King and the Clown (Wang-ui nam-ja)
2005, 119 min
Epic history can make for fabulous cinema if there is a director with vision and producers with cash. In King and the Clown, Lee Jun-ik has a truly spectacular view of this tale of tyranny, treachery and love, whose storyline has been cherry-picked from Joseon Dynasty diaries over 500 years old, originally in a play by Kim Tae-woong. Every colour, fabric, musical instrument, weapon and utensil has been meticulously created, restored or polished to convincingly reconstruct the era of autocratic rule. The cast is universally engaging. The camera can’t get enough of Gong-gil (Lee Jun-gi whose dreamy visage transcends gender with ease). Chief Clown (or more aptly, minstrel), Jang-saeng (played with athleticism and rhetorical passion by Kam Woo-seong) steals the dramatic limelight as he outsmarts the King (Yeong Jeong-jin). His ruthless, blind ambition and lusty switch from palace “whore” Nok-su (Kang Sung-yeon) to demur Asian drag queen gets tongues wagging and, ultimately, destroys all of those entwined in the struggle for moral and political supremacy. No winners here. The squeamish might have to avert their eyes for the few frames of royal justice meted out without benefit of a trial. Lee Byung-woo’s string-rich score, with an entrancing flute marking the beginning and end, verges on the saccharine but provides the overt passion that largely remains hidden away in the principals’ inner souls. A notable exception being Gong-gil’s powerful, hugely expressive last rant, where his love for Jang-saeng moves even the murderous King. Yet, if that had been smouldering in the royal concubine’s chest, why had he succumbed so readily to his privileged “position.” The answer is as timeless as the human experience.
Flopping dicks lack hard drive
Dead Boyz Don’t Scream
2006, 78 min
Surrounded by such noble efforts as King and the Clown (above), Byron Chief-Moon: Grey Horse Rider, Glue and even Eating Out 2: Sloppy Seconds, Marc Saltarelli’s Dead Boyz Don’t Scream seems a sad embarrassment. In what could have been titled So Many Dicks, so Little Script, a gaggle of male models shamelessly parade their jewels (yet like the majority of male strippers everywhere, most are straight-and-toned not queer-and-tempting) in a “just so” manner that is soon tiresome and sexless. Once the murders begin (lesbians to the rescue—including Belle Van Dyke, Forest Ranger), there’s even more to get in a flap about as the pretty boys and their trimmed pubes go down softly.
Singing on empty
Colma the Musical
Colma: “A Town That’s Really Dead.” And it seems that the living dead are writing, directing and starring in this musical of the burbs. Billy (Jake Moreno) can’t sing: his nasal production is only outstripped by too imperfect pitch. H.P. Mendoza wrote the script, the lyrics (with a cliché dictionary the main reference tool, e.g., “one step at a time,” “Things Will Get Better”) and the pastel music. Maribel (L.A. Renigen) fares the best as friend, fag-hag-in-waiting to the two guys. Thanks goodness for Richard Wong’s (who also directs) long shots, which keep the eye engaged even as the ear shuts down. JWR