Director Sun-Woo Jang’s latest feature provoked controversy at home for its envelope-pushing sexual content — though the cynical view of contemporary urban South Korean life no doubt proved equally discomfiting. Tart and unpredictable, “To You, From Me” should do well in select vid markets.
The character known only as “Writer” (Sung-Keun Moon) has published one prize-winning novel — but that honor was later taken away for alleged plagiarism. Interrupted mid-sulk, he finds his life suddenly invaded by a sexy, young “Woman” (Sung-Kyung Chung) who moves in to become his muse, sometime editor and ghostwriter, and constant sex partner. He pays the bills by penning porn stories that he hides from her; she relentlessly pushes him toward more “serious” writing.
Despite such devotion, Woman is not above bedding a theater owner to further her lover’s career, a shopkeeper to score a new dress, or the hero’s own best friend out of sheer pity. We find out later that she once had literary ambitions herself.
Narrative is loose yet engaging, with dry humor most frequently employed in travails of best friend figure “Bank Clerk” (Kyun-Dong Yeo), who’s going batty thanks to a dead-end job and one tormenting customer in particular. Among pic’s most vivid digressions are B.C.’s “Bonnie and Clyde” fantasies (complete with clips from the Arthur Penn classic) and attempt to get high on dried banana peels.
Sex segs are quite steamy, dialogue often even more blatant. Most graphic interlude, however, is the wild, disturbing animated sequence depicting heroine’s past rape-induced bulemia.
Effective twist ending finds three protags in surprise new roles. A TV interviewer’s query about art reflecting the “sickness of society” ironically second-guesses viewers’ likely response to this segment.
Despite sensational elements, helmer Jang maintains a droll, lightly sarcastic tenor throughout. His performers are solid — Chung, in particular, manages to make her heavily contrived figure sympathetic and credible. (One does wonder, however, why this dynamo wastes so much time on her born-to-fail Writer.)
Slick lensing and editing keep the fractious storyline from going slack. Soundtrack makes good use of rock songs (most amusingly, the Doors'”The End” for that banana-smoking scene).