July 7, 2007

The King and I

Today we saw The King and the Clown on DVD. The movie was apparently the top grossing film of 2005 in Korea. Described as taboo-breaking and revolutionary, it chronicles the lives of 2 talented clowns who perform bawdy street plays and end up performing for the tyrannical King Yonsan of Korea's Chosun dynasty.

[Source: Filmbrain]

Although this is generally quite an interesting film, I won't describe it as groundbreaking. It reminds me too much of Farewell My Concubine. One of the clowns is aggressive and masculine (Kam Woo Seong), the other effeminate and demure (Lee Joon Ki). The two share a close, extraordinary bond - the exact nature of which was only alluded to, never fully clarified, in the film. The despotic King Yonsan (Jeong Jin Yeong) is basically portrayed as a basketcase with a troubled childhood and a big appetite for adult entertainment.

I liked it much less than I expected to, given all the rave reviews I'd heard about. But it's still an eye-opener into the traditional folk culture of ancient Korea and, well, the sad lives of the lower classes of society in those days.

I wonder what is it with this King Yonsan. A lot of movies/dramas seem to be about him. Was he a pivotal character in Korean history? If I'm not wrong, the overthrowing of this king also provided the background to Daejanggum's story. If there's anyone out there who knows their Korean history, please enlighten me.

A new SBS 50-episoder coming up, "King and I" (also known as "King and Me"), is also set in the same era. But the focus is on a loyal eunuch (to be played by Oh Man Seok of Vineyard Man fame!) who served a series of kings, among them the infamous King Yonsan. As a matter of fact, this eunuch character also played quite a key role in The King and The Clown. I'm sure the political intrigues of the new SBS drama is something to look out for.

Oh yes, and Lady Han of Daejanggum is going to be in it too. :)

"Hi, remember me?"

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