One of the hottest tickets at its Pusan festival world preem, thanks to an advance rep for verbal and visual raunch, "Girls' Night Out" skillfully avoids being simply a Korean stab at the women-talking-about-sex genre that's almost become a cliche in North American indie cinema. Though the three lead characters are too neatly balanced in their makeup (low-sex, high-sex, no-sex), and most Korean women really don't talk like this (though how many American women do, either?), the movie's an entertaining, sexy ride that deserves play on Western screens in the coming year. A slightly modified version opened on home turf in early October.

One of the hottest tickets at its Pusan festival world preem, thanks to an advance rep for verbal and visual raunch, “Girls’ Night Out” skillfully avoids being simply a Korean stab at the women-talking-about-sex genre that’s almost become a cliche in North American indie cinema. Though the three lead characters are too neatly balanced in their makeup (low-sex, high-sex, no-sex), and most Korean women really don’t talk like this (though how many American women do, either?), the movie’s an entertaining, sexy ride that deserves play on Western screens in the coming year. A slightly modified version opened on home turf in early October.

The trio of 29-year-olds are Ho-jeong (Kang Su-yeon), upwardly mobile head of a design firm who, much to the chagrin of her regular b.f., will tango with anything in pants she fancies; Yeon (Jin Heui-kyeong), a lobby-lounge waitress who dreams of marriage but whose lack of sack technique is grating on her partner; and Sun (Kim Yeo-jin), a graduate student who’s still waiting for the right guy to come along and relieve her of her virginity.

Film gets right down to business with the threesome trading graphic girl-talk one evening in Ho-jeong’s apartment, where Yeon also rooms. Thereafter, things spin off into a multitude of sequences (funny, dramatic, melancholy, erotic) spread over several months, as pic dips into the women’s emotional, sexual and professional lives at key moments. There’s a neat twist in the tail as the quiet Sun proves the most resilient and focused of them all.

Mostly using a hand-held camera and deploying a patchwork approach with rapid fade-outs, first-time writer-director Im Sang-su draws spirited performances from his cast (all of whom contributed to reshaping the dialogue) that match the pic’s restless energy. (Special processing to give a slightly bleached look also adds to the atmosphere.) There’s nothing here that Western auds haven’t seen or heard, but thesps are so good that they manage to bring off even the most familiar dialogue with aplomb and freshness.

Topping the honors is the experienced Kang as yuppie Ho-jeong, whose bottom-line attitude to copulation — “Let them stick it in, and afterwards they’ll see the real you once they get over the sex thing” — rebounds on her with a vengeance. In quieter roles, both the photogenic Jin (from “Motel Cactus”) and newcomer Kim are fine, with the latter coming through strongly at the end. Despite several realistic sex scenes and general lack of coyness from the leads, the movie is quite tame visually, with no full frontals.

Girls' Night Out

(COMEDY-DRAMA -- SOUTH KOREAN)

Production

A Samsung Pictures presentation of an Uno Films production. (International sales: Samsung, Seoul.) Produced by Cha Seung-chae. Directed, written by Im Sang-su.

Crew

Camera (color), Alex Hong; editor, Kyeong Min-ho; music, Mun Jun-ho; art directors, Oh Jae-weon, Jeong Eun-yeong; sound (Dolby), Oh Weon-cheol. Reviewed at Pusan Film Festival, South Korea, Sept. 29, 1998. Running time: 100 MIN.

With

Ho-jeong ..... Kang Su-yeon Yeon ..... Jin Heui-kyeong Sun ..... Kim Yeo-jin.
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