By Jeremy Mathews | January 23, 2005

Sex in movies hasn’t received many positive representations in recent years, often being utilized only for angry and frustrated purposes in Hollywood and independent cinema alike, and often in too shy a manner due to rating restrictions. While Park Chul-soo certainly reflects some of the confused and frustrated feelings in his latest film, “Green Chair,” it’s ultimately a work about intimacy and passion, curtailed by legal problems and judgment from the outside world.

If they’d waited a month for Hyun’s birthday, Moon-hee (Jung Suh of “The Isle”) and Hyun (Shim Ji-ho) could have had as much sex as they wanted without interference, but people are considered minors until 20 in Korea, and as the film opens Moon-hee, a 32-year-old woman, has been arrested and fined. Upon her release, she’s mobbed by reporters, who also bother Hyun, whom you’d think would be watched and protected after the incident, but isn’t. The two go on the road, away from the police, and stop at a hotel when they can’t resist each other any longer. Moon-hee tries to make Hyun leave her, at one point ditching him, but he refuses to submit because he wants to be with her—and she’d be offended if he let her get away. Moon-hee is often in a state of panic that is sometimes insufferable as she experiences attacks of apprehension and unpleasantness toward Hyun that suggest he must really love her if he can put up with it. The characters’ odd behavior and a theatrical ending that throws all the peripheral characters together don’t always create the desired results, but make for an interestingly surreal tone that if nothing else makes the film unique. There’s a slightly comic undercurrent of this culminating scene, and the rest of the film is not without humor either, as comic relief comes most notably from a man, perhaps a journalist, who occasionally spies on the couple and finds himself tied up somewhere shortly after.

The sex scenes are intimate and authentic as the older, experienced woman guides the younger man through the ins and outs (no pun intended) of sexual union. Hyun was a virgin, but Moon-hee has a promiscuous past that sprung from an unhappy marriage. The sexually repressed culture has already stigmatized Moon-hee, and now identifies her as a sex-crazed corruptor of innocent youth. The love that Suh and Shim communicate between their characters contrasts with the stiff social constraints of the corrections officer who lectures about the law and acting proper.

Park’s camera isn’t that of a dirty old man, but of intense observation. Most of the sex plays out in carefully composed wide shots that aren’t about seeing body parts, but experiencing emotions. And many emotions pass as the characters endanger themselves before the clock of illegality runs out and Hyun becomes an adult. This is a touching love story about two people who refuse to hold back their passion.

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