A mixed bag of pleasures in omnibus Eros film

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A mixed bag of pleasures in omnibus Eros film

As Forrest Gump or Haruki Murakami might say, an omnibus film is a lot like a box of assorted candies: You get a mix of all your favorites in a single package, but you never know which one you’ll end up with.

A package of five shorts different in style and genre, “Five Senses of Eros (Ogamdo)” has something for everyone. Just don’t expect all five to be a delight.

With five of Korea’s renowned auteurs and 16 big-name actors and actresses in one movie, Eros has made headlines here since its premiere late last year.

While the styles and plots vary, all five talk about love, Eros and desire - how they intertwine, present pleasure, deceive one another and become a source of catastrophe.

Perhaps the most intriguing among the five, the first two films, made by Daniel H. Byun, director of “The Scarlet Letter” (2004), and Hur Jin-ho of “One Fine Spring Day” (2001), are relatively similar in the way they explore a complex subject with detailed depictions of the emotional changes characters experience. But while Byun’s “His Concern” portrays the tingly feelings of new lovers, Hur’s “I’m Here” is about overcoming the loss of a loved one.

Choosing the “easy way out,” the two auteurs do not attempt anything out of character in their rare shorts.

Byun, 43, upholds his reputation as the most stylish and sleek director of his generation, cleverly using his 30-some minutes with not-too-heavy depictions of a one-night stand that may or may not be the beginning of a relationship.

Hur again shows off his feminine and somewhat modish sensitivity by tracing a young husband’s lonely night after his beautifully fragile wife dies. Although the plot is convincing enough, Hur’s short is somewhat all too familiar, especially for his longtime fans.

“33rd Man” by Yu Young-sik, of “Anarchists” (2000), and “Le Debut et La Fin” by Min Gyu-Dong, of “Antique” (2008), are more experimental than the first two. While Yu throws in man-eating vampires and blood to mock men’s desire and the filmmaking industry, Min again examines the subject of homosexuality (this time between women), using illusive and phantasmal cinematography. The catch here, though, is that both films fail to stay focused on the main theme; in other words, neither turns out to be very sexy.

The last film “Believe in the Moment,” featuring partner-swapping between three teenage couples, is perhaps the most bittersweet of the bunch and appears completely clueless about what it wants to be.

A mere portrayal of the six high school students’ vapid day of kissing someone else’s boyfriend or girlfriend, the film is neither funny nor fresh in terms of its subject. More surprising is that this is the creation of Oh Ki-hwan, who showed talent and style in his past romantic films “The Art of Seduction” (2005) and “Last Present” (2001).

In a nutshell, five proves to be a crowd in this case, where the film as a whole could have been a lot more condensed and entertaining without the one or two components that seem obviously out of place.

But Eros deserves the benefit of the doubt for its attempt at wrapping up five films in one package. The film hits theaters July 9.


Five Senses of Eros (Ogamdo)

Romance / Korean

128 min.

Opens July 9

A devoted wife (Eom Jeong-hwa, right) and her husband’s secret lover (Kim Hyo-jin, left) have what appears to be a lesbian relationship in “Le Debut et La Fin.”[CineSeoul]
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