The King and the Clown
While many still hear the phrase ”gay foreign film” and think European, those who pay close attention to the festival circuits know that over the past decade Asia has been the source of many excellent films. Too bad that too few people pay close attention to the festival circuit, because it means too few people have seen the amazing Korean historical drama The King and the Clown. Set in 17th century Korea, it follows two traveling performers — brash, bold Jang-sang (Woo-seong Kam) and effeminate, beautiful Gong-gil (Jun-ki Lee) — who find themselves entangled in the royal court of the country’s most notoriously cruel king. At heart, the film is a love story between the two, turned into a tragedy when the king becomes dangerously enraptured with Gong-gil. Funny, violent and tear-jerking by turns, The King and the Clown became one of Korea’s highest-grossing films of all time and launched Lee into superstardom. And underneath all the costumes and pageantry, the film never loses its focus on two men who come to understand how deep their connection is, in this life and the next. –SB
The Mudge Boy
Written and directed by Michael Burke, The Mudge Boy is a quiet, smoldering powerhouse about loss and sexual awakening. Following the death of his mother, Duncan Mudge (Emile Hirsch), a shy outcast in a small rural community, enters into a friendship with Perry, a virile, sexually feral young man. Through this unlikely relationship, both boys’ lives are forever altered. Hirsch, at the start of his career with this film, brings startling poignancy to Duncan, while the always-marvelous Richard Jenkins hits just the right understated notes as Duncan’s grieving, stern father. Burke’s movie is steeped in a Days of Heaven-reminiscent luminosity, courtesy of cinematographer Vanja Cernjul, and one shot in particular, set in a field aglow in sunlight, is so ravishing, it takes your breath away. You might grow impatient with The Mudge Boy‘s methodical, deliberate pace, but the payoff is worth it. The final moments leave you emotionally winded, and the film fully displays the acting chops of Hirsch, who went on to become one of the finest actors of his generation. –RS
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