As if written on the basis of New York Times headlines about the Republic of Korea — “Samsung Bribery Scandal Threatens South Korea Success Story”, “South Korea’s Misogyny” and possible “Korean Official, Calling for Class System, Hears Woofs, Oinks and Outrage” — The Taste of Money takes a decidedly American look at the power dynamics of the various -isms that organise life in the East-Asian country.
A family that could give the Ptolemies a run for their money, the Yoons enjoy the power that comes with being a corporate dynasty as they order sex and murder à la carte from a variety of minions. Head minion is Young-Jak Joo, handsome and of advantageous low social standing.
The film employs a number of Hollywood film tricks, such as a dinner scene that one imagines was shot using a dolly-mounted camera, panning around the circumference of the family as each member ups the ante during a meal that would leave anyone reaching for the Tums.
Trapped in loveless marriages, both mother and daughter of the Yoon family use Young-Jak Joo in acts of sexual rebellion reserved only for men, which made me question where the real source of power lay — in the hands of the women, playing at being like the boys, or the hands of the men who married them to gain access to the Yoon family fortune?
Using sex as a metaphor for the exchanges of power in the asymmetrical relations held together by sexism and classism, there is an under-current questioning colonialism. The film presents the ways in which Korean women and culture are co-opted by American brokers, consumed and expelled in un-recognisable form. The paradox of using American style dialogue and filming techniques while exposing cultural imperialism remains an unresolved conflict that left me longing for a stronger taste of Korea.
By Mandisa Mpulo
Watch the final screening at Oliver Schreiner on 9 July at 3pm.