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Man-dae Bong’s “The Sweet Sex and Love” is filled with sex held together by a flimsy story that may or may not be worth making a feature length film around. It’s not as if the script by Jeong-deok Kwak explores anything that will change anybody’s life. In short, “Sweet Sex” is about a young couple that meets, falls madly in lust, moves in together, then discovers that they have no idea who the other person is after all, and begins to fall out of lust as a result. Where does love fit into the equation? Probably nowhere, since the whole thing falls apart like a house of cards almost immediately, thereby proving that there was nothing solid here to begin with.
The plot in a nutshell: Sexually liberated Shin-a (Seo-hyeong Kim) dumps her boyfriend after she meets Dong-ki (Seong-su Kim), a hospital orderly who claims their first meeting was an accident, but she thinks otherwise. In any case, they screw each other’s respective brains out on the first night, and in short order she’s moving into his place. In a weird choice by director Man-dae Bong, there is a sort of interlude where Shin-a is interviewed by an unseen voice behind a video camera. In the short snippet, Shin-a confesses that she doesn’t know if she likes Dong-ki, although she does know that she doesn’t dislike him. With such a strong declaration of love, what could possibly go wrong?
Shin-a and Dong-ki’s mutual lust continues until Dong-ki loses a patient at the hospital, after which everything turns bad for the couple. Although one suspects that the loss is only a symptom, and not the trigger, for the couple’s eventual decline. Soon the sex loses its manic intensity and they’re having sex to make up after arguments, not because they want to. And what exactly is Dong-ki’s preoccupation with anal sex? And is he really such a jerk, or is it because we don’t know enough about him that we think he’s a jerk? Is that the whole point?
“The Sweet Sex and Love” is “Summertime” without the social message or political analogy. It’s a basic story about a couple that thinks they’re in love when they don’t even know each other. Their first date, over a drunken bout of food and drinks, pretty much represents their entire relationship. The sex is frenzied and director Man-dae Bong captures all of it with a style approaching cinema verit’, which gets tricky since the couple pretty much has sex everywhere and anywhere at the drop of a dime. Of particular note is the total absence of silly music playing over the many couplings. In fact, music never plays during the sex scenes, and as someone who has never been a fan of this movie gimmick, I’m very grateful.
If someone were to put a stopwatch to “Sweet Sex”, I’d be willing to wager that almost 35 minutes of this 80-minute movie is spent on Shin-a and Dong-ki having sex. Which isn’t such a bad thing, especially since both Seong-hyeong Kim and Seong-su Kim are attractive people in or out of clothes. Amazingly enough, despite the vast amount of flesh and simulated sex on display, Bong and cinematographer Choi somehow manages to not show a single genital area. This is made doubly impressive because the shooting style doesn’t resort to fast cutting, or a lot of editing for that matter. It’s not relevant to the movie, of course, but I find this accomplishment intriguing nonetheless.
When it comes to story, I’m afraid “Sweet Sex” will shortchange the audience. The simplistic nature of the script is probably the whole point, but that still doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. As Shin-a and Dong-ki’s relationship fizzles, so too does their sex life. I suppose the fact that we never get to know either character is also part of the point; we see them having sex, but we never really understand why they’re “into” each other, just as they don’t know. So in those respects, we’re seeing this relationship from their perspective — completely in the dark about who either person is.
Whatever the case, there’s plenty of sex to be found here. Is it all very erotic? I don’t know, that depends on your definition. But there are plenty of noteworthy scenes, in particular one where Dong-ki strong-arms Shin-a into anal sex, with disastrous results. In another scene, Dong-ki insists on sex in a public bathroom stall — again, with disastrous results. While both scenes nearly end in rape, the movie is never gritty enough to really take things too far. The film itself is not completely serious, and there are some humorous scenes to be found. Another strange addition, much like the “interview” previously mentioned, are title cards that features sexually explicit descriptions, many of them involving the word “penis”.
I can’t say if I got anything out of “Sweet Sex”. Perhaps the signs are too broad and the acting lacks subtlety. Perhaps there’s too much sex and not enough plot. And perhaps the film just didn’t have a lot to say, and elected to play the whole thing as straightforward and easy to decipher. But if the whole point was to sell sex, they certainly did it with aplomb.
Man-dae Bong (director) / Jeong-deok Kwak (screenplay)
CAST: Seo-hyeong Kim …. Jo Shin-a
Seong-su Kim …. Seo Dong-ki