Synopsis: Garujigi is a raunchy American Pie-esque sex comedy done in feudal Korea! Constantly ridiculed by women in his village, Byun one day discovers the mystical power of never-ending erection from an old monk.
eyelights: the basic premise. the sexy bits. the countless lovely ladies.
eyesores: the limitations of the premise. the spareness of the gags.
‘Garujigi’ is a 2008 Korean sex comedy. Set in the pre-industrialized past (Wiki vaguely says the Joseon Dynasty, which lasted from 1392 to 1897), it tells the story of Byeon, a witless rice cake salesman from a small mountainous village, who is openly mocked by the village’s highly-libidinous women for having a small penis and weak sex drive.
As thanks for releasing an old man who was hung up in a tree, he is told the secret of a highly potent wine that’s been buried away and long forgotten. Made from the phallic-shaped nose of a local fertility God who had caused havoc in the village, just a sip could make of Byeon a sexual powerhouse. But anything more would spell danger for the village.
Too bad that Byeon was long gone before the old man completed his warning.
And so goes ‘Garujigi’, which is known as ‘A Tale of a Legendary Libido’ here North America. You can already imagine the trouble that’s inevitably brewing, especially since all of the village’s men are sent to war – except Byeon, who was too busy drinking all of the potion to be sent as well. Now, as the only man left behind, there will be mischief.
Lots of mischief.
Thankfully, there’s more to the picture than this, with a subplot about a newly-arrived young woman who all the men have their eyes on, and who has been lodging with Byeon and his good-natured, handsome brother. There’s also the setting up of the story, which takes up the whole first act – by far the most interesting part of ‘Garujigi’.
And there are the lovely Korean women. Wow. Breathtaking. They’re all just so pretty, delicate, pristine. And frequently naked. Or at least frequently enough to get the taste buds going. Actually, it’s all very clean, even if the humour isn’t; even when characters are being sexual, nothing but a little bit of gratuitous flesh is shown.
That would never happen here; it’s far too subtle by our standards.
Honestly, part of what I like in this movie is the fact that the women are the sexual powerhouses in the story, even if Byeon is the protagonist: it’s an older woman’s desire that started the whole ball rolling with the fertility God, it’s the village’s women who are on the make, it’s their desire that drives Byeon on after he gains his new powers.
In pop culture, it’s still relatively rare for women to have a strong sexual drive without them being spoken of in pejorative terms. Here, it’s just a matter of fact, and it’s not played up in a demeaning way or even frowned upon. It’s also not played up to the advantage of men – aside for Byeon, whose own powers are imparted by women anyway.
I found that refreshing.
Another thing I liked was how beautiful the film could be, from the women, locations, costumes, …etc., to the random choreographies that peppered it: the filmmakers indulged not in musical numbers, but in elaborate choreographed numbers. It was kind of like a musical but with its three or four bits on mute; it was all just for fun.
And it was fun. While I found that ‘Garujigi’ seemed to lose its potency once Gyeon gained his own, as it didn’t really seem to know what to do with itself afterwards (surprisingly enough), it’s an enjoyable comedy. And it’s sexy at times, too. So, although it’s mischaracterized as being akin to ‘American Pie’, it’s certainly worth a look.
Date of viewing: January 6, 2016