Dasepo Naughty Girls
They say that variety is the spice of life. In a continuing attempt to embrace that variety here with One Movie | Each Day, I’ve decided to dedicate each Wednesday review to the stranger side of cinema, the type of movies that I’d never normally watch, or, at least, admit to watching, but that I’m kind of secretly glad exist. So, in celebration or in condemnation of the eccentric, the odd, the freaky, the kinky, the ghastly, the freaky, the fearful, the flaky, and the freaky, I now present what is by far the longest review I’ve ever written, as I look at the mishmash of craziness that is this, the twenty-fifth edition of Wednesday Weirdness.
Well, that was certainly weird.
One way that I can always tell that I’ve truly achieved Wednesday Weirdness is when I have no idea where to begin my review. Such is the case with today’s movie, Dasepo Naughty Girls. So I’m just going dive in and do my best to describe the film, because without some context the review won’t make much sense.
Oh, and there’s a lot going on in this one, so this review is probably going to get long. Also, SPOILERS will abound.
A Korean film based on a quirky web comic, Dasepo Naughty Girls is bright and shiny, and features a gaggle of quirky characters. Unfortunately the plots, (and yes there’s no way to use the singular there,) are a jumbled mess, while the tone of the movie is just all over the place. Sometimes it’s absurd, sometimes it’s dramatic, sometimes there’s a heartfelt recitation of poetry by W.B .Yates, sometimes right after that a character accidentally farts on a book of poetry by W.B. Yates. Then there’s the incident with the dragon… but I’m getting ahead of myself.
The film follows the antics and adventures of the students, at No Use High. The opening titles/dance number makes it clear that No Use High is a very odd place. All students are divided into classes based on their religion; there’s a class for Buddhists, Muslims, Christians, etc. the film is mainly interested in students in the Atheist class. I’d imagine this was probably an important part of the comic, but it really doesn’t seem matter in the film, (except perhaps as cultural sub-text that I might well have missed.)
Much of the time the film seems to be a twisted musical high school sex comedy, sort of like American Pie meets High School Musical, but weirder. However, as I watched it, it became apparent that the film isn’t so much about appealing to teen sexuality, as it about parodying it. This could, and does, provide plenty of comedic fodder. Unfortunately it’s just one of many, many, themes going on in this movie.
The film starts on a high note, with a substitute teacher informing the class that their teacher is absent from school because he’s being treated for an STD. When he recommends that one of the female students head to the clinic to be tested she initially denies having slept with the teacher, but then mysteriously asks to be dismissed early. When she leaves another student realizes that he too has an urgent need to go to the clinic. This leads to a chain reaction where in ones and twos all the students realize they need to leave too. When the class is down to only two remaining students, the remaining girl asks to be dismissed because she has “a date with a client”. This leaves only one poor despondent student behind. This is how we are introduced to Cyclops (Kyeon Lee), he’s a social outcast, because, as his name implies, he only has one giant bulbous eye in the center of his face.
Only one of the characters in this movie has a proper name, they’re all named for physical traits, or their role in the school, or some other descriptor. The girl who excused herself from class last turns out to be the main character, Poor Girl (Ok-bin Kim). Poor Girl, as the name implies, comes from a very poor family, she walks around with something like a stuffed animal that vaguely resembles a monkey on her back at all times, she refers to it as “Poverty”, and she sadly feels like Poverty is her only friend.
Poor Girl, her mother and brother live in a one room hovel, and are debt-ridden. Her mother’s plan to generate income is clearly a pyramid scheme that only serves to drive the family further into debt. With no options, and wanting to be able to provide for her little brother, Poor Girl has decided to resort to prostitution.
Around this point, roughly three scenes in, any sense of coherence to the film’s plot breaks down. Having watched the film I can now somewhat re-assemble it in four distinct storylines.
In what I’ll call Story 1 Poor Girl decides to sell her body for money to support her family. However, her first client just wants someone to play video games with. When the thugs that run her neighborhood find out what she’s doing they decide she may be of interest to their Boss. Poor Girl nervously goes to rendezvous with the boss, only to find he’s not interested in sex. The boss is actually a cross dresser, who wants to be called Big Razor Sis (Lee Won-jong). Big Razor Sis likes to dress and act like a teenage girl, and he just wants Poor Girl to hang out and gossip with him, like girlfriends.
After they’ve been spending some time together, dressing in cute outfits, and taking sassy pictures of themselves, the pair begin to bond. Poor Girl tells Big Razor Sis about her real concerns, and all of a sudden things get real serious, as she describes considering suicide. Fortunately, Big Razor Sis is there to console her and their friendship becomes something genuine.
Then they get kidnapped by a sex cult.
The leader of a strange cult like group dispatches her minions to obtain a virgin for sacrifice. Given specific instructions on where to find Poor Girl, they instead happen upon Big Razor Sis, kidnap him, and then when they see Poor Girl, they abduct her as well.
Back at the abductors lair we learn that they’re only interested in having a virgin dance for them because of sexual energy… or something. Anyhow, they dismiss Big Razor Sis with a chorus of boos, as they think that the fat ugly girl dances like a wrestler. However, they’re entertained by awkward shaky dance that Poor Girl does, and they let the pair go.
The next dramatic turn comes because Big Razor Sis captured a video of Poor Girl’s dance on his cell phone, (which, naturally the kidnappers let him keep.) When he uploads the video to the web it goes viral. Big Razor Sis, now in his male persona, uses his connections to make Poor Girl the latest pop phenomenon.
Sadly, her time at the top is brief, as rumors soon swirl that the shaky dance girl had worked as a teen prostitute, and that her manager was both a transvestite, and her client. The scandal ends her career as a pop icon, but she makes enough money to escape poverty. Then Poverty literally crawls off her back, she has a meaningful monologue about how it made her a better person, or some such junk, as it waves good bye.
So that was story 1.
Story 2 is about Anthony, a suave rich kid who recently transferred to No Use High from Switzerland. Anthony is shallow and loves “complaining” to his friends about his many girlfriends that are constantly sending him text messages.
One day he and his friends are at a fancy restaurant when they encounter Cyclops. They taunt him some, but are silenced when Cyclops is joined by his stunningly beautiful sister, Two Eyes (Eun-seong Lee). Anthony is instantly smitten with Two Eyes, however, his entire world is turned upside down when he discovers that she is actually anatomically male.
This prompts Anthony to go through a great deal of self examination, and a karaoke-style musical number. He bemoans the fact that Two Eyes is a man. He questions his own sexuality. In one scene he is heartened when he hears Two Eyes telling Cyclops that she’s saving up for gender reassignment surgery. After that, well he leaves and that seems to be the end of this story. Apparently he decided he wasn’t interested anyhow.
Story 3 is where things get really weird.
A strange thing begins happening at No Use High, one by one some of the girls are losing all interest in sex and having fun, and instead are dedicating themselves to working hard at their studies. When this happens, first to Class Monitor (Park Hye-won) then to Vice-President Girl (Nam Oh-jeong) it gets everybody’s attention.
As if they were the Hardy Boys, or the Mystery Team, or something, Anthony’s friends, Spiked Hair (Yoo Geon) and Pompadour (Lee Min-hyeok) decide to investigate. After interrogating the girls, they figure out it has something to do with the school’s principal, who has been behaving strange lately.
Then… honestly I’m not going to even try the blow by blow on this one. Suffice to say, it turns out that the principal has been replaced or possessed by a monster who is, apparently, feeding off of repressed sexual energy to transform into its true form… a DRAGON!
I think this whole segment may be a critique of religion. Maybe. Anyhow, the students wind up rebelling and confronting the monster, only to wind up allowing its transformation to be completed. Then the dragon just flies away.
Ok, story 4:
Poor Girl has a crush on Anthony. She’s bordering on obsession, but, of course he doesn’t notice her. Until one day he finally does. This may have been tied to her nascent celebrity from late in story 1, but honestly I’m not sure.
Anthony comes to visit Poor Girl at her hovel. She’s humiliated, but he meets her mother, accidentally knocks over her jar of urine, and declines to buy one of her pyramids. Poor Girl is terrified about what Anthony will think about the absolute poverty she’s living in, but he takes it all in stride… until he accidentally falls into the hole in the poorly-lit communal outhouse that serves Poor Girl’s neighborhood.
After he angrily leaves, Poor Girl’s mother (Im Ye-jin), reveals that years ago she had a son that she sent for adoption to Switzerland, and she’s convinced that Anthony is that son. This has her very excited because she’s convinced that her lost son has come back to lift the family out of poverty. (Even though, at this point, if we’re paying attention to the other plotlines, her daughter is the hottest new pop cultural phenom in the country.)
Poor Girl, meanwhile, is super conflicted. The boy she has a crush on might be her brother. And he’s mad at her because he fell in the shitter. The next time we come back to this story he apologizes for getting mad about the latter, but the more he shares about his background the more it fits with the story of Poor Girl’s lost brother. However, he isn’t. Turns out that the adopted son is actually a disgruntled burn out, who finds the family after posting an angsty video on the internet. Crises averted. Plot abandoned.
So that’s it for the major plots. There are a couple other short episodes in the film, that are essentially stand alone comedy bits. In one Cyclops has to share a text book with the prettiest girl in class, Bellflower (Byeol Kim). He’s super excited to read notes written in the margins, detailing the book’s owner’s explicit fantasy about Cyclops! Sadly it turns out the book does not belong to Bellflower.
Then there’s another episode involving a student pretending to study at home while actually pretending to be a girl and chatting up another girl over the internet… if only his dad would stop interrupting him. This episode also winds up with an all too predictable case of mistaken identity.
Well, that certainly sets a record for the longest and most detailed description of a plot in the history of One Movie | Each day.
I suppose the reason I’ve done this, is I really want you my loyal readers to appreciate the absolute strangeness contained in this movie… but I don’t want you to have to watch it. I suppose I also wanted to write out the plots so that I could try to get my head around them.
The issue is that while I’ve broken down all the various plot elements by how they go together, (as near as I can tell), in the actual movie they’re all cut together. This gets fairly confusing, especially for the story involving both Poor Girl and Anthony, because while its unfolding they’re both involved in other stories that should definitely impact them. Its very confusing.
Perhaps more confusing than the varied plots, is the varied moods and tones in the film. It jumps from raunchy sex comedy, to sing-a-long musical, to introspective character study, to fantasy adventure, to cold drama, to purveyor of fart jokes, seemingly at random. It’s hard to know how to feel. Am I supposed to laugh at Poor Girls plight as she describes contemplating suicide? Because just a minute ago we were all “ha ha” when her intimidating John turned out to be a fat guy in a schoolgirl uniform.
I can certainly see how this would all work as a comic. That’s a medium that allows for stories of varying length, from quick episodes, to longer and involved multi-strip arcs. Also, because each entry in a comic series is something of a distinct entity it can change tones radically from one installment to another, because they’re not supposed to be read as part of one whole.
I did like the characters, and found a lot of what happened to be entertaining, and even laugh-out-loud funny at times. If I could read Korean I’d probably read the web comic. Unfortunately, put together as it is here… it’s just a mess.
This movie does have some things going for it. The acting is perfectly fine. I also have to give it credit for dealing with some mature subject matter deftly. Considering it’s a comedy about sexuality, featuring a sex cult, prostitution, a pre-op transgendered teen, and a cross dressing gangster, the film is surprisingly chaste. There’s no actual sexual situations, and the two instances where there could be nudity are blatantly censored for comedic effect. So, kudos to the filmmaker for working well within bounds that were clearly placed on him.
That said, I can’t recommend this movie, it’s a nice effort, and I’m sure it’s got its fans. I laughed out loud once or twice, but at the end of the day it’s just Not Worth Seeing.
[Dasepo Naughty Girls (Dasepo sonyo, 다세포 소녀)(2006) – Director: Je-yong Lee – Not Rated]