A teenage virgin embarks on a kinky sexual odyssey with a man over twice her age.
Almost a quarter of a century ago, Nagisa Oshima scandalised the film world with his brutally explicit Ai No Corrida. Now, South Korean director Jang Sun-Woo looks likely to spark an equally vehement controversy with his unflinching adaptation of Jang Jung Il's novel, Tell Me A Lie, which was not just banned by the authorities back in 1996, but also landed its author in jail before all unsold copies were destroyed.
Fascinated by her school friend's account of a liaison with a 38 year-old sculptor, known only as J (Lee), an innocent teenager, Y (Kim), arranges a rendezvous and quickly falls under the spell of her gently domineering lover. But soon they are experimenting with whips and canes, before Y takes control of the relationship and administers increasingly aggressive beatings in a manner that J's artist wife refused to do.
And that's about it as far as plot is concerned. There's a vague political subtext and a brief exploration of the status of women within this outwardly modern state. But the remainder concentrates on the often graphic documentation of the couple's sex life, with much of the activity being shot with a handheld camera.
Apparently, Lee fell in love with his fellow non-professional actor during production, but Kim was only willing to engage in non-simulated sex in the interests of her art. Jang opens the action with short interviews with his leads, in which they discuss their reservations on embarking upon the project, and for all the film's provocative power, this might have been a more intriguing avenue to explore.
Certainly, the sado-masochism and coprophilia on display will excite media interest. But, as with Catherine Breillat's Romance, the film lacks the substance to warrant such intellectual frenzy.