A handful of South Korean helmers, all one-time grads of the Korean Academy of Fine Arts, riff on love in its varying forms in portmanteau feature “Five Senses of Eros.” Despite its title, the pic is light on eroticism, but as Korean Cinema 101 (both arty and commercial), this is fine fare with considerable fest potential. Pic took a so-so 440,000 admissions on its July release, and one seg has since preemed at the Pusan fest in a feature-length director’s cut.
Many of the players have bit roles in other episodes, but apart from that, there’s nothing to link the shorts beyond the directors’ shared KAFA background.
The most avowedly commercial seg, placed in the middle, is “33rd Man” by Yu Yeong-shik (“The Anarchists”), which shows a bitchy middle-aged actress (Bae Jong-ok) training a nervous young ingenue (Kim Min-seon) to become an equal bitch while making a cheesy horror movie together. Caught between their fangs is hack director (Kim Su-ro), who then falls for the latter.
Equally entertaining, in a visual designerish way, is the pretentiously titled “La Fin et le debut” by Min Kyu-dong (“All for Love,” “Antique”), centered on two women (Eom Jeong-hwa, Kim Hyo-jin) who enter into a mild S&M relationship after the death of the man they both loved. Heavily compressed story actually works much better than Min’s extended one (“In My End Is My Beginning”), as the lack of believability hardly has time to register between the immaculate visuals.
Hardest to follow, but with a fresh flavor, is “Believe in the Moment” by Oh Ki-hwan, which shows the same light touch as his performance-driven “The Art of Seduction.” With a young cast playing six high schoolers who decide to swap partners for 24 hours, Oh floats from couple to couple in an impressionistic way: a boy (Song Jung-gi) who’s about to fly overseas and the athletic girl (Lee Seong-min) who fancies him; the boy’s ex (Shin Se-gyeong) and the hunk (Jeong Eui-cheol) she falls for; and the hunk’s feisty ex (Lee Shi-yeong) and a nerdy guy (Kim Dong-wook) she pals up with.
The two artistically strongest segs kick off the picture, with both name directors in top form. “His Concern,” showing the genesis of a one-night stand between a man (Jang Hyeok) and woman (Cha Hyeon-jeong) who meet by chance, enjoys great chemistry between its leads and is far better than either of helmer Daniel H. Byun’s two features (“Interview,” “The Scarlet Letter”).
Hur Jin-ho, Korea’s finest purveyor of the grace notes in human relationships (“Christmas in August,” “One Fine Spring Day”), contributes the shortest but most delicate seg in “I’m Right Here,” about the game of hide-and-seek played by a loving couple (Kim Gang-woo, Cha Su-yeon) in light of the wife’s terminal illness.
Look of the episodes ranges from super-glossy to practical, but tech packages are all fine within their requirements.