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Original Title:
Noksaek uija

South Korea 2005

Drama, Romance

Park Cheol-su

Suh Jung
Shim Ji-ho
Oh Yun-hong
Kim Jeon-han
Baek Hak-gi

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Green Chair

Story: Kim Mun-hee (Suh Jung) is a 32 years old divorced woman. She eventually engages into an affair with 19 years old Seo-hyun (Shim Ji-ho), for whom Kim is his first love. However, according to law in Korea, when it comes to sex, you are not of full age until 20. Therefore, Kim has to spend a few days in prison for seduction of minors, before she is set free and sentenced to do some hours of social work. In front of prison there isn't only the press waiting for some statement, as they have great interest in this case, but also Seo-hyun, who is happy to be finally reunited with his beloved.
Mun-hee and Seo-hyun rent a room and stay there for some days, whereas they spend their time almost solely with sex. Anyway, Mun-hee slowly starts to understand, that this kind of relationship won't work out forever, and thus wants to split up with Seo-hyun. But the boy asseverates that he really loves her, and that he won't let go of her. The two find shelter at the home of a friend of Mun-hee, Jane (Oh Yun-hong). Nonetheless, where is this relationship actually heading to, and is this really love?

Review: After a 5 years break director Park Cheol-su returns and delivers once again a movie that sheds some light on certain sore spots in Korean society. At a first glance, "Green Chair" is apparently about sex. The many sexually explicit scenes aren't just unusual for a Korean production, but also could put off many viewers. Nevertheless, to doubt the quality of the movie, simply because of some sex scenes, is really unjustified, as the movie shows that its true strengths lie within the fact that it is revolving around themes like love, growing up and a questionable Korean law, that officially forbids to have sex until the age of 20. What's also interesting is that the script is based on a true event, which is what gives "Green Chair" that certain kind of extra profoundness.

Is Seo-hyun's love towards Mun-hee really different when he has finally turned 20? Did anything change for him at all? This is surely one of the main aspects director Park wants to shed some light on. For Seo-hyun nothing changes at all in his life or his sensation that could justify why he isn't allowed to love a woman just because of a few weeks until his birthday. He and his girlfriend are seperated by 13 years, but as we all know this is of no importance when it comes to love. Wrong, since this proves to be really big problem for them.
Nonetheless, apart from that, the drama also focuses on depicting how Mun-hee feels. She has to worry that Seo-hyun only cares about sex, and that he could simply dump her one day, when he doesn't need her anymore. His affirmation that he loves her can't take away her worries and fear that she could be alone again soon, and that her relationship wasn't anything more than simply an empty shell she took shelter in.

The movie plays with Mun-hees fears in a successful way. Actress Suh Jung ("The Isle") does a great job and draws the worries, doubts, jealousness and weaknesses of her character in all of its details. Actor Shim Ji-ho plays his part as the curious, sex maniacal boy, who also happens to be in love and seems unusually mature for a guy of his age, with impressive credibility. There is one particularily funny scene in which he pretends to be drunk, that shows his feelings in an impressive way and also proves that he is, after all, still a little boy.
As a supporting actress Oh Yun-hong ("Like a Virgin") delivers nice work, too. She always looks incredibly cool and relaxed, and provides our two lovers with a love nest at her home, in which they can do what they want. Of course, this has to lead to some sexual tension, but luckily only in the heads of the protagonists and not in reality, as this could have bestowed an unnecessary dramatic touch upon the movie.

It's quite obvious that Park Cheol-su is a filmmaker of the old school, since his pictures are oftentimes quite simple and without any lavish extras. Sometimes the filming locations seem a bit dull, but fortunately the film doesn't prove to be boring when it comes to the pacing. There is always something happening that is of meaning to the film, or brings a new level to the relationship between Mun-hee and Seo-hyun, even though "Green Chair" always sticks to the pleasant pacing of a drama. Only the beginning with the several sex insertions (no pun intended) may become tedious and repetitive for some people, and also give the impression that this movie is something different from what it actually is. In fact, all of the sex scenes are pretty hot, yet also fit into the movie quite well. The director really deserves some credit, but more than anyone else it's the two actors that derserve some special words of praise, since they could have easily run the risk to lose their integrity, because of their many sexually explicit scenes. Yet, in the end, they manage to add a great acting achievement to the overall work.

It's especially welcome that the movie has a surprisingly light-hearted character and offers a lot of humor. Just to name a few examples, there is a photographer, who follows the two lovers, and eventually even brings his own rope with him, with which he gets tied up by Seo-hyun every time he is discovered. There is also Seo-hyun who suddenly takes of his trouser in front of the two womens' he has found shelter at. It's this great and at times deadpan humor, that works contrary to the typical drama of the movie, and thus makes "Green Chair" something special, without depriving the movie of any of its credibility.
However, towards the end the movie's pacing and atmosphere suddenly changes in a slightly unfitting way, when all the people that were or are important in the lives of the two lovers suddenly come together at a party. Here, the director along with the characters reflects about the main aspects, the movie dealt with until the end.
When all is said and done, "Green Chair" can't enlighten you with any new worldly wisdom, but the transfer of the topics the film deals with, even though it may seem a bit to Art-House-like, is very appealing thanks to the humor and the sex scenes, making the film quite innovative in this respect. Which is why Park's work will leave you behind with a content smile when the credits roll.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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