Monday, 24 May 2010

Inside Out 2010: A Piece of Work

A Frozen Flower (Ssang-hwa-jeom) was my first film at Inside Out 2010, and I couldn't have chosen a better film to kick of the festival. Written and directed by Ha Yu, this sumptuous soap opera about a King (Jin-mo Joo), his Queen (Ji-hyo Song) and his lover (In-sung Jo) features stunningly decorated imperial sets and sword-slashing action. Set in Korea's Goryeo Dynasty amidst a backdrop of political intrigue, A Frozen Flower, depicts a love triangle of epic proportions. Unable to touch a woman intimately, and threatened by the takeover of his kingdom for lack of an heir, the King wields his power over his lover, Hong Lim, and demands that he impregnate the Queen. The royal heir must be of the same complexion as the King, and Hong Lim is the King's trusted companion as well as the Chief of his body guards. The Queen and Hong Lim, both of whom have no choice in the matter, perform the consummation acts with little pleasure until a spark is lit and the two find themselves in love. The King becomes increasingly suspicious of the Queen and Hong Lim and plots to find out the depth of their relationship even as he struggles to maintain control of his kingdom. I know I was supposed to root for the young Queen and her lover, but I sided with the King. Firstly, Jin-mo Joo is hot! hot! hot! and his performance as the King is commanding and captivating. I couldn't take my eyes off him, plus I agreed with his royal decrees about the running of his kingdom, and empathized with the pain he felt at his lover's betrayal. I even understood that some of his pain came from the fact that his imperial pride is also singed by Hong Lim's actions. Ji-Hyo Song gives a strong performance as the Queen and In-sung Jo plays the heterosexually awakened head guard, Hong Lim with credible vulnerability and vicious strength. My only criticism of the film is the lack of screen time given to Hong Lim's confusion about his sexuality; he just went straight a little too fast for me, and time should have spent on the confusion he must have felt over his love for both a man whom he has grown up with, and his discovery of his love for the queen.

My second screening at Inside Out was Joan Rivers-A Piece of Work (Oy Vey! My Son is Gay! was my third-see review). This documentary is an honest portrait of perseverance and endurance. The title sums it up: Joan is a "piece of work" in the sense that she is different and edgy, and she is a work-a-holic. Her daughter, Melissa spells it out in the documentary when she says that all the comics she knows has a sense of insecurity that they never seem to lose no matter how famous they become. They all seem to long for the validation and attention they get from their audience. The film shows Joan stressing about empty calendar dates, working on her play, dealing with the business of being Joan Rivers, and, of course, doing her stand up. Her stand up is coarse, frank and extremely funny. This is the way she was back in her twenties, and this is how she continues to perform on stage in her seventies. Seeing her amidst the all-boys network at a George Carlin tribute, I couldn't help but wonder why, she has still not gained the accolades she deserves. She has paid her dues, and continues to do so, and dammit, I want more for her while she is still alive. I don't to hear about her accomplishments after she dies. Let's hope this film will bring her the attention and and prestige she deserves.

So, what's next? Maybe one of Inside Out's Latin American spotlight films.

Inside Out Toronto LGBT Film & Video Festival
20 Years of Queers
Box Office: 416-967-1528

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