Friday, May 04, 2007

Sexing Up Korean Cinema

Amusing word on John Cameron Mitchell's movie SHORTBUS, as it tries to make it to Korea. "Shortbus" is a very sexually frank and graphic film about a group of New Yorkers with a variety of sexual/relationship problems -- a couple's counselor who has never had an orgasm, a gay couple who has seemingly lost the spark after five years together, a distressed bondage queen, and more.

Independent distributor Sponge was supposed to import the film, but was stopped by the Korea Media Ratings Board (KMRB). Two times. The first time, Sponge presented the original film in all its "glory," the second time with blurred mosaics covering all the problem areas. But both times the KMRB gave the movie an adults-only "Restricted" rating -- and as you may know, to get the Restricted rating in Korea means, in effect, that you are banned. There is only one movie theater in the entire country that can show Restricted movies, and that is way down in Gwangju.

Turns out, however, there is a loophole to this rule. If you show movies as part of a film festival that has been sanctioned by the Korea Film Council and the KMRB, then anything goes. And Sponge has a little film festival of sorts about to kick off -- the Cine Hue festival. Cine Hue runs May 10-16 in its Jongno theater, than May 17-23 at its Apgujeong theater. So they added SHORTBUS to the festival line-up, and voila.

I am not sure how often SHORTBUS will run in that schedule (the new Sponge House website wreaks havoc on my web browsers... just a Flash mess), although I do believe it will kick off on May 10 at 9pm.

And, even more fun, Mitchell himself should be on hand for one screening, perhaps around May 25. He is coming to Korea for a stage version of HEDWIG (always popular in Korea), and so should do some SHORTBUS-related publicity while he is here.

Anyhow, yes, the film is very sexual (and some of the performances are a little amateurish), but it is also very good. For all its artifice and shock, I found SHORTBUS extremely real and engaging. If you can handle seeing sex on screen (and I know some people cannot), then I recommend SHORTBUS very highly.

(Kudos to Wouter and Michael at Fortissimo Films for supporting a movie like this).

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