No subtitles for girls who talk dirtyI should probably begin this column with an apology: The DVD I’m reviewing for this week doesn’t have English subtitles, nor Chinese nor Japanese. I was compelled to select this film for this week’s column when I saw the DVD in a video store near my parent’s house over the weekend, partly because it is so rare and partly because I have fond memories of it.
Keep in mind, I’ve seen quite a few films I didn’t want to for the benefit of our readers. For once, my readers can return the favor.
“Girls’ Night Out,” which is an odd English title for a Korean film which literally translated would be “Feast of the Virgins,” created controversy when it was released in 1998 for its explicit portrayal of the bedroom issues of women.
The story deals with three women who share their stories about men over wine and food.
Ho-jeong (Kang Su-yeon) is a successful young designer who is sexually liberated. Yeon-i (Jin Hee-gyeong) is a waitress at a hotel lounge whose dream is to marry a decent guy. Their friend Sun-i (Kim Yeo-jin) moderates between the two women. She has never slept with a man, but in the middle of serving her friends a plate of seasoned raw beef, she starts talking about her sexual fantasy in graphic detail.
The film was daring at the time of the release, as it was probably the first Korean commercial films to deal with sexual subjects in the style of a trendy romantic comedy. Indeed, the film is significant, not as a realistic reflection of women’s lives, but more as a depiction of fantasies of sex and marriage that mark a sociological turning point for women’s place in Korean society.
But Lim Sang-su, the director of “Tears” and “The President’s Last Bang,” uses the fantasies simply as tools with which to draw attention.
In a way, the depiction of women in the film is dark and grim ― their pleasures always lead to punishment.
Ho-jeong, who had a one-night stand with a married man, is thrown into prison when the man’s wife sues the couple over the affair. After the incident, she decides to leave to Paris, as an act of “political refuge.” Yeon-i breaks her arm as she slips on a bathroom floor while she tries to view her clitoris in a mirror while standing on a stool.
The subtle tensions between Yeon-i and Ho-jeong, whose differing attitudes to sex and marriage partly stem from differences in their economic status, also poses a poignant illustration of how class often comes to influence people’s personal lives.
Times have changed. But the story’s narrative still possesses certain insights into the lives of Korean women today.
If a film had been made on the same subject today, however, the food and wine could go. It would do just fine with nothing other than women talking.
by Park Soo-mee