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2009/07/01 09:27 KST
(Movie Review) A mixed bag of pleasures in omnibus Eros film

By Shin Hae-in
SEOUL, July 1 (Yonhap) -- As Forrest Gump or Haruki Murakami might agree, an omnibus film is a lot like a box of assorted candies: you get a mix and match of all your favorites from truffle and cream to Jordan almonds in one single package, but you never know which one you will end up with.

   A package of five shorts uniquely different in styles and genres, "Five Senses of Eros (Ogamdo)" has something for everyone. Just don't be naive enough to expect all five to be a delight.

With five of South Korea's renowned auteurs and 16 big name actors and actresses coming together in one movie, "…Eros" made headlines here ever since its crank-in late last year.

   While styles and plots vary, all five talk about love, Eros and desire -- how they intertwine, present pleasure, deceive one another and become a source of catastrophe.

   Perhaps the most intriguing among the five, the first two films, made by Daniel H. Byun, creator of "The Scarlet Letter (2004)," and Hur Jin-ho of "One Fine Spring Day (2001)," are relatively alike in the way the filmmakers choose to explore the complex subject with detailed depictions of the emotional changes characters experience. But while the former "His Concern" portrays the tingly feelings of new lovers, Hur's "I'm Here" is about overcoming the loss of a loved one.

   Obviously choosing an "easy way out," the two auteurs do not attempt anything out of character in their rarely-made shorts.

   Byun, 43, holds up the reputation as the most stylish and sleek directors among his generation, cleverly using up his portion of 30-something-minutes with not-to-heavy depictions of a one night stand that may or may not be a beginning of a relationship.

Hur again shows off his feminine and somewhat modish sensitivity by tracing a young husband's lonely night after his beautifully fragile wife dies. Although the plot is convincing enough, Hur's short is somewhat all too familiar, especially for his longtime fans.

   "33rd Man" by Yu Young-sik ("Anarchists (2000)") and "Le Debut et La Fin" by Min Gyu-Dong ("Antique (2008)") are more experimental compared to the first two. While Yu throws in man-eating vampires and blood to mock men's desire and the filmmaking industry, Min again examines the subject of homosexuality (this time between women) using illusive and phantasmal cinematography. The catch here, though, is that both films fail to stay focused on the main theme; in other words, neither turns out to be very sexy.

   The last film "Believe in the Moment," featuring partner swapping between three teenage couples, is perhaps the most bitter sweet of the bag, appearing completely clueless about what it wants to be. A mere portrayal of the six high school students' vapid day of kissing someone else's boyfriend or girlfriend, the film is neither funny nor fresh in terms of its subject. More surprising is that this is a creation of Oh Ki-hwan, who showed off talent and style in his past romance films "The Art of Seduction (2005)" and "Last Present (2001)."

   In a nutshell, five proves to be a crowd in this case where the film as a whole could have been a lot more condensed and entertaining without one or two components that seem obviously out of place.

But made with a shoestring budget of 1 billion won, or about US$785,000, hardly enough to cast the 16 top and fast-emerging actors and actresses, as well as big name directors, "…Eros," deserves the benefit of the doubt for its effort to smoothly wrap up the five varying films in one pretty package.

   "We made the movie within the shortest period of time and in the most cost-effective way. Although the film is nothing big or flashy, give us credit for the effort to create something together," director Yu said in an interview in a seemingly convincing excuse for him and his colleagues.

   A box of assorted candies might not be a recommendable gift for a very special person, but it is an all-time-safe shot that -- while it won't overawe -- is unlikely to offend.

   "…Eros" will hit the local theaters from July 9.

   hayney@yna.co.kr
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