Lies

Call it "Last Tango in Seoul." Korean director Jang Sun Woo's remarkable look at the unique sexual relationship between a young student and a man twice her age begins with interviews with his two lead actors. Lee Sang Hyun discusses what he thinks the film is about. Kim Tae Yeon frets about the nude scenes, and not without reason — rarely has so much...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Call it "Last Tango in Seoul." Korean director Jang Sun Woo's remarkable look at the unique sexual relationship between a young student and a man twice her age begins with interviews with his two lead actors. Lee Sang Hyun discusses what he thinks the

film is about. Kim Tae Yeon frets about the nude scenes, and not without reason — rarely has so much screen time been devoted to explicit sex outside of the context of adult films. Kim plays J, a South Korean high-school student who is determined to lose her virginity before she graduates.

Both her sisters were raped, and J is determined to have sex on her own terms. She decides on Y (Lee), a married, 37-year-old sculptor on whom J's best friend, Woori (Jeon Hye Jin), has her eyes. After a bit of phone sex, J and Y agree to meet at a hotel, where things get awfully raunchy awfully

quick. In next to no time, J is eagerly consenting to a whipping; the next time they meet, Y brings along a suitcase full of switches, rubber hoses and sticks. J and Y begin a complicated relationship in which assuming sexual power means first assuming the position; as the years pass, the balance

gradually shifts. Y grows more dependent and J grows up. Jang uses several distancing techniques to bring attention to the film's artificiality: the interviews, shots of the crew, obviously simulated intercourse, references to the novel on which the film is based, verbatim quotes from other films.

Also, the action takes place in a series of abstract hotels and motels that feel, like Jang's insatiable lovers, disconnected from the real world. Yet the resulting film is surprisingly intimate, full of sly humor and, believe it or not, an odd sort of tenderness.

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  • Released: 1999
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Call it "Last Tango in Seoul." Korean director Jang Sun Woo's remarkable look at the unique sexual relationship between a young student and a man twice her age begins with interviews with his two lead actors. Lee Sang Hyun discusses what he thinks the fil… (more)

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