King and the Clown, The (Wang-ui Namja) (2005)
|Year Of Production||2005|
|Running Time||121:04 (Case: 119)|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL (56:32)||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Jun-ik Lee|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
Korean Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Korean dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
Korean Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.85:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
South Korea has had one of the most active film industries in the world for quite a number years. Though this is certainly helped by tax schemes and a law that requires each cinema screen to show local content for a significant proportion of the year, the main reasons for the success of the industry are its diversity and the consistently high quality of its output. The King and the Clown, or Wang-ui Namja, was the industry's flagship release of 2006. Not only was it critically lauded, becoming that year's Korean submission for the Oscars, but it broke all kinds of Korean box office records (though many were broken again a few short months later by the comparatively high-budget and star studded The Host). The number of admissions totalled more than a quater of the population of the country. The mob was justified. The King and the Clown is an excellent movie.
Set in the early years of the 16th century, in the latter days of the volatile King Yeonsan's reign, The King and the Clown is the tale of two acrobatic performers that flee to the city of Seoul after killing their abusive manager. Jang-sang (Woo-seong Kam), nicknamed "The Captain", is a rather manly sort whose ambition matches his exceptional skill. He is accompanied by his lifelong friend Gong-Gil (Jun-gi Lee), an effeminate man who specialises in playing women (as this is an age where women were forbidden from performing). Eager to make a name for themselves in the city, the pair recruit three more street performers and start performing a comedy act lampooning the King (Jin-yeong Jeong) and his relationship with his new concubine Nok-su Jang (Seong-Yeon Kang). The show is an overnight success, but draws the attention of one of the King's senior advisors, Cheo-sun (Hang-Seon Jang), who has the troupe arrested for treason. As they are being punished, Jang-sang negotiates a reprieve; provided that his act can make the notoriously surly King laugh.
The Royal performance turns out to be an unexpected success with the King, who orders the troupe to move to the court as his personal jesters. This takes the King's ministry by surprise. The elder statesmen are even less impressed when the troupe's next performance, at the suggestion of Cheo-sun, lampoons the corruption within the ministry. The performance begins a chain of events that leads to the bloody downfall of several of the ministers. Subsequent performances further expose the ills of the kingdom, but the troupe begin to realise that they have become political puppets whose hunger for success has placed them in a situation they cannot escape from.
The King's admiration for his jesters improves in leaps and bounds and he further alienates himself from the traditional members of his court in the process. He begins to form an infatuation with Gong-gil. Initially inviting Gong-gil to his chambers for private solo performances, the King forms a homosexual attraction to Gong-Gil as they spend time together. Whilst Gong-gil is not interested in the King's late night performances, he finds himself in a position that he has to humour the regent, whose increasingly bipolar moods threaten to harm the fellow players that Gong-gil regards as family. Unsurprisingly, the Nok-su Jang does not take kindly to her loss of favour and sets about sabotaging the relationship.
The film sinks its teeth into a number of topics that are rarely tackled by Korean cinema. Medieval drama is a genre that is rarely tackled by Korean film. Corruption and madness within the court of the Joseon Dynasty is not often a feature either. Unsurprisingly, the most controversial element of the film is its candid examination of the fine line between platonic love between men and homosexual love. Each of these angles are covered surprisingly well; in good detail, but without going so far as to flaunt them or reach for easy conclusions to tie the story together.
The King and the Clown begins as a reasonably light-hearted drama and skilfully transitions to a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions by its end. The largely unknown cast capture the intricate characters of the film superbly. The King and the Clown is highly recommended.
The film is presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and is 16x9 enhanced.
The image is a little soft, but largely free of grain and low-level noise. There is a reasonable level of detail in shadows and dark areas.
The film employs a rather vibrant colour scheme, which does a good job of depicting the lavish colours employed for everything by the wealthy (fabrics, building materials etc.) and the rather dull colours afforded by the lower class. Many of the scenes appear a little pale, however, with a very mild pink tinge to deep reds and slightly washed out blacks.
The transfer is generally free of film artefacts. There are no noticeable compression related artefacts noticeable.
The bold yellow English subtitles are clear and well timed. The translation is occasionally a little crude, though it does read well and reflects the different patterns of speech that occur between different classes of people very well - plenty of F's and C's when the peasants are talking in the pub and on the street, but quite formal dialogue within the court.
This is a RSDL disc. The layer break occurs at 56:32 but was not noticeable on my equipment.
A Korean DTS 5.1 (768 Kbps), Korean Dolby Digital (448 Kbps) and Korean Dolby Digital 2.0 (224 Kbps) audio track is present for the film.
The dialogue is clear and well synchronised to the video.
The score incorporates a lot of traditional percussion and minimal other traditional instruments. Hand drums and cymbals feature prominently. The score is a little unusual and suits the varying tone of the film extremely well.
The film makes good use of the surrounds for atmospheric effects and music. The subwoofer is masterfully used to pick up the bottom end of the traditional drums that are played by the performers in the film and are otherwise present in the soundtrack.
|Surround Channel Use|
A reasonably engaging Korean trailer for the film.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The King and the Clown is not currently available in any Region 1 or Region 2 English speaking territories. Various editions exist throughout Region 3, many featuring a making of featurette and photo gallery as well as trailers for the film, however at the time of writing we are unaware if English subtitles are available for the extras.
For now, the best option for English speaking audiences is this Region 4 edition.
A classic tale of laughter, lust and intrigue in a medieval Korean palace. The King and the Clown is one of the best movies to emerge from Korea to date.
The video is generally good but is a little on the soft side and the colours occasionally lack the vibrancy they deserve. The audio presentations and options are excellent. Unfortunately, the disc is sorely lacking in the extras department.
|DVD||Sony Playstation 3, using HDMI output|
|Display||Samsung 116cm LA46M81BD. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL).|
|Audio Decoder||Pioneer VSX2016AVS. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||150W DTX front speakers, and a 100W centre and 2 surrounds, 12 inch PSB Image 6i powered sub|