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Korean Men Want, Too

Re What a Man Wants, from South Korea:

A man wants to love and—er—be loved? Whatever the case, the deceitful men in this flick say they love certain women, also deceitful—chiefly their wives. Do they?

During the 2010s, with romantic comedy, South Korea seemed to be on a roll. It may be true of drama as well; I don’t know. The 2018 What a Man Wants is a saucy gem, its script, though a slight head scratcher, mostly unpredictable. I thought a woman (superbly acted by Song Ji-hyo) who refers to the Chinese as “chinks” would thereafter be a villain in the film, but no. The three writers make her more complex than that, lovable even. All involved make Man occasionally affecting. The male actors Lee Sung-min and Shin Ha-kyun are daring and brilliant. Directed by Lee Byeong-heon, the movie is lively and sensual and . . . well, if it is a sex comedy, it makes a sex comedy like David O’Russell’s Flirting with Disaster look sick.

Available on Tubi.

(In Korean with English subtitles)

The Kiss Cometh: “A Kiss for the Leper”

Marriage is often an idol, but isn’t much of one. A beautiful girl, Noemie d’Artiailh, necessarily weds the rich Jean Peloueyre in A Kiss for the Leper (1921), a short novel by the French Francois Mauriac, but the marriage is absurd, never consummated. Noemie is repulsed by Jean’s ugly body. After his death, however, she grows to love Jean and, in fact, must accept being “condemned to greatness”: renunciation.

Both characters are Catholic, though at first the devoutness belongs to Noemie. Jean is drawn to Nietzsche, without abjuring Christian belief. What Leper is about is the difficulty of spiritual growth in lonely and depriving circumstances. Noemie and Jean spiritually advance and then retreat, retreat and then advance. For Jean this goes on in a short life. Noemi never remarries: “Every path but the path to renunciation was closed to her.” But that’s okay; to Mauriac this reality involves “a poor woman” driven to “stretch her hands to the cool waters of Eternal Life.” It makes sense to do so.

Politics: An F Grade For Two Justices

What has happened intellectually to leftists?

Six Supreme Court justices ruled that Lorie Smith, a Christian, did not have to honor same-sex marriage in her website design. Justice Sonya Sotomayor, a dissenter, argued that the Court must never permit a business to “refuse to serve a customer based on race, sex, religion or sexual orientation.” The Court isn’t doing that, and Miss Smith has been libeled.

Joe Biden puts out an executive fiat for cancelling massive student-loan debt, but loses his case in the Supreme Court. The result of this ruling, to Justice Elena Kagan—another leftist dissenter—“is that the Court substitutes itself for Congress and the Executive Branch in making national policy about student-loan forgiveness.” The Court—making policy? (Congress, by the way, did not support Biden’s aim.)

It’s The Oregon Suburbs, But “We Don’t Live Here Anymore”

When adultery becomes, or is seen to be, a dead end; when it is an unfortunate salve; the appeal and hard responsibility of family—this and more is what the John Curran film, We Don’t Live Here Anymore (2004), is about. It revolves around some Oregon people’s marriages (two of them) and inexorable adultery.

With vivid flavor Laura Dern enacts Terry, the picture’s only sympathetic adult character. Mark Ruffalo is Jack, Terry’s English-teaching husband, said by critic Stephanie Zacharek to be “too shapeless to evoke either our anger or our pity.” To me this doesn’t matter: it’s enough that we don’t approve of naughty Jack until, well, we do, in the film’s moving last minutes. Ruffalo’s performance is incisive.

Naomi Watts and Peter Krause are also in this movie adapted from two Andre Dubus stories. The sex shots are tedious, but Larry Gross deserves credit for the screenplay.

Western Crucible: “Stagecoach”

Christian America in the 19th century needed to be more Christian—an implication, this, in John Ford‘s Stagecoach (1939). A prostitute (Claire Trevor) and a drunken doctor, Boone (Thomas Mitchell), are legally kicked out of a nicely developing town by its prim ladies. They take their places in the stagecoach headed for Geronimo’s land! It’s a good thing John Wayne‘s Ringo, also on the stagecoach, is a crack shot.

In an earlier review, I opined that this movie is a fairy tale—a palatable Old West fairy tale. And although it says little, really, about society, it does focus on personal change and the proving of oneself through a crucible.

Ford’s direction is wonderfully workmanlike. The bloody fate of Luke Plummer, a murderer, is excellently done. Except for the almost mechanical Wayne, among the principal actors the work ranges from decent (Louise Platt) to superlative (Mitchell).

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