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Friday, August 04, 2006

King and The Clown 왕의 남자 is a tearjerker bromance film

King And The Clown is currently the top-grossing film in Korean history, I would've had a lot to say. But I don't, everything that has to be said has already been covered by tons of websites and articles out there about this cultural phenomenon (but if you are interested, this special feature detailing the history of 90s Korean cinema that leads to the making of this film is worth reading). Directed by Lee Jun Ik (who did the great Hi, Dharma!), this film is regarded to many as Korea's Brokeback Mountain for its homosexual overtones. Yet unlike the stageplay it was based on, the relationship between the two male clowns Jang-sang and Gong-gil (Kam Woo-seong and Lee Jun-gi) is very chaste. So in truth, this film is not Brokeback Mountain gay, it's more Lord of the Rings Frodo and Sam gay. (Bromance)

Two male clowns (or street performers) put up a show that make fun of the tyrannical King Yeonsan (Jeong Jin-Yeong) and his concubine, get arrested and dragged to the palace for execution, but receive a chance to save their hides if they could make the crazy king laugh. The crazy king DID laugh. Some sort of love triangle begins (with King Yeonsan frequently inviting Gong-gil to his room... but not for what you think, he's just there to entertain the king with puppet shows), to Jang-Sang's sheer jealousy. Much tragedy ensue. And when I said tragedy, it's not bullshit Korean melodramatic 'waaaaah, I have terminal illness, let us all weep with the syrupy ballad in the background' tragedy, it's more like 'whoa shit, this is getting more and more intense like Requiem For A Dream' tragedy.

Using simple yet effective filmmaking methods (it's pretty understated), I was increasingly drawn into the characters and their world as the film went on (I was initially unimpressed and bored), the tragic ending had me feeling rather choking. It was like Sam running after Frodo into the water in Fellowship of the Ring, like Sam giving an inspiring speech to Frodo at the end of The Two Towers, like Sam going 'I cannot carry your burden Master Frodo, but I can carry YOU' in Return of the King.

It was intense stuff. Watch the music video below.