The Taste of MoneyThursday 24 Oct 2013
Director: Im Sang-Soo
Starring: Starring Kim Kangwoo, Baek Yoonsik, Yoon Yuhjung, Kim Hyojin
Duration: 114 minutes
From the lofty heights of their curiously austere palace, a South Korean family preside over a vast conglomerate, their wealth maintained by a system of back-handers to well-placed officials.
As the corporation prepare for a risky deal with an American interest, things go somewhat pear-shaped. The ever vigilant matriarch Geum-Ok (Yoon Yuhjung) spots her husband, the company president Yoon (Baek Yoonsik) in flagrante with the Filipino housemaid. She duly vows to destroy him.
However, Yoon calls her bluff, declaring his contempt for money and in effect the family he married into. He is prepared to leave the house and his loveless marriage to the steely Geum-Ok to set up a new life with the Filipino mother-of-two.
Meanwhile, the estranged couple's son and heir has narrowly avoided prosecution for tax evasion. Their daughter Nami (Kim Hyojin) is divorced.
At the centre of the story - the young man who gets the ambivalent 'taste of money' in question - is Yoon's private secretary, Young-Jak Joo (Kim Kangwoo). He differs from the family who hired him in that he has a conscience and doesn’t like what he sees in this rotten household.
Prostitutes and masseuses are hired to soften up the American deal broker, there's champagne drinking in the bath and in the very swish swimming pool. But Young-Jak also gets sucked into the vortex of deceit and sex, against his better instincts.
Stylish, noirish thriller or stylised, vacuous exploration of greed and lust - it's hard to say which - The Taste of Money makes Dynasty look grubby. It proceeds coldly with a glacial, corruscating grace. There is no mood music, the smiles are all nasty, the humour, for what it is, is relentlessly vengeful, twisted.
As in a stage play, the action is almost entirely played out in the palatial HQ whose rooms seems transparent, all-revealing. Practically no one does anything in private that doesn't come quickly to light under all that pin-sharp lighting, acres of interior glass and secret filming.
Not sure what the point is - it's just a soap on film really - but The Taste of Money is worth it for sheer audacity. The film can be seen at the IFI and selected cinemas.