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Original Title:
Dasepo sonyo

South Korea 2006


Lee Jae-yong

Kim Ok-bin
Park Jin-woo
Lee Kyeon
Kim Byeol
Lee Yong-joo
Lee Won-jong
Moon Won-joo
Yoo Joo-hee
Im Ye-jin

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Dasepo Naughty Girls

Story: The conditions at No-Use-High are chaotic. Teachers are infected with venereal diseases by their students and the students themselves are so much entangled in their candy-like teenie-world, that they don't even bother trying to learn.
Among the students there is "Poor Girl" (Kim Ok-bin), who is living with her mother in a run-down little flat. She eventually decides to prostitute herself in order the free her mother at least a bit of her mountain of debt. However, she falls in love with rich guy Anthony (Park Jin-woo), who returned from Switzerland back to his home country. Anthony, on the other side, has an eye on "Cyclops"'s (Lee Kyeon) sister (Eun-seong). Unfortunately, she actually proves to be a guy! Still, Anthony's feelings for her/him don't change.
At the same time, some odd coincidences lead to "Poor Girl" being dragged into the home of a cult, where she is supposed to dance for them. There, one of her clients records her with his cell phone and soon "Poor Girl's dance" conquers the internet. Suddenly she is in the spotlight of everyone's interest. But not for long, as some of the students are desperately trying to find out why some of their female classmates turn into model students.

Review: "Dasepo Naughty Girls" is jarring, bizarre, wacky - and very hard to classify. Oftentimes you get the feeling to be part of a Live-Anime, the kind of you only get to see from Japan. And actually this isn't as far-fetched as one might think, as the movie is based on a popular online comic. Even though the questionability of the moral ambiguity in Korean society, concerning sex, pop culture and social differences is criticized and depicts the movie's main topic after all, director Lee Jae-yong shows only little bare skin for a movie that promises to be "naughty". In fact, this proves to be one of the film's strengths, because this way the at times subtle and at others in-your-face criticism has more impact on the audience. However, the style of the movie may alienate some viewers.

The introduction gives a good first impression of what to expect from "Dasepo Naughty Girls". We have teachers who sleep with their students who prostitute themselves and consequently end up with a venereal disease, whereupon the whole class reports sick, because seemingly everyone is jumping in everyone's bed... This is all told in garish, colourful pictures, that underline the somewhat caricatural style of the film, and together with the costumes remind us of the 60s/70s. Lee's work can also be pretty alienating which the sudden dancing and singing insertions are proof of. Sometimes, you'll find asking yourself what kind of movie you just ended up watching. Still, at a closer look most of the movie's parts seem to make some sense. The multi-religiosity of Korea is made fun of, as it is with the Karaoke obsession of the country's inhabitants, which is parodied in a few other singing scenes completely with added subtitles for the viewer to sing along.

Even if you might be a bit familiar with the culture of Korea, you'll still might find yourself experiencing a heavy culture shock. Or maybe just a epileptic seizure triggered by the garish colors. The colourful-happy style of the movie, which even serves a purpose this time, namely to make fun of the teenie pop culture, is very appealing and makes the movie almost original.

Let's get to the movies downsides, which are definitely lying within the story. Story? At first, you might get to the conclusion, that there is no actual plot, but one after the other there are several episodes emerging. Eventually, when we already believed that the story would be entangled in its own net of mixed up and confusing bits, director Lee focuses on "Poor Girl" and Anthony. Unfortunately, that's just too late to matter anymore, as meanwhile we have become victim of a brainwash, not knowing anymore if certain scenes were part of this movie or rather of the movie we saw the evening before. This gives you an idea of how inconsistent the film is. Most of the "stories", if I may call them so, just don't fit into an overall picture, so that we end up with a chaotic mess in the end. The only fixed point is the school at which all of the happenings and events take place.

Having this in mind, it might not come as a surprise that the characters are also very wacky, to say the least. Luckily, Kim Ok-bin can give a rather normal performance as "Poor Girl" and serves as a sort of focal point, someone the viewer can relate to. On her back there is always sitting a grey little guy she calls "Poverty". This deeply symbolic and unambiguous way of expressing what the filmmakers want us to tell, isn't everywhere to be found, though. Sometimes the movie criticizes Korean society and its wish for uniformity, or just pop culture and youth in general, in a more subtle way. Moreover, it's also all about love, homosexuality, transvestites and strange sexual preferences. Surprisingly, this isn't depicted in a raunchy way, but instead is wrapped in incredibly jarring and at times even funny scenes. Concerning the humor, however, it has to be pointed out that it sometimes hits the mark, at others it simply doesn't. Nevertheless, "Dasepo Naughty Girls" always manages to radiate a feel-good atmosphere.

There is lots to discover in Lee's work. Some things have to be read between the lines and most importantly you'll only get the maximum out of this flick if you are familiar with Korean culture. For everyone else there are enough cute girls to look at, or abstruse scenes to laugh about. Still, there are things that just won't fit into the movie. For instance, there is the scene of the school monster, that turns into a dragon. At this point we see, that the director even had enough money at his hands to create some neat CGI-effects, but what for? Some of the side stories which try to criticize certain themes in a more subtle manner just don't work out the way they were supposed to.
What's especially sad, is not only the fact that there is nearly no story and that the few parts of it that deserve the name are just too much resembling the style of different episodes put together, but also that the side stories eventually go nowhere. There are lots of questions left to be answered, which will make you scratch your head, as it is the case with some of the the wacky-absurd scenes, also.

The ambiguousness of some of the dialogues, as well as the different subtle messages, like "more tolerance towards different people and minorities", almost bestow the movie with a certain profoundess, and in fact, at a closer look, the film proves to be more clever than we might have given it credit for at first. Additionally, "Dasepo Naughty Girls" can be quite inventive at times, and apart from that shines with a good portion of sex appeal, wacky humor and an extraordinary style. It wouldn't surprise me if Lee's work would gain a certain kind of cult status over the years.

However, because of its alienating atmosphere and style, that has its source in several odd/wacky scenes, I can't just recommend this flick to anyone. Still, especially fans of over-the-top and uber-wacky Japan-flicks will get their money's worth.
Furthermore, I also can't clearly recommend a film that is as inconsistent and at times even completely incoherent as "Dasepo Naughty Girls". Nonetheless, you have to give director Lee credit for his inventiveness.
There will be those who will love this flick, but they will also have to face those on the other side who won't get anything out of this film. A few years ago, I might have considered myself as part of the latter group, but nowadays, having become somewhat of a film critic (?), I just have to appreciate "Dasepo Naughty Girls" as an interesting cinematic addition to the comedy genre.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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