This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001



Epic Korean historical romance goes from titillation to tragedy

Tribeca Cinemas
54 Varick St. at Laight St.
Tuesday, June 5, free, 7:00
Series concludes Tuesday, June 19

Sex can be a very dangerous game, as clearly displayed in the epic Korean historical drama Forbidden Quest. After being labeled a coward for not filing an appeal after the brutal beating of his brother, investigations officer Kim (Han Suk-kyu) is summoned by the king to track down a forger who replaced an original painting by his favorite concubine, Jung-bin (Kim Min-jeong), with an exact copy. Kim seeks help from the Angel of Death, justice administrator Lee (Lee Beom-soo), the very man who was behind the near killing of Kim’s brother, to catch the forger, but in so doing he discovers the hidden world of erotic literature, where a mysterious figure named In Bong has become a hero to the women of the community as he churns out dirty book after dirty book that are sold in secret. A well-respected writer and scholar, Kim is at first taken aback by the existence of this illegal underground literary sensation, but soon he immerses himself in it, taking the pen name Chu Wol Sek and turning out hotly anticipated sordid tales involving a lady of the royal court, inspired by his continuing contact with Jung-bin. But when he takes things too far, a scandal breaks out that threatens violence and death. Written and directed by Kim Dae-woo (The Servant), Forbidden Quest is an engrossing, erotically charged drama of loyalty, fidelity, honor, betrayal, and responsibility, driven by a strong lead performance by Han (Green Fish, The President’s Last Bang), who is always cool, calm, and collected as things swirl around him, showing a Zen-like resolve even in the most extreme of circumstances. But even he can’t help but crack a few smiles when using his male copiers to act out potential sex scenes for his novels. Forbidden Quest is screening for free June 5 at Tribeca Cinemas as part of the Korean Cultural Service film series “Epic Romance,” which concludes June 19 with Kim Yong-gyun’s The Sword with No Name.

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