Virgin Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors
Reviewed by Adrian Sim
Korean Title: Oh! Soo-jung
Director: Hong Sang-soo
Writing Credits: Hong Sang-soo
Cast: Han Myeong-gu, Jeong Ho-bong, Lee Hwang-Ui, Kem Yong-dae, Lee Eun-ju
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Country: South Korea
Runtime: 126 min
Rating: **** out of four stars (A masterwork)
My first Hong Sang Soo film proved to be a delightful surprise. Virgin is a wildly original comedy of errors with an unusual narrative structure. It is a strange brew of keenly observed specifics, sophisticated wit and sometimes wicked masochisis-ing of its female lead.
Those looking for a character-driven piece will be immensely disappointed. Hong is more concerned in ruminating on the quirks and details of a love relationship than the psyche of his protagonists.
Virgin is about the possibilities or impossibilities of love shot in gloriously dour black and white. Although some may find this to be frustrating, I think it lends a sophisticated and surrealistic feel to the whole affair. Some have even drawn parallels of Virgin to Jim Jarmuschs Stranger Than Paradise because of its long static mise-en-scenes and subtly idiosyncratic humour. I will be checking out anytime Stranger soon.
Virgin is essentially composed of a string of memories belonging to the titular virgin, Soo- Jung (Lee Eun-Ju, Bungee Jumping Of Their Own), a sweet-looking television production assistant, of events leading up to her deflowerment.
For those uninitiated, the film does not contain explicit hardcore sex scenes that would normally entail a film with such a risqué title. In fact, there is more to say about its unconventional but oddly compelling structure than its otherwise awkward and clinically-shot sex scenes that do not seem to fit in well with Virgins playful tone.
The film is divided into 2 halves and each half is divided into numbered scenes (1 to 8) under deliberately quirky-sounding callcard sequences like "A Days Wait", "Perhaps Intention" and "Perhaps Accident".
The first half enacts one possibility of Soo-Jung blooming love affair with a suave art gallery owner (Jeong Bo-Seok) and the longer second half deals with a second possibility that might have led her to her eventual deflowerment.
Apart from a few gripes relating to the jarring sex scenes, I applaud Hong for his audacity in choosing to tell the story of Soo-Jung using an unconventionally fresh approach. I am definitely looking forward to his much anticipated On The Occasion Of Remembering The Turning Gate.