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The Virgin Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors

Posted by martinteller on March 28, 2013

The film starts with Jae-hoon (Jeong Bo-seok) in a hotel room, calling his girlfriend Soo-jung (Lee Eun-ju).  He’s arranging a tryst and she’s trying to bow out of it.  Then the film flashes back to seven moments in the development of their relationship.  They meet via introduction by Young-soo (Mun Seong-kun), a director who is a friend of Jae-hoon and the boss of Soo-jung.  They bump into each other again.  They have meals together.  Jae-hoon makes awkward advances.  He learns that she’s a virgin and his ardor increases.  And we return to the opening scene, and Soo-jung makes her way to the hotel… and then the cable car stalls midway, and we see the same seven periods again, leading up to the inevitable deflowering.  But everything’s different.

Sometimes the events are different in minor ways… Jae-hoon asks for napkins instead of chopsticks, for example.  Sometimes they are radically different, with characters completely interchanged, snatches of dialogue occurring on different days.  And sometimes we see something that wasn’t even hinted at the first time, such as Soo-jung’s unusual relationship with her brother.

It is tempting to think of these two halves as different perspectives on the same events.  Some people come off better in one scenario than the other.  But whose perspective is which?  Neither half can be any one person’s point of view, it doesn’t add up.  So are these separate planes of existence?  Two possibilities for how things might have gone down?  Or is it simply that Hong has two ways to tell the same story and, unable to decide which is “better”, presented us with both?

It’s an intriguing conundrum and the most interesting use of Hong’s bifurcated structure that I’ve come across yet.  I’m still not all that enthralled with Hong’s pet subjects — love triangles, drunken behavior, uncomfortable social situations, man’s obnoxious libido — at least, not in the way he presents it.   But this might be my favorite of his approaches to his rather repetitive insights, and there’s a number of laugh-out-loud moments in Jae-hoon’s (and Young-soo’s) clueless fumblings.  The structual games he’s playing are more inviting than what I’m used to from him, and this is the first one I’d be interested in seeing again.  Good performances, too, and the black and white adds something nice to his photographic style, which I usually find rather dull.  Rating: Very Good (86)


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