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The Taste Of Money
The movie begins with a shot of Chairman Yoon (Baek Yun-shik) entering the family vault. This brushed steel-walled space looks like it belongs inside a bank, that’s how full of money it is. But it is just a repository for the family’s cash holdings. He’s taken Joo Young-Jak (Kim Kang-woo) along, to fill two suitcases with cash–the money is a bribe, to get the Chairman’s son out of a spot of bother. As they are leaving the vault Chairman Yoon tells the younger man to take some money for himself. Mr. Joo is surprised but the Chairman casually remarks, “everybody else who comes in here does, so you might as well get a taste.”

And right then I knew this was going to be a movie set in a world I couldn’t really imagine.

Chairman Yoon’s wife Keum-ok (Youn Yuh-jung) is the one who controls the money–that she inherited from her father, a wizened wheelchair-bound old man who appears periodically to say weird or inappropriate things. The Chairman’s two children are Chul (on Ju-wan) the son who is always getting into trouble, and Na-Mi (Kim Hyo-jin) a pretty divorcĂ©e who might be the only person in the family who feels real people emotions.

Mommy Dearest knows Daddy is screwing around but she is only offended when there is a possibility that he might actually be in love with their Filipina maid. Chul is plotting to move a significant sum of their money overseas with the help of an American. Na-Mi meanwhile has designs on Mr. Joo and he knows it.

Kim Hyo-jin and Kim Kang-woo are very good, as is Youn Yuh-jung. But this film had a problem we are always encountering in Hindi cinema. The token white guy can’t really act–definitely not on the same level as the main cast. And the two young children hired to play the Filipina maid’s kids mutter or murmur their lines so uncomfortably that it immediately breaks the spell of the movie.

The Taste of Money shows us the cavalier attitude the rich have to all people below their financial station, the absolute devotion they expect (and mostly receive) from their staff, and the manner in which they ‘solve’ their problems. The effects of immense wealth, and the power it brings, are chillingly documented here.

The movie looks amazing, the sets and cinematography work together to effectively deliver a hint of how the wealthy must live in South Korea. It is an intimate, and discomfiting portrait, weakened in its final minutes by the filmmaker’s failure to find a conclusive ending to the tale.

 

Pervertigo
At complete odds with The Taste of Money is writer-director Jaron Henrie-McCrea’s feature debut Pervertigo. Clever title, clever (enough) idea. In fact the synopsis made me wonder if this film might be in the vein of Following, Christopher Nolan’s (yes, the very same) directorial debut.

The film has a decent idea. Lloyd (Martin Monahan) is a voyeur who likes videotaping people. Naturally this poses several problems in his life and he is constantly on the run from people who don’t like this invasion of their privacy. Through a twist of (screenwriter-induced) fate Lloyd is hired by his landlord to murder the man’s wife. And he seriously considers the assignment until he finds out that the woman is a voyeur too!

Wow. Where to begin?

As plots go, Mr. Henrie-McCrea makes life quite difficult for his lead character. But the way it is filmed, and (sadly) cast, the film plays like a cross between something from the Napoleon Dynamite world and a late night cable skin-flick. Except there is no real skin. Just a lot of cheesy posturing. And some wannabe-Clerks dialogue.

I think of Pervertigo as a good drinking game movie (Videogre? Uhk-sana?). And if you’ve been drinking long enough maybe you’ll get to say, “I did not see that final twist coming!”