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Untold Scandal

Europe Meets Asia In This Sexy New Rendition

18th century Korea never looked so good. Scandalous wagers, jealousy, sexual conquests, manipulation and love abound in this faithful and skillful remake of the infamous novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses. Director Je-yong Lee brings the mores and social etiquette of the Chosun Dynasty to life and transfers the story from European aristocracy to Korean nobility with flare.

At first, it's difficult to keep track of who is sleeping with whom and who is trying to seduce whom, but you eventually figure it all out. Lady Cho (Mi-suk Lee), a well-respected noblewoman, isn't all that she seems to be. Instead of the model of serenity and grace she projects, the lady is a scheming, vengeful, lust-filled woman whose conscience has shrunk down to the size of a pea.

When her husband decides to take on a nubile, sixteen-year old concubine, So-ok (played with a raw naiveté by So-yeon Lee), she enlists the 'help' of her cousin-in-law, the philanderer-extraordinaire Lord Palatine aka Jo-won (Yong-jun Bae). The two enter into an enticing wager: he must deflower and impregnate So-ok and in return he will win something he's always desired -- a night with her. However, if he loses he will have to enter into a life of celibate monk hood. Spicing up the bet is Jo-won's quest to conquer the devout and chaste noblewoman Lady Sook (Jeon Do-Yeaon who is fantastic here). Lady Cho balks at this seemingly unmanageable task, but adds it into the stakes nonetheless. The rest, as they say, is history.

One of the best scenes includes Lady Cho being dressed and readied by her attendants; this lovely yet brief scene offers a fascinating glimpse into the rites and regimes from this time. Furthermore, all the characters are superbly rendered and nuanced. The villains are wicked yet vulnerable while the innocents on whom they prey reveal a steely underbelly. Indeed, Untold Scandal is full of delights, carnal or otherwise.

Rating: 4 stars out of 5