GREEN CHAIR is a tale of forbidden love between a 32 year old divorced woman and a 19 year old college student. Based on a true story, GREEN CHAIR is the first film in four years from controversial director Park Chul-Soo, best known for "301,302". Seo Jeong (THE ISLE, Spider Forest) plays Kim Mun-hee, a nice, beautiful 32-year-old woman who's making whoopee with a 19 year old boy, Hyeon ( Shim Ji-ho). Unfortunately for them, 20 is the age of consent in Korea, and she's arrested, locked up and sentenced to community service.
The film begins with Mun-hee and Hyeon in a hotel room. Then fast-forward to several months after Mun-hee has been placed on probation after her parole. Upon her release, Mun-hee tries to ditch the handsome young 19 year old, but he just won't go away (Looking at Korean bombshell Seo Jeong, I wouldn't want to leave either) and Hyeon proves very persistent. Instead the two shack up in a motel and have a few more days of exhausting marathon sex (why not?) with only the occasional pause when Mun-hee comtemplates that she is risking everything just to be with Hyeon. Eventually, doubts start to creep into Mun-hee's mind, and even though she is in love with him, she decides to end the affair. However, Mun-hee couldn't resist Hyeon's persistence and their relationship enters a new serious phase…
At first impression, Park Chul-Soo's Green Chair may seem like a straightforward tale of forbidden love, erotic sex and the occasional sense of guilt, but it ends up being a lot more than that. The first act of the film is highly explicit; there is quite a bit of nudity, Seo Jeong is in her birthday suit in the first few minutes. The film doesn't merely focus on eroticism, so I don't think it will turn off a lot of viewers. The film has several political overtones and I’ve read that this incident proved to be the catalyst for the change in legal age in Korea. This film however, doesn’t place its focus on its political overtones but rather the relationship between Mun-hee and Hyeon.
I do have misgivings about the Hyeon character, and while Shim Ji-Ho and Jeong Seo have chemistry, it isn’t quite convincing as to what Mun-hee sees in him to risk everything. Granted, Hyeon’s character is one bright kid and he is handsome, but is it just plain ego, loneliness or lust that drives Mun-hee to this behavior? Hyeon appears to be a responsible kid, and at first look, he may just have become addicted to all the hot intercourse. I guess the script doesn’t make the motivations crystal clear at first, director Park opts to let the viewer decide for themselves if this is indeed love or not.
The sex scenes are marvelously shot and doesn’t for one minute appear dirty. The scenes were artfully and skillfully executed that while the scenes are graphic, they didn’t look sleazy or exploitive. Director Park and his cinematographer definitely have a profound love for the naked human body especially when the two of them are having sex. There were some scenes that also proved endearing and touching in the way Mun-hee and Hyeon touch other. Some snippets of humor are also thrown in, as Mun-hee jokes after oral sex that her mouth had become pregnant. When things start to settle down and we get to observe all the details of Hyeon and Mun-hee's unusual relationship, from Hyeon's fondness for cooking to Mun-hee's preferences when it comes to mattresses and other stuff, the film presents such dimensions with warmth and humor, that results in a nuanced, touching and subversive love story. Characters are developed as a couple and I did kind of sympathize with the lovers' plight. This is where “Green Chair” is at its strongest, it exudes that warmth and charismatic appeal from its characters. However, I would have wished that Mun-hee and Hyeon were given more of a background as to who they were before they began this relationship.
Green Chair draws its strength from Park's inimitable style of directing and its great cast. Seo-Jeong or Jung Suh (same actress) has that physical presence that you just can't help but be enamored with her. She is renowned for her role in Kim Ki-Duk's "THE ISLE"; Seo Jeong brings a slightly unhinged vitality and raw sexy appeal to the character of Mun-hee; there was no doubt in my mind as to why Hyeon would be so taken by her. Newcomer Shim Ji-ho (as Hyeon) gives passion and confidence to his character; he is youthful yet so bold. Oh Yoon-Hong (Power of Kang-Won Province) plays Mun-hee's friend who takes the lovebirds in. The warm chemistry/camaderie shared between the 3 characters becomes one of the film's key strengths as we see them converse, open up and become closer with one another.
People who are only looking for pervy kicks will be disappointed and will be better off watching late night Cinemax instead. While there's plenty of sex on display and quite frankly they are nicely shot, the movie is more focused in the essential drama of problems and complications which are unavoidably inherent in every sex-based relationship, compounded when one partner is risking it all to stay in it. “Green Chair” serves somewhat of a cautionary tale on forbidden love; I guess it takes the idea of a one-sided relationship to extremes when Mun-hee has a lot more to lose than Hyeon himself. Prison time is definitely no joke, director Park asks: Is it all worth it?
GREEN CHAIR is not a perfect film, but it is funny and beautiful with its poetic digressions. It is a pro-sex movie with a touch of human drama. It is a bit on the "artsy" side but I hope it gives you some ideas. The thing with Park Chul-Soo’s film isn’t all about finding the answers but rather asking them. Many would wonder as to what the film’s intentions were, is it merely an erotic drama based on an older woman and younger man barely in the age of consent? It is a tale about relationships, happiness and passion. Plus, the strong performance by Seo Jeong makes this film above mediocre.
Recommended! [3 ½ Stars]
It has been selected in the New York Asian film festival.