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By Merle Bertrand | February 9, 2001

We Film Threat critics need groupies. Nothing against all our loyal and valued male readers, but if we — okay, I — just had some groupies, I wouldn’t drool so much over the prospect of watching a semi-hard core, S&M-tinged porno masquerading as a Korean art house film like “Lies.” I need not have gotten so worked up over it, as this tedious train wreck of a movie is far more annoying than it is erotic.
“J” (Sang Hyun Lee) is a thirty-eight year old sculptor. Trapped in an unsatisfying long-distance marriage and determined to take care of certain needs, he takes out the Korean equivalent of a personal ad. Though he receives a reply from a young girl named Woori, it’s “Y” (Tæ Yeon Kim), Woori’s eighteen year virgin schoolmate, who takes it upon herself to seduce the old-enough-to-know-better sculptor.
Not that it requires much in the way of small talk, as from this point on, “Lies” consists mostly of “J” and “Y”‘s various carnal exploits. Not content to merely have his way with his nubile nymphet teenager, “J” introduces his airy concubine to the “pleasures” of the swatted backside. And we’re not talking prop whips purchased from the local adult bookstore here, either. Cedar boughs, broom handles, metal rods(!), coarse rope, if it swooshes through the air, “J” will use it on “Y”‘s battered behind…and eventually eagerly submit to the same treatment in return.
I’m searching my memory for more substantive plot issues, but can’t really recall anything else. Not so much a love story as it is a crude lust story, “Lies” is mostly a video diary of an odd couple’s even odder relationship; one that grows ever-more decadent as time passes. Whether it’s in a swank hotel or a barely habitable dive, the m.o. is always the same: Meet, disrobe, engage in some Olympic level flagellation, and screw. If this sounds repetitious and monotonous, it is.
About the only breaks in the action come when reality awkwardly intrudes on the narrative. Director Sun-Woo Jang conducts interviews with his actors early on in the film, for instance, and has a narrator or occasionally the characters themselves provide off-screen commentary on the unfolding events. At one point, during a vicious catfight between “Y” and Woori, someone calls “Cut!” and the camera pulls back to reveal the crew and the set surrounding the actors. Picture the police breaking up the climactic medieval battle at the end of Monty Python’s “Search for the Holy Grail,” and you’ll get the idea.
Even the camera noise is as audible as the slurping, smacking, and heavy breathing sounds, so Jang is attempting some sort of creative statement here. I’m just not sure what.
In the end, despite the copious amounts of skin and sex scenes that show nearly everything, this is a snoozer. The true irony is that usually when watching material “of an adult nature,” the tendency is to hit the Fast Forward button during the laughably bad plot exposition scenes. Here, that desire is reversed, the urge to zoom ahead generally striking during the “Here we go again” sex scenes. Unfortunately, trapped in a theater, there’s not a fast forward button to be found.
Nor, sadly, are there any groupies.

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