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Korean cinema now

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Most Korean films that have played in the Triangle, including Chunhyang, Chihwaseon and Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter ... and Spring, have been high-brow and traditional in execution. The two Korean films opening this weekend, however, showcase Korea's more flamboyant and exuberantly pop sensibilities.

Untold Scandal opens with a stern, perhaps tongue-in-cheek warning from a narrator: "The characters in these illustrations are promiscuous and immoral, so much so that we might doubt they ever existed." But then we're told that we're about to see an adaptation of Dangerous Liaisons. Blame it on those depraved Frenchmen! With this promising start, we settle into what is, at minimum, the 10th filmed version of the epistolary novel by Pierre-Ambroise-Francois Choderlos de Laclos, first published in 1782, and a version with a sexy depravity that is every bit the match of Stephen Frears' 1988 effort.

Also opening this weekend is Sky Blue, returning for a second engagement after a successful run at January's Nevermore Film Festival. The film haunts from the opening frames: Rain beats down on a blasted post-industrial landscape as we see a lone motorcyclist riding through the night. We learn that the world has been ravaged by environmental collapse, and a lucky few have taken refuge inside the fortified city of Ecoban. In a not-so-subtle dig at the industrialized West (e.g. the United States), we're told that Ecoban consumes most of the world's remaining resources for the benefit of the fortunate few.

Although the atmosphere is remarkably realized, the story itself is a somewhat routine rehash of Star Wars, complete with two young lovers, cute and quasi-criminal sidekicks and a daring solo assault on a Death Star-like fortress. However, the film's partisans say that much of the script's nuance has been lost in English translation. For those who are curious, and who speak Korean, a special three-disc DVD version of this film is available.

Untold Scandal opens Friday at the Galaxy Cinema in Cary and Sky Blue opens Friday at the Carolina Theatre in Durham.

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