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Shin Han-sol



Run time:

1h 50m

Utterly ridiculous sex comedy where a local village outcast takes a potion transforming him into a lover of incomparable virility

The right mood is needed to watch A Tale of Legendary Libido and its preposterous, immature stylings to have their desired effects.

This is no awards season work of auteur majesty, but should an unserious mood take over and a goof-filled near-two hours are required, it will get the job done.

The story centres on Byeon Gang-soe (Bong Tae-gyu), a rice cake seller in a remote mountainous village during Korea’s Joseon Dynasty. Gang-soe is cast as the village idiot and marginalised by the area’s women for his famously diminutive manhood.

To make matters worse, his brother Kang-mok (Oh Dal-su, Oldboy) is a well-endowed ladies’ man, who draws Gang-soe’s jealousy, even if his more popular brother still attempts to protect him.

Sick of being vilified in the village by its man-hungry woman looking for suitors, Gang-soe is told of a potion buried in the forest that can make him the greatest lover. He duly takes the potion and turns the tables on his previously unlucky love life.

The film takes a turn towards war themes and Gang-soe must use his new found sexual powers to protect the village. No, really.

To say this film is wilfully stupid is an understatement. It is filling your name in wrong on an IQ test. Setting fire to your trousers to stay warm. Making ice in the oven.

To take enjoyment from this silly outing, you just have to go with it. Accept the film for what it is. Take it as seriously as it deserves and enjoyment can be found.

There are elements of clumsy charm in the film too though. The loser turned winner tale can spark some feel-good factors. Plus some musical numbers that are serviceable, including an obscure synchronised swimming set-up and a closing song.

Visually the film works well, the cinematography is tidy and the production design compelling. The rural setting and period costumes offer an interesting juxtaposition with the film’s crude sex themes.

What makes the film seem uneven is how the ridiculous set-up gives way to a more serious drama. The genre-scrambling of Korean cinema is almost always welcome, but it seems more misplaced here. You are prepared for an onslaught of silliness, but find yourself navigating a melodrama.

Perhaps the main error the film makes is its runtime. This should be a brief little oddball flash, coming in at 90 minutes tops. That it is closer to two hours ensures it overstays its welcome. Good will to such a film is limited and the limit expires here.

Still, there will be something in here for some audiences. Take nothing seriously and there are guilty laughs to be had.

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