by Greg Muskewitz
Nowhere in the title Lies was I expecting the movie to turn into a sex flick, predominantly that of sadomasochism. The movie is based upon the novel “Tell Me a Lie” which was banned in Korea for being pornographic, by Jang Jung II, and “experimental” director Jang Sun Woo takes it to helm. It goes without question that Woo’s script must stay pretty faithful to the novel, but to disguise the movie’s real intentions in a “lie” of a title does little to hold back from the pornography that it inhabits.The two main leads are only known to us by the monikers J (Lee Sang Hyun), a 38-year-old sculptor (married to the similar monikered G, who is away in France) and Y (Kim Tae Yeon), the 18-year-old paramour. She happily abdicates, or corporificates, her virginity to J as the movie unhelpfully labels certain chapters, such as “The First Hole” through “The Third Hole,” and then on to other, less descriptive chapters of “The Third or Fourth Meeting,” and so on.
"The sex loses the motivation and “taboo” it began to offer."
On three occasions the movie is intercut with a brief interview with the two lead actors by the director, and the visage of one scene ending (in which Y and her friend get in a physical fight), but the actress continuing to be affected. These ploys serve no good purpose and uneventfully break up the monotony of the narrative. Had they been placed later on in the movie, it might have helped to break up the monotony of the sex, but that would be too simple.
There is a lot of sex, a lot of visual nudity, but more presence of carnosity than explicit sex. The dialogue they have while engaging in the copulation (“Just like a spring flower. It’s blooming,” “Think of my dick as shit, it will make it easier,” “How’s my ass? Does it look torn?”) is far more descriptive than the simulated sex. Woo presents plenty flesh, but strays from the genitalia area. Where Lies becomes more explicit, and not just in descriptive speech, is upon the introduction of the S&M. (“My ass is killing me. But it’s so great!”) But by that time, much of the sex has lost its appeal and ceases to be arousing. Instead, it becomes quite funny, especially when we come to the variety of what he “whips” or “spanks” her with. Sticks, twigs, metal rods, broom handles, etc.
The sex loses the motivation and “taboo” it began to offer. Once they hit the sleazy motel circuit, the monotony and tedium surmounts to gasping yawns and the lack of shock Woo was after. In that sense, I was reminded of Crash, which thought it was so much more risqué than it was, but Lies manages for awhile to give you something worth talking about. Stirring maybe. But the sadomasochism backfires too heartily as a joke or a scoff, mostly because it becomes indefatigable, but also because it just does not belong. The visuals try to get grosser and grosser with the inclusion of purple and black lacerations, bruises and many complaints of discomfort. One can only imagine the chagrin of the actors, who are asked to “perform” more than any other actors since Romance.
Similarly, by the end of the movie, you don’t care enough to mention the sex or turn it into a conversational piece. What makes Lies prevent from gelling are in two main factors following the abundant flesh. First, the camera is as intrusive as possible, sticking its lens into the action so much as to believe it were in the action (menage-a-trois maybe) and secondly, it has no thematic foundation outside of some banal obsession themes, and for a movie with such a title, it does come as a surprise when there are no lies emphasized or embellished. And that is a detraction.
Playing exclusively at Landmark's Ken.
http://www.landmark-theatres.comFinal verdict: D.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=4592&reviewer=172
originally posted: 02/02/01 12:05:16