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Kino on Video presents
Untold Scandal (2003)

"Revenge is more amusing when the victim is unaware."
- Lady Cho (Mi-suk Lee)

Review By: Jon Danziger   
Published: June 07, 2005

Director: E J-Yong

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nudity, sexuality)
Run Time: 02h:04m:22s
Release Date: June 07, 2005
UPC: 738329040529
Genre: foreign

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- B+C+B D

DVD Review

Somewhere the heirs of Choderlos de Laclos are ruing the day that works of literature were permitted to pass into the public domain, or perhaps they're looking for some recourse courtesy of international treaties concerning artists' rights. This handsome recent Korean film is the latest incarnation of Laclos' bodice ripper of a novel, Les Liaisons dangereuses, taking its place in the lineage after Roger Vadim's 1960 version, Stephen Frears' film of Christopher Hampton's play, Milos Forman's Valmont, the high school confidential version (i.e., Cruel Intentions), and Catherine Deneuve and Rupert Everett doing each other dirt in a version produced in the writer's native tongue. Director E J-Yong isn't really interested in exploring how to fuse East and West in the manner of, say, Throne of Blood—rather, it's more or less Laclos' story moved wholesale to early 18th-century Korea. Let 'em rip, kids.

The film seems to take a certain amount for granted, and it's much easier to follow if you have in fact either read the novel or seen a previous filmed version of it, and one of the pleasures of this movie is seeing the old geometry play out in another land. There's one modest and twisted addition to Laclos' story, though: here, the two sexual predators are related, and the incestuous prospect of kissing cousins is one of the principal motivations. Cho Won (Yong-jun Bae) is a notorious ladies' man; his cousin, Lady Cho (Mi-suk Lee) is irate at the prospect of her husband taking a mistress, though this is presented as a matter of course in this society. The young lady in question, So-oak, is a sweet and inexperienced young thing; if her Lothario of a cousin will compromise So-oak's virtue, Lady Cho will grant him his much-desired night of passion. He's game, but he's got other conquests in mind as well—principally that's Lady Jung, the beautiful and chaste devoted Catholic, who scorns Cho Won as a sinner. Never one to let an opportunity go to waste, Lady Cho, while waiting for Cho Won to make good on his promise, takes a private pupil: Kwon In-Ho is the young stallion that she's taken on as her pet project.

Of course for the characters no good can come from any of this, but watching them aggressively go after their prey, sex as blood sport, makes for some naughty entertainment. It's a movie heavy on the ceremony, in food, in dress; it's smart at evoking the period, much as Frears' film is, and especially interesting for Western audiences is the hostility with which Catholicism is treated by the Korean power structure, and the tenacity of the small but deeply devoted band of Korean Catholics. I'm assuming that the costuming is true to period, but some of it looks preposterous—the men especially, in sheer stovepipe hats with massive brims, frequently look like loopy Asian pilgrims. Also, though the filmmaking style is largely unobtrusive, there are occasional bad choices—there's too much of a fondness on showing us a character from the waist up, and then revealing the partner in intimacy popping up from the bottom of the frame; also, in a crucial third-act scene, there are some ugly and ungainly rack focus shots. That's small beer, though, given the delightful tawdriness of the proceedings here, and watching these characters do one another dirt for two hours, on any continent, is time well spent.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Though the transfer is strong in reproducing variegated colors, there are many imperfections in the source print, and so almost all of the scenes are marred by at least one serious scratch or artifact.

Image Transfer Grade: C+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Koreanno

Audio Transfer Review: A little bit of hiss, but you're unlikely to notice unless you're brushing up on your Korean.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 18 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Chi-Hwa-Seon, Take Care of My Cat, Tell Me Something
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. image gallery
Extras Review: Aside from trailers for other Korean titles from Kino, the only extra is an image gallery, with about two dozen stills from the feature.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

Sexual intrigue comes across loud and clear in any language, and this Korean incarnation of Les Liaisons dangereuses finds appropriate and dramatic analogues for the French characters and world of the original. It helps to know the story beforehand, but even if you don't, you'll likely have fun watching other people's bed-hopping and inevitable recriminations.


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