Owen Gleiberman
December 01, 2000 AT 05:00 AM EST

Lies

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
Unrated
runtime
112 minutes
Limited Release Date
11/17/00
performer
Tae Yeon Kim, Sang Hyun Lee
director
Jang Sun-Woo
Producers
Korea Films, Shincine Communications
distributor
Cowboy Booking International
author
Jang Sun-Woo
genre
Erotic, Foreign Language

We gave it an A

So-called serious sex films, like Romance or Eyes Wide Shut, almost always end up as grimly static art follies (they’re not much of a turn-on, either). Now, however, someone has finally done it — made a sexually explicit feature that is also a genuine and harrowing work of erotic drama. Jang Sun Woo’s Lies, which provoked a scandal in its native Korea, teeters right on the edge of pornography, and that’s exactly what’s powerful about it. For all its extremity (it’s naked, in every sense, but not hardcore), the movie captures, with an elegant voyeuristic relentlessness, the experience of what it’s like to be consumed — devoured — by sex.

For most of Lies, we watch as two characters, a gentle-looking 38-year-old sculptor (Lee Sang Hyun) and his hell-bent high school-student lover (Kim Tae Yeon), meet in sparsely decorated hotel rooms for a series of escalating sexual encounters. The two push each other’s limits with a kind of possessed, die-my-darling frenzy, awash in the addiction of sex, as if the flow of hormones were God’s heroin. Like all addicts, they have to escalate the dosage to stay high, and so they descend into sadomasochism, forging a shocking intimacy out of power and pain. Lies, to put it mildly, isn’t for every taste, but the actors attain a ferocious on-screen connection that makes this the most heightened graphic-erotic tragedy since In the Realm of the Senses. A

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