A scene from "Five Senses of Eros"
By Lee Hyo-won
Amid the high tide of summer action movies, five star directors are bringing a modest omnibus project with a different sensibility.
``Five Senses of Eros,'' each depicting unique aspects of sensuality and sexuality, as well as featuring a host of high-profile actors, will provide moviegoers with a more colorful audiovisual experience.
Contrary to expectations, the five shorts don't deal with each of the five senses, nor are they pure erotica. Rather, participating filmmakers experiment with a distinct language and style, be it B-rate comedy or subtle melodrama, to deliver deliciously short episodes about human desire and its perceived complexities ― or basic simplicity.
Daniel H. Byun (``The Scarlet Letter'') opens ``Eros'' with a stylish urban romance about the thrills of chance encounters and first dates. ``His Concern'' unfolds like a live journal ― or a guy's version of chick lit ― as it follows the stream of consciousness of a single man, played by heartthrob Jang Hyuk.
During a business trip, the young man meets an attractive woman on the train and they plan their first date. D-day comes, but despite his preparations to impress the beauty, our protagonist discovers the charms of peeling away layers of pretentiousness ― and clothing. Jang's relaxed sense of candor brings a natural touch to Byun's witty script, which has a certain consistency in both style and substance.
Melodrama maestro Hur Jin-ho (``Happiness'') slows things down a bit in ``Na Yeogi Isseoyo (I'm Right Here),'' which depicts how a husband (played by ``Marine Boy'' star Kim Gang-woo) and his terminally ill wife (Cha Soo-yeon) cherish the little time they have together playing hide and seek.
The director offers more of his meticulous care to mundane details, but he spices up the cliched formula of ``love until death do us apart'' as well as his signature realism with a touch of fantasy and poeticism. This is heightened by the fact that Cha has appeared in some of the most atmospheric fantasy films, such as ``For Eternal Hearts.'' But the film's surreal feel does not make it hard to relate, as Hur shows how smell awakens a chord of memory in a way no other sense can.
Yu Young-sik (``Anarchist'') takes the hint of the fantasy genre introduced in Hur's short and blows it over the top in the B-movie parody ``33rd Man.'' This pornographic comedy pokes fun at the inseparable relationship between sex and power, and features a prototypical femme fatale (veteran TV personality Bae Jong-sook) and a virginal beauty (Kim Min-sun) and their quest for control over an unsuspecting male (funnyman Kim Su-ro).
Min Kyu-dong, who had explored homosexual eroticism in ``Antique,'' brings something more experimental and dramatically edgy in ``La Fin et le debut (The End and the Beginning)."
The talented Uhm Jung-hwa stars as a wife whose husband (special appearance by Hwang Jung-min) has died in a car accident while fooling around with another woman, who is, she is shocked to learn, none other than her friend Na-ru (Kim Hyo-jin).
As she mourns over her doubly broken heart, Na-ru magically appears before her ― quite literally ― begging for mercy, and a strangely gratifying co-habitation begins, as the two characters tiptoe the shaky line between impassioned hate and fervent desire.
In ``Sunganeul Mideoyo (Have Faith in the Moment),'' director Oh Ki-hwan continues exploring the libido-charged game of hearts of his feature film ``The Art of Seduction.'' Though the film involves uniform-clad high schoolers, the story does not tone things down to PG-13.
The story shouts carpe diem like typical teenage dramas, but it is not so much about sexual awakening as you might expect. Three couples decide to swap partners for 24 hours and see what happens.
Actors make cameo appearances in other episodes, but it's clearly just for fun, as it doesn't interweave characters' relationships like montage films in the tradition of ``Love Actually.'' An impressive cast of some of the most in-demand actors in some improbable roles brings something palpably different.
In theaters July 9. 19 and over. Distributed by Cinergy.