Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Rule 3 - The Naked Kitchen

I've been working on a review of Hong Ji-Yeong's 2009 release The Naked Kitchen, which seems not to have received much attention despite its quite bankable cast. (The Naked Kitchen is a misleading tease of a title; the Korean title is simply the English word Kitchen, transliterated into Korean. From here I'm just going to call it Kitchen.) Darcy didn't even list it in upcoming releases at as far as I can tell, and he's usually quite thorough. One thing that struck me when I watched it was how well it conformed to the Alison Bechdel / Liz Wallace Rule for movies, which requires that they have at least 1) two women characters, who 2) talk to each other about 3) something other than a man.

Kitchen meets the requirement with ease, perhaps because writer-director Hong is a woman. Ahn Mo-rae (played by Shin Min-a, left in the photo above) lives happily with her financier husband Sang-in (played by Kim Tae-woo, right), and has her own shop which sells parasols decorated with her own painted designs. Her friend Kim Sun-woo is a photographer, still unmarried, and they talk to each other a great deal during the movie, not just about men (Sun-woo thinks Mo-rae married too young and needs more experience) but about their work. Early in the movie, for example, Sun-woo drafts Mo-rae to help her photograph a wedding, so they talk about the work they're doing and about Mo-rae's pay for the gig. Sun-woo is a familiar type, the slightly older, tough, brassy working female buddy, but she has a good-sized role in the story, and I find her very sympathetic. (I couldn't, however, find any photos online of the two women together.)

Other than that, Kitchen is pretty conventional. Sang-in quits his job to pursue his lifelong dream of being the chef in his own restaurant, and brings from France a young cooking prodigy, Park Du-re (played by Joo Ji-hoon, center in the top photo), to coach him and help work out the menu. Du-re and Mo-rae start an affair (Sun-woo was right, Mo-rae needed more experience) and things get complicated. Kitchen flirts, ever so delicately, with male homoeroticism -- there seems to be a hint that Sang-in and Du-re also had an affair when they met in France, which Du-re would like to rekindle in Korea; but the flirtation seems more fashionable than sincere. The 2006 hit The King and the Clown proved young Korean women to be as susceptible as young women elsewhere to the fantasy of pretty young men smooching each other, but Kitchen doesn't pursue the theme beyond the aforementioned hint. Too bad -- it might have improved the box-office.