“The King & The Clown” is the 10th highest grossing domestic film in South Korea và upon release it was the highest grossing film in its history until “The Host” came along a few months later. This is most impressive for a film that was made on a pretty low-budget, did not feature A-List stars and tackled a controversial subject. So what exactly is it that made “The King và The Clown” (or “The King’s Man”, its original Korean title) tick with the masses?

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Jang-saeng và the effeminate Gong-gil are members of a street performers crew in 15th-century Joseon, who love to vì lewd skits and acrobatic acts which were very popular among the common public at the time, with Jang-saeng playing the male in the story và Gong-gil his female counterpart. Gong-gil is often pimped out by the crew’s leader, a fact which doesn’t sit well with Jang-saeng. An incident forces them lớn run away from their troupe và they decide lớn go to the Capital.

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Once there, they meet up with another group of street performers & together, they decide to vày skits that mock the King and the lifestyle inside the Royal Palace. The news reach cruel King Yeonsan’s ears who has the crew summoned to lớn the Palace to perform for him, after which he takes a shine to lớn the graceful Gong-gil.


Director Lee Joon-ik has made a career out of fantastic period dramas. A majority of the films in his filmography are of the genre and although “The King và The Clown” was only his sophomore effort, it remains his crowning glory. He successfully manages khổng lồ create a world of beauty, colour and affection, driven forward by the equally beautiful, colourful và affectionate people that inhabit it. While homosexuality is a theme that runs through the film, it never explicitly states if Jang-saeng loves Gong-gil in that way, & the only intimate tương tác between the King và Gong-gil happens when the King kisses a passed-out Gong-gil. Therein lies the title’s true strength. It truly carries the emotional vi xử lý core of the characters’ feelings. This film was released just a year after homosexuality was removed as a “socially unacceptable” behaviour by the Government và the delicacy with which it handles the relationships between the three leads worked massively in its favour.

A street performance in the beginning has Gong-gil declare, “Here comes a fool rash & proud. I never knew a fool who knows his place.” One is reminded of this at various junctions in the story as the events play out. An unhinged King sits on the Throne, street performers who have no place in the Palace are allowed to live there, the Clown pretends khổng lồ be the King for his performances while the actual King often joins in và bows down to the Clown, a woman who used lớn be a whore now sits beside the King as his consort, và a Clown, who knows nothing about royalty or politics, is made a Minister to lớn the King. By the time it dawns to lớn all of these fools that they may not be in their place, it is too late for them.

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The script relies heavily on the chemistry between the three leads. It was a very bold move lớn cast three actors who didn’t have a whole body of work before this, but it totally payed out! Kam Woo-sung is excellent as the ambitious, masculine Jang-saeng who just wants khổng lồ be out there performing with the one he cares for the most. Gong-gil is a character that not many actors would have wanted to lớn touch, but full credits to Lee Joon-gi for breathing life into him! His Gong-gil is very graceful, polite, naïve và yes, very beautiful too. He has indeed made the character his own and it would be difficult to imagine any other actor in the role. But it is Jung Jin-young who absolutely steals the show as the tyrannical King Yeonsan. The swings that he takes from the fun-loving young King khổng lồ an affectionate, loving man to a tyrannical ruler who knows no mercy are phenomenal. He is mesmerising to watch and leaves the viewer feeling almost sorry for a King who is known throughout history as one of the worst, most violent Kings of the Joseon dynasty.

The cinematography, mix designs & costume design demand special mention, as does the score of the film. While the grand sets and colourful costumes are beautifully captured by cinematographer Ji Kil-woong, composer Lee Byung-woo’s background score really elevates the scenes to new heights. This is most noticeable in the scenes of the performances by the troupes, both on the streets and within the Palace walls. Although the story has been adapted from the stage play “Yi”, the film looks and feels very cinematic in its scope & execution. It maintains a steady pace throughout with no scenes feeling out of place or unnecessary.

Movies dealing with homosexuality in South Korea are quite rare. “The King và The Clown” remains one of the finest, most subtle efforts lớn handle the subject. It is not merely a love story. It holds an emotional vi xử lý core that does not need words or actions sometimes. It just needs to be felt.