Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
NYAFF ’13: Eungyo (A Muse)
Juk-yo is a poet, so he probably never had much common sense. As a former engineering student, Seo Ji-woo has
no excuse. Their lives will be drastically
complicated by a seventeen year-old high school student in Jung Ji-woo’s Eungyo (a.k.a. A Muse,
which screens today as part of the 2013 New York Asian Film Festival.
is a revered poet of national stature, somewhat in the Robert Frost mold. After taking one class with him, Seo chucked
in his STEM coursework to pursue a literary career. Initially dismissed as Lee’s flunky, he has
become an unlikely national bestseller with a rather sentimental romance
novel. He still fancies himself Lee’s
gatekeeper, so it annoys him no end when his mentor starts showing a preference
for Han Eun-gyo’s company.
turned an odd encounter into a part-time housekeeping gig, Han clearly craves the
attention of the man she calls “Grandpa” or “Grumpa.” In turn, Lee is
intoxicated by her youthful enthusiasm. If
they were only surrogate father and daughter figures to each other, the film
would not have raised nearly so many eyebrows in Korea. However, Lee has thoughts about Han that he
expresses in a fateful lyric poem.
Juk-yo is not Humbert Humbert, but his moral judgments are considerably more
problematic than the old platonic confidant of Bertolucci’s Stealing Beauty (oddly enough, two roles
both played by Jeremy Irons). It is
clear that Lee gets ideas—the extent to which he acts on them will be the open
question driving the film’s dramatic tension.
sensitive execution minimizes the leering factor, but it is hard to get around
the unsettling nature of the various forms of attraction at play. Viewers are clearly not supposed to. Yet, the film’s moral ambiguity remains
that as it may or may not be, Jung’s cast is quite accomplished. In her first performance as a professional,
Kim Go-eun’s Han is no mere Lolita. She
really taps into the young’s girl deep insecurities. Flirtatious but not necessarily flighty, she
yearns for love and approval. It is easy
to understand why she is this year’s recipient of NYAFF’s Rising Star Award.
a character twice his age, Park Hae-il is almost painfully reserved as Lee,
scrupulously avoiding the clichés of bug-eyed lechery. Unfortunately, Kim Moo-yul makes the weak
link character of Seo impossibly supercilious and boorish.
At about the halfway point, the film throws
viewers a razor sharp literary twist that significantly raises the stakes. However, it then shotguns a huge can of
melodrama late in the third act, nearly derailing the whole procession. Still, there is something messily human about
the film that largely compensates for the inevitable “yuck” factor. Anchored by two very strong performances, Eungyo is recommended for patrons of
provocative drama, who might not have many chances to see it later, given the subject
matter. It screens tonight (6/29) at the Walter Reade Theatre as this year’s
eagerly anticipated NYAFF gets underway.
Labels: Korean Cinema, NYAFF '13