The King & The Clown
Woo-seong Kam - Jang-sang
Jin-yeong Jeong - King Yeonsan
Seong-Yeon Kang - Nok-su Jang
Jun-gi Lee (Lee Joon-Ki) - Gong-gil
The King and the Clown is a 2005 South Korean film, adapted from the 2000 Korean play titled "Yi", ("You") about Yeonsangun of Joseon, a Joseon dynasty king who falls in love with a court clown who mocks him. The movie is based on a small passage from the Annals of the Joseon Dynasty that briefly mentions the king's favorite clown.
It was the highest grossing Korean film in history with 12.3 million viewers.
I almost bought the DVD last month but I was flat broke, then. Over the weekend, I saw the supposedly androgynous lead actor Lee Joon-Ki (rightmost in the picture) bringing home 2 awards (Most popular actor & Best couple; with his male co-star, no less) during the prestigious 27th Blue Dragon Film Awards on the KBS channel.
And no, he's not THAT androgynous in person. In fact, he's HOT!
Do you know that this film is South Korea's submission for a nomination in Academy Awards Foreign Film category?
Immerse yourself in the rich Korean traditional culture. A story that takes place in the midst of a power stuggle within the palace and also where the King lacks the respect of his subjects, it's easy to see why the conflicts took place.
The director recommend that the viewers compare the context of the movie with Shakespeare's tragedies, and also find differences between clowns/jesters in Korea and those in the West and that's what I did. The Shakespeare-ness of the dialogue may seem confusing at first but it actually adds more depth and brought forth the meaning in the much-layered speech.
This is a story about friendship and the sacrifices that come with it. About manipulation. About rebellion. And most importantly, it's about the pursuit of freedom. A king, stuck in the shadow of his father's reign was made to discover the truths that will eventually bring to his downfall.
A king, who discards his authoritarian figure as a ruler and seek to confide in a male court jester (with whom he eventually fall for). Yes, it does carry a gay theme even though it isn't that prominent. And yes, there's a BRIEF kissing scene between the king and Gong-gil. But it's a mere reflection of the emotional turmoil that he's going through.
If you expect a Korean Brokeback Mountain, you'll be sooo disappointed.
Watch it for Jang-sang's pained expression when his protective self felt the anguish with everytime men (including the king) lust after his best pal. How despite having every chance to escape, he kept coming back for Gong-gil.
And watch Joon-Ki (from the drama series 'My Girl' fame) at his acting best; as an androgynous 'beautiful man' with a tortured soul.
Then there's the King's shrewed consort, Nok-Su, who seeks Gong-gil's blood as the king seeks Gong-gil's presence in his chambers.
Dun gripe about the ending. In fact, take the chance to think. As you ponder over the last words spoken by the characters. The scenario. What actually happened, that lead to that. Let the movie stir your emotions from deep within. Invoke your thoughts...
Words from the director:
"I think the tragedy of capitalist society is that so many people endlessly struggle to become part of the mainstream. I want to keep showing that those outside the mainstream of society can also be happy."