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:: Lies (Gojitmal)

“Lies” is based on “Tell Me A Lie”, a novel by Jang Jung II, which was deemed so scandalously sexual in Jang’s native South Korea, that the author was actually jailed for several months as a consequence. Director Jang San Woo was similarly threatened with prosecution, and ended up having this film banned in South Korea and Japan. Ironically, when finally approved for release in South Korea, it became the fifth highest grossing film of all time. The film begins with Jang, off camera, interviewing his “actors” in documentary style. One of the amateurs is J (Sang Hyun Lee), a 38-year-old male sculptor. The other is Y (Tae Yeon Kim), an 18-year-old girl. We see virtually nothing of everyday lives, only their secret hotel room trysts. The protagonists spend most of the screen time buck-naked, having an insatiable sexual appetite for each other, and beating each other with bamboo rods until their backsides erupt in bloody welts. The story follows a predictable pattern. One interesting scene sees the two lovers comb a busy construction site, scavenging for flogging equipment (rods and sticks) like people shopping at a supermarket.

The series of orgiastic scenes becomes a bit tedious after the fascinating first part of the film. It was probably monotonous for the actors as well. But the final scene, which is one of the best moments, requires a good deal of patience to get that far. The scenes preceding it could be unpleasant for most to sit through. These characters have very brief side-stories slipped in. Y’s strained relationship with her best friend Woori (Hye Jin Jeon), who had hoped that J would deflower her. Then, there is J’s whipless marriage to G (Hyun Joo Choi). But, it is Y’s ascent from schoolgirl innocence and J’s simultaneous descent into sexual obsession.

In flirting with the documentary style interviews with the actors, Jang reminds us that these are real people (and first-time actors) willingly entering an intense erotic world. Indeed, after the filming, Sang Hyun Lee (J) admitted that he fell in live with Tae Yeon Kim (Y).

Overall though, I don’t think the sex in this film is so enticing that viewers will go scavenging for sticks after they watch it. The conversations that follow are likely to be more interesting.