Eungyo aka A Muse

EUNGYO (a.k.a A Muse)
은교 (Korea, 2012)
New York Premiere
129 minutes, DCP, in Korean with English subtitles
Directed by: Jung Ji-Woo
Starring: Park Hae-Il, Kim Go-Eun, Kim Moo-Yul
Director Jung Ji-Woo and Star Kim Go-Eun will be in attendance.

Let’s just get this out of the way first in case there’s any advance word of mouth: EUNGYO (A MUSE) is not, repeat, not just an underage Korean sex movie. Adapted from Park Bum-Shin’s ultra-controversial serialized novella, Eun-Gyo, and adapted by Jung Ji-Woo, the writer of Moss and director of Happy End, it came to NYAFF’s attention amidst a storm of furor and scandal. But beneath all the surface titillation and the wagging tongues, this box office smash is far from a softcore stroke piece. Instead, it’s a tone poem about love, age, and forbidden yearning.

Lee Jeok-Yo (Park Hae-Il) is a celebrated national poet entering his twilight years. His protege and caretaker (Kim Mu-Yeol) has become a bestselling novelist, leaving Lee feeling surplus to requirements, a museum piece retired before its time. Until the day he discovers a beautiful young girl – Eun-Gyo (Kim Go-Eun) – asleep on his porch. Eun-Gyo is not-so-subtly smitten with the aging Lee, whom she calls “Grandpa”; she longs for his approval and craves his companionship. His poetry dazzles her; she makes him feel young. They touch too much and talk even more. Soon, he’s given her a job as his housemaid and she’s drawn the ire of his chosen successor. By the time Eun-Gyo starts spending the night, a dangerous, secret tale is already writing itself from deep within the darkest, unspoken depths of Lee’s heart.

NYAFF guest and recipient of the Rising Star Award this year, Kim Go-Eun was a drama student with no credits to her name when she landed the coveted role of Eun-Gyo, but she embodies the part with an artless, unforced perfection that can never be taught. Park Hae-Il, recently the star of mega-thriller Moss, but perhaps best known to NYAFF devotees as the sinister Suspect #1 from Bong Joon-ho’s Memories of Murder, has an impossible job to do here, playing the role of an aging artist in his seventies, yet somehow he makes it feel bone-achingly real. The opening scene, in which Lee dispassionately observes his naked body, is both courageous and relentlessly unsentimental. Lee is a steadfastly practical, old-fashioned man, a professional romantic who no longer believes in romance, not when time has taken so much from him. Yet with Eun-Gyo just beyond his grasp, every touch, every glance is an intimacy. Behind his eyes he is young again, reborn as love incarnate in the slow-motion dreamlife of desire. EUNGYO lives in the moments we might, but won’t, touch.

Saturday July 29, 6:35PM Walter Reade Theater Buy Tickets