Yet another soulless adaptation of Choderlos de Laclos’s Les Liaisons Dangereuses, except this time the non-stop scheming and humping takes place in 18th-century South Korea within a closely-knit community of royals. Director E. J-yong clearly takes pleasure in perverting the film’s polite society but doubts via the opening narration that his promiscuous and immoral characters even existed. Of course they didn’t, but that’s not to say that similar such people didn’t live during the Chosun dynasty. It’s a cowardly opener because it allows the filmmakers to indiscriminately subvert a time period but hypocritically evade criticism by stating that Chosun royals were too good to be driven by seduction and revenge. The universal appeal of Les Liaisons Dangereuses is easy to explain (audiences love a good catfight!), but it’s amazing how little films like Valmont and Untold Scandal have to say about their respective cultures of mean. Save for the Confucian spiritual crisis that consumes the young widow (Jeon Do-yeon) targeted in the film by the aristocratic Jo-won (Bae Yong-jun) and Madame Jo (Lee Mi-suk), there’s nothing particularly Eastern about Untold Scandal. From the dramatic overheads of ostentatious dinner sequences to the sumptuous silk clothing everyone wears, J-yong’s film is gorgeous to look at but redundant and hollow. De Laclos’s story documents both a culture war and a battle of the sexes, but no amount of food or layers of clothing can disguise the fact that Untold Story, with its coy spectacle of prissy sex and unexamined back-stabbings, has very little to say about both topics. Who would have thought that the campy Cruel Intentions was the film to come closest to capturing the essence of the original novel?
- Kino International
- 124 min
- E. J-yong
- Kim Dae-Woo, Kim Hyeon-jeong, Lee Je-yong
- Bae Yong-jun, Lee Mi-suk, Jeon Do-yeon, Jo Hyeon-jae, Lee So-yeon, Kim Ha-kyeong
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