Cannes 2012 Review: The Taste of Money (Do-nui Mat)
A darkly absurd tale of sex and money comprises The Taste of Money, a Korean film about an idealistic young employee for a wealthy and eccentric family that within their mansion, harbor plenty of personal and professional secrets.
A hierarchy spanning three generations, with a power couple running the show, the son following orders—the daughter not so much—and the wheelchair-stricken father pulling strings from behind the curtain, the wealthy Korean family can’t help but take down each other and all those who work for them.
When the father is caught having an affair with a young employee, their world is turned upside down—or maybe they only think so. Do they really have problems, or do they just want to create some? As serious and dark as the movie can be, which as one would expect involves bloody murder and deviant sex, it loves to subvert itself with absurdity.
Young-jak is the family employee that slowly witnesses the deceit and corruption of such a life of luxury, and when his first visit to the family vault in the opening of the film is filled with humility and awe, you can be sure that a later visit has different motives. As he watches the family implode, as rise between husband and wife, and mother and daughter, among others, Young-jak is incriminated too, trying to fix problems with his impractical idealism.
Equally naïve though more complacent is the daughter, who falls for Young-jak, but stands by and watches as he is manipulated by her mother and father. As the matriarch watches her husband fall for their young Filipino maid, she spites him by forcing herself upon the much, much younger Young-jak, making for one of the funnier and bizarre moments of a movie continually punctuated by the odd.
The family elder, pushed around in his wheelchair by a seedy, androgynous looking assistant, enters the scenes at random, often when drama is unfolding, only to make fun of his kin, laugh hysterically, and exit as quickly as he entered.
Directed by Sang-Soo Im, the film wins because of style, though substance is a bit lacking. Money and power are insatiable it proclaims, and one way or another, everyone will succumb. The lavish life looks spectacular, and even the darks hearts on the inside of so many characters are veiled by proper facades.
Though not particularly deep, the movie is thoroughly entertaining if for no other reason to watch such self-absorbed people slowly fall. They are malicious, but because it is all done within the family, they only come off as ridiculous and not exceptionally evil. Sure, they cheat and steal, but it’s fun to watch.