Wednesday, 9 December 2015



This low-key erotic drama/thriller from South Korea is actually a sort of sequel to a 2010 film called The Housemaid, from the same director, which I confess I never saw although it really doesn't appear to matter. A kind of soap opera of the lifestyles of the rich and venal, in which thoroughly vile characters scheme to increase (or at least maintain) their obscene wealth, crushing the innocent and poor beneath them, it's ultimately a glum tale in which the machinations of the plot are more interesting than the flat visuals.

Joo (Kang-woo Kim) is a general factotum for an insanely rich family who own and run an investment corporation. Ostensibly he's working for the company chairman but he's also involved with the man's wife (not just placing secret video cameras in his bedroom to film his infidelities with the Indonesian maid, but on a sexual level as well); as well as developing a tentative relationship with the daughter. Will he be corrupted by such gargantuan riches?

This is the kind of extravagant "greed is good" saga that the likes of Dallas and Dynasty traded in a generation ago - there's even a dead body in the swimming pool which was a season cliffhanger on Dallas - so it's a pity that much of The Taste Of Money looks so flat and colourless, almost like ungraded digital (and I don't think it's my eyes or my TV settings that are at fault here, as old Shaw Brothers knockabouts look fine even when streamed off YouTube through a laptop). Sadly I suspect this is the way movies will ultimately go, as films that actually look like film with bold colour and rich photography recede further into the past, and audiences no longer remember films as looking like anything other than TV.

The Taste Of Money certainly isn't a terrible film, and the plot is involving enough, but it's perhaps too long at 112 minutes and - perhaps a personal preference here - the sex scenes are not what I'd regard as erotically charged. It's a shame that the seductive allure of tons of crisp banknotes has been rendered this way: more of the glamour of absurd wealth would have helped suck us into the amoral, indeed immoral world of empty sex and empty lives. I don't think we need go all the way into the florid melodrama of Douglas Sirk and Written On The Wind (there's proof that my year of Media Studies wasn't entirely wasted) to make the idea of wallowing in decadent unearned money simultaneously appealing and horrifying.


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