from the start to become yet another case of misguided “narrative patriotism.”

Asserting that the original wasn't filled with stock characters would be lying, but there was a classical (or classicist) pathos to their predicaments and the way they reacted to them, whereas everyone here is nothing more than a theatrical-platitude-spouting empty vessel – from a once again laughably typecast Park Cheol-Min to a criminally underused Jin Gyeong. As a result, ennui sets in far before the big denouement supposed to have a The Usual Suspect-like punch is able to make any mark, robbing the only interesting element of a scatter-shot third act of all its verve.

You'd be inclined to criticize the leading trio for their lackadaisical performances (even for what concerns an uncharacteristically over-the-top performance by Lee Gyeong-Young), but with writing this superficial and a director who proved in the past that he's not that well suited for directing thespians, it doesn't seem fair. There's no (sexual or any) tension between Im and Yoo Yeon-Seok, and you stop caring long before the two's interplay finally tries to abandon that perplexing first gear and go full throttle. The film even ends with the ultimate irony, defeating the purpose of the fleeting moments of satire (criticizing the cinderella fantasies of many a Korean female moviegoer) that made their way to the final product. I'm not against giving a local spin to the narrative when adapting literary classics – it could even produce interesting cultural hybrids of sorts. But it's time we go beyond this idea that throwing a fine text into a cauldron made of sophomoric melodrama and potboiler histrionics will somehow “spice it up.” It's 2015, and I think Koreans can take a little cultural abstraction from the norm. Which perhaps will mean better adaptations.

ACTING GRADES

61 이경영 (Lee Gyeong-Young)
60 임수정 (Im Soo-Jung)
57 진경 (Jin Gyeong)
57 유연석 (Yoo Yeon-Seok)
50 도희 (Do Hee)
48 박철민 (Park Cheol-Min)

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