Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
NYKFF ’15: Trap
the cat” is a publishing expression for the pretexts writers invent to do
anything but finish the manuscripts they are expected to deliver imminently.
Outside the business, it might sound like a euphemism for something else. Either
use of the term would probably apply to screenwriter Jeong-min. He checked into
a rustic mountain guesthouse to complete the screenplay he didn’t want to
write, but quickly becomes obsessed with the owner’s Lolita-ish daughter in “Playboy”
Bong Man-dae’s Trap (trailer here), which screens
during the 2015 New York Korean Film Festival.
has just had a confidence-bruising break-up and an embarrassing career setback.
Despite his bitterness at the way his angst-ridden screenplay was bastardized
into something crassly commercial by a hipster director, he accepts an
assignment to do something quite similar to a literary novel. His heart was not
in it to begin with. Then he met Yu-mi, if that is indeed her name. It seems to
depend when he asks. That is what she goes by at night, when she is infinitely
more flirtatious. In contrast, she is mostly cold shouldersville during the
his first night as a guest, Jeong-min immediately starts peeping on Yu-mi while
she takes her bath. That always gets him hot and bothered. Before long, Yu-mi
starts coming to his room for some heavy foreplay. However, they always stop
short of full consummation and she never acknowledges their passion the next
morning. Eventually, Jeong-min starts to wonder if he is having difficulty
distinguishing dreams from reality or if Yu-mi is just toying with him—or both.
you might deduce from his nickname, “Playboy” Bong has a reputation for
sexually charged fare. Yet, Trap is
not as creepy as it sounds, despite Jeong-min’s kinship with Humbert Humbert.
Bong’s hothouse vibe is appropriately seductive and unsettling, but his pacing
is surprisingly slow and deliberate. Frankly, the dawdling first act needs much
tighter focus. Still, it is hard to get bored once the sexual obsession kicks
Je-in displays amazing range as Yu-mi, playing a spirited, no-nonsense persona
by day and a scenery chewing femme fatale at night. Yoo Ha-joon is convincingly
awkward as Jeong-min, but his passive presence leaves the film feeling
rudderless at times. Bong’s big twist is not exactly shocking either, but at
least he chronicles some engaging gamesmanship along the way.
As an eroticized thriller, Trap is better realizing the former rather than the latter. Regardless,
it is a useful reminder how dangerous getting away from it all can be. It is certainly
diverting but not nearly as entertaining as the adrenaline-infused period
action thriller Assassination also
screening tomorrow (11/7) at this year’s NYKFF. Nevertheless, Trap is not the sort of Korean film that
gets picked up for American distribution, so intrigued viewers should make a
point of seeing it when it screens at MoMI.
Labels: Korean Cinema, NYKFF '15