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Sex and Laughter in a “Game of Love”

Posted July. 29, 2004 22:17,   


The real “secret” in the self-proclaimed romantic sexy comedy “Everybody Has a Secret” is its deft balancing of sex and laughter.

A love affair between three sisters and one man may well be one of the most “provocative” themes in Korean cinema. If the film’s center of gravity had leaned toward sex, it would have become just another risqué movie. On the other hand, if it tried to evoke laughter throughout, it would have joined the unfortunate ranks of forgettable yak-fests, pasted over with inconsequential sex jokes.

Happily, “Everybody Has a Secret” scales new levels of sophistication in approaching and pondering the question of sex—a question that plagues anyone (be it the director, actor, or producer) setting out to make a commercial film in Korea. As a result, its “cocktail” of sex and laughter, while not quite reaching the “golden ratio,” offers a highly satisfying flavor.

The film is driven by the respective secrets harbored by the perfect “man-candy” Su-hyeon (Lee Byung-heon) and three sisters who fall for his charms.

The screen introduces the three siblings by way of maxims: “Only a man’s last love can satisfy a woman’s first love” (Mi-yeong, played by Kim Hyo-jin), “Love comes like a lightning and leaves like a mist” (Seon-yeong, Choi Ji-woo), “Oh freedom! Crime is being committed in thy name” (Jin-yeong, Chu Sang-mi). These dictums, flashed as subtitles, presage the color and trajectory of the sisters’ individual parts in the “game of love” about to unfold.

Enter Su-hyeon, who (according to Mi-yeong) is not only brimming with brains, wealth, and good looks but is also “cool” and sexy to boot. To the youngest sister, Mi-yeong, who claims that “shopping is not love, but love is a type of shopping,” Soo-hyeon declares, “To be honest speaking, I do want you, but I’ll wait until you’re ready.” He captivates Seon-yeong, the middle child and book-lover, with his intellectual side, and sweeps Jin-yeong, married and tired of her husband’s indifference, off her feet by rekindling her pride.

Although Su-hyeon “crosses the line” with all three siblings, the sex scenes more closely resemble humorous illustrations than realistic depictions. The choice reflects the clearheaded decision of the production staff to amp up the laughter to match the force of the groundbreaking subject matter.

The film’s “cinematic orgasm” comes not from the screen but from the sisters’ gradually changing states of mind and the sensual lines. The scene where Mi-yeong proposes to Su-hyeon in front of her whole family is shown repeatedly, juxtaposing the sisters’ “various” memories about the “same” man.

Lee Byung-heon exudes a strange magnetism in the movie. His real-life persona, his image as an actor, and the character of Soo-hyeon overlap to create a “player” infused with Lee’s distinctive brand of irresistibility. “Everybody…” is a remake of the Irish film, “About Adam,” and is adapted by Kim Yeong-chan (“Marrying the Mafia”) and Kim Hee-jae (“Silmido,” “The Scent of Chrysanthemums”).

Directed by Jang Hyun-soo, of “Walk to the Sky,” “Rules of the Game,” and “RayBan.” Opens July 30. Rated for audiences 18 and over.

Gab-Sik Kim dunanworld@donga.com