Don't you just hate spoilers? I do, too. That's why I always try to include warnings. However, I sometimes ramble a bit too much here or there and maybe a few (or many) key plot points slip without me giving proper notice. So I'd like to include a blanket spoiler warning for the weary internet travelers of the world: Here There Be Spoilers. You've been warned.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Masquerade (Gwanghae, Wangyidoen Namja)

Well, thanks to an ass-kicking virus, I've been forced into taking a bit of a mini-vacation. Last night I felt like I was going to actually die and the same goes for this morning. I've been forced to stay in bed because getting up and actually walking around is almost impossible. So I've been doing some much-needed queue clearing when my head hasn't been feeling like it's going to explode. 

Who says I can't make the most of the situation?

My first entry regarding my "virus watchings" is the 2012 Korean costume drama Masquerade. If you are a fan of The Prince and the Pauper and/or Dave then Masquerade might be just the movie for you since it also deals with the topic of two people that look alike switching roles. Although in this case it's a bit more one-sided. 

During the Joseon era there was a king named Gwanghae and he was prone to ideas that people were out to assassinate him. So he had his servants go out and find someone that looked just like him. Ironically, the one person that looked just like him was a low-born jester that knew more about making fun of the king then being one. 

After some convincing the jester becomes king when the king calls him to do so. However, when the king is poisoned the jester is called to a more permanent form of impersonation until the king can recover. 

Both the king and the jester are portrayed by Lee Byung-hun, one of my favorite Korean actors. As the king he is ruthless and brutal, but as the jester he is goofy and warm. In both roles he is very convincing and watching the jester gradually "become" king is very rewarding. 

This movie was truly hilarious at times, too. Probably the funniest moment was when the jester was learning what it was like to take a dump like a king. The king's bowel movements were very, very important. 

I'm not sure what comes to mind for a lot of people when they hear the words "period pieces" or "costume drama," but whatever preconceived notions I had of those terms were blown away. 

This movie is definitely excellent to look at. There are no special effects (outside of there being two Lee Byung-huns in the same scene) or explosions or anything like that, though. This movie really is a bunch of people talking while wearing costumes. However, it is incredibly beautiful to watch. It actually felt like I had been transported back to late-1500's Korean. Also take into account that most of this movie takes place inside of rooms or closed-in spaces. There's not a lot of greenery. Yet every scene seems almost breathtaking. 

The cast is excellent, but this movie is undoubtedly made by Lee Byung-hun's presence. I've never seen his Hollywood movies, but in all of his Korean movies he is an absolute juggernaut. He doesn't disappoint here. His ability to flawlessly perform dual roles is the strongest part of this movie. 

A Korean movie named I Am a King had a similar plot and came out during the same year as Masquerade, but I Am a King flopped while this Masquerade became a huge success. Lee Byung-hun's superstar status probably brought much of that success to this movie, but after you watch this movie you'll realize that this movie was extremely well-made and that it deserves its reputation as one of the better Korean movies. I haven't seen I Am a King so I can't say anything about that movie. 

I managed to watch this before its presence on Netflix expired, but I'll undoubtedly get it on blu-ray. It's definitely worth watching more than once. 

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