Wang-ui namja (The King and the Clown) (2005)
Director: Joon-ik Lee.
Starring: Woo-seong Kam (Jang-sang), Jin-yeong Jeong (King Yeonsan), Seong-Yeon Kang (Nok-su Jang), Jun-ki Lee (Gong-gil), Hang-Seon Jang (Cheo-sun), Hae-jin Yu (Yuk-gab), Seok-yong Jeong (Chil-duk), Seung-hun Lee (Pal-bok).
two clowns arrested for satirizing the king must make the king, the worst Joseon tyrant, laugh or they will be executed; during the reign of Yeonsangun of Joseon (reigned 1494–1506)
"Korea's Chosun Dynasty, founded at the end of the 14th century, lasted until the 20th. Lasting over 500 years, its reign of 27 kings remains unmatched in the annals of world history. Each King was assigned Royal Secretaries who kept a diary on his behalf. The massive collection, called 'The Royal Records of the Chosun Dynasty,' has survived intact. The King of this story, The Records show, was singularly tyrannical: no King before or after him shared his excesses. Regardless, The Records also portray him as a man of great sensitivity and intelligence. When he was a child, his mother was forced to commit suicide by the court. Her death traumatized the future king and his developing character suffered. On September 2, 1506, he was dethroned violently after a revolt by the nobles."
Two clowns give a performance involving tight rope walking. One of them, Gong-gil, plays the role of the female. The other clown, Jang-sang, plays the horny suitor. In the middle of the performance Jang-sang sees two men talking about them. Jang-sang sits down on the tight rope and then lets himself just drop off the rope and onto the ground.
A man comes in to get Gong-gil at night. Jang-sang tells him not to go with the man. "There are things you shouldn't sell!" Gong-gil gets up to go with the man, but Jang-sang holds Gong-gil. For this the older man strikes the partner. Gong-gil tells the man to stop it and the man stops. Now Gong-gil starts to go and Jang-sang grabs onto one of her legs. The older man starts kicking Jang-sang. He says: "Gong-gil want to go, so what's it to you?" Jang-sang jumps up and screams at the man: "Stop pimping off of Gong-gil!" The older man starts beating Jang-sang again asking the partner: "Want us to starve to death?" Jang-sang jumps up and blocks the door. The older man comes over and knocks Jang-sang out using some type of pan.
Gong-gil is undressed by his client. Then Jang-sang comes into the room and tells Gong-gil to come out, it's all over. But Gong-gil says he's not leaving. So Jang-sang sits down by Gong-gil and says then they will both die together.
Now we see the two clowns trying to run from the men who have come to punish the two. Jang-sang is good at martial arts and he knocks many of the men down. Now the two start running again. They hide and get away from the men chasing them, but they then run into the older man. Jang-sang begs the man to let them go. The older man refuses, and Jang-sang punches the man in the face. In response the older man starts beating Jang-sang again. Then he is going to break one of Jang-sang's legs by bringing a club down on it. As the older man raises the club above his head, he is stabbed in the back by Gong-gil with a siecle. The two friends now start running away again.
They stop at a stream and Jang-sang wipes off the blood on the hands and face of Gong-gil. Gong-gil asks if Jang-sang thinks the man is dead? Jang-sang says the man deserved to die.
The two walk through a beautiful meadow. They practice a routine for their clown show. Then Jang-sang says they should go to Seoul.
The two arrive in Seoul. The two are awe-struck at the size of the city.
The two come across some street performers and Jang-sang kind of horns into their act. One of the other performers says that Jang-sang is a country bumpkin with ambition. The fellow knows does some fancier gymnastics to show up Jang-sang, but again Jang-sang with Gong-gil show up the Seoul performer. The people love the performance and show the two newcomers with coins.
In a restaurant, the man they showed up comes over to them and says his name is Six Legs. His partners are Seven Feathers and Eight Hands. Jang-sang asks him where is the biggest show spot in all of Seoul? Six Legs says it's been a long time since they had such a place. The reason is that the King has cleared out half the city to double his hunting grounds. But, he says, there is another type of show to put on.
Six Legs and the gang to a kind of card game. And Six Legs keeps winning. Their opponent mentions the name of Nok-su and Jang-sang asks who is Nok-su? The woman in Nok-su the Whore. "The bitch has the King living inside her skirt." Six Legs earned some good money with the game, but Jang-sang is not happy about it. He asks Six Legs that if tomorrow he wins makes more money for the gang, will Six Legs then listen to him? Six Legs wants to know the plan. Jang-sang says: "We mock the king." He adds: "The King's bed, that's where the big money is."
The expanded team puts on a show. Six Legs has his two men act like eunuchs. Then Gong-gil comes out strutting his stuff. The eunuchs ask isn't that the King;s Consort? There's some bathroom humor and then Jang-sang comes out as the Emperor. The Emperor has a huge gourd for a penis and while the Consort is defecating, he is urinating. A high court official sees the act.
After the show the team chows down on some restaurant food while laughing at their performances.
The high court official comes to see the show the next day too. Then all of a sudden palace guards encircle the actors and the leader shouts: "Take these wretches to jail at once." The actors are tied face down to a cross with their arms stretched out to the sides and the faces very close to the wood. The leader asks what were the actors expecting? "Did you expect a prize for mocking the King?" And now the order is given to flog the actors. The actors starts screaming as they get hit by long paddles. Jang-sang yells out to let them perform for the act for the Emperor. He says he knows they can make him laugh. The high court official is sitting nearby and he is interested in the act. He will allow the performance, but if the Emperor does not laugh, five heads will roll.
So the guys perform the act. They are extremely nervous with the threat of death hanging over their heads. The two men of Six Legs get stage fright and it's a rough beginning. And the middle part is not going well either. The actors are so upset that nothing is going well. Then Gong-gil starts a dialogue with Jang-sang and they put they emphasize sexual humor. Now this makes the Emperor laugh, even though it's very vulgar. The Emperor comes down off the throne and kneels down by the two actors bowing on the ground. He laughs. He stands up and bellows out: "Hear this! I shall suffer these clowns to entertain me from time to time. Prepare their quarters within the palace.
The five get their new quarters and dinner on a table is brought to them. They can't believe their luck.
The servants hear the Emperor and a woman acting out the vulgar performance, while laughing their heads off. The woman says that the Emperor stared so intensely at the one fellow who played her in the skit. She says his skin is so smooth that she wonders if he is really a woman. The Emperor just jumps on top of the Consort and starts pawing at her dress and laughing/giggling his head off.
In front of the court the Emperor is questioned about the suitability of such an off-color show to be shown before the Emperor. He asks what is so wrong with keeping the clowns at the palace. It is said that if the clowns stay there will be protest after protest against their performances. The Emperor gets upset and walks off from the throne to speak to a high court official, Cheo-seon, in private. He asks Cheo-seon: "Am I King or not?" The official tells the King to calm down. "The prudent hunter treads silently to capture the prey."
Another official speaks with Jang-sang and says there is a lot of criticism of the off-color performance. In fact, he says: "They see you as vermin to be gotten rid of as soon as possible." Jang-sang says if he new the King was so powerless, then he wouldn't have even bothered to mock him. He looks like a defeated man and turns to leave. The official, however, stops him with this bit of advice: "You had the guts to lampoon the King. So why not the ministers?" Now the fire comes back in Jang-sang's eyes and he tells the official that the act will need more minstrels.
The five actors advertise for minstrels and hundreds show up. Performance follows performance with everyone enjoying the spectacle.
Jang-sang now puts on another performance. Part of the time is with gymnastics and skill performance, but the other part includes a performance of a skit mocking the ministers. A minister comes to the King with a large gold turtle statue and tries to bribe his way into getting a good position for himself. The King rejects the gift over and over again. So the minister says he doesn't have enough money to get home on. So he will sell sell the gold turtle to the King for a nickel. The King says, in that case, he'll buy two golden turtles. The King and his consort have a good laugh at that. Another skit is then performed for the King and the court.
The King brings a gift down to Jang-sang and bows to the ground to him. This throws off Jang-san for a moment, but he says that he doesn't like gifts that are oddly shaped. So the King brings him a flower vase. Jang-sang says that his subject doesn't get it. He then takes his two hand and draws the shape of a woman in the air. So the real King now goes up and brings the Consort to Jang-sang. That ends the skit and the performers play music and dance around the set. The King and his Consort dance around too, that is until the King switches partners to dance with Gong-gil. That makes the Consort very angry and she go back up to sit by the throne.
The King pours a drink into the cups of two of his ministers. He notices that both ministers are extremely nervous. One minister's hands shake. This makes the King wonders what's going on here? What are they so worried about? So he signals a stop to the music and dancing. He asks: "Who is it?" He goes to two ministers questioning their expensive life styles, but they says they did nothing wrong. He goes to the extremely nervous minister and he starts apologizing to the King. The King starts kicking the minister over and over again. He yells: "Dismiss him from the Ministry and seize all his property. And! Cut off all his fingers, and you ministers shall see them at hand."
Now the King turns to Gong-gil and asks for his name? Nervously, Gong-gil tells the King his name.
The King wants to speak with Gong-gil. Before Gong-gil goes in to see the King, he is instructed as to what to say to His Majesty. Gong-gil comes in slowly and bows by going all the way down and staying that way. The King says: "Let's play. . . . I said, let's have some fun. . . . So, just you and me, let's play."
So Gong-gil pulls out two dolls representing the King and Consort. He enacts a tender moment between the two dolls. Then the King takes the King doll and starts caressing the Consort's hair.
At night, Gong-gil returns to his quarters. Six Legs and his two friends rush over to ask Gong-gil what did the King do with him? Gong-gil answers that they played with puppets. And the King poured him some wine.
The King is not happy with the Consort with three pretty women in attendance. The Consort sends the three women out. Then the King motions to the Consort and she goes to stand before him. He motions for her to lower her top. She does so. Then she comes over to him with the top back up. She starts baby talking with the King, but nothing she does pleases him. He seems to want only the face of Gong-gil.
The Ministers are all kneeling before the King. He walks passed them asking: "Did you all see Yun's fingers?" One of the Ministers says that ". . . allowing the minstrels to mock the dignity of Ministers will only undermine the authority of the government." The King replies: "They're jesters, so they jest." The Minister hits back with: "But if Your Majesty continues to dance to their tune . . ." The King interrupts him with: "It is you who would seek to call the tune! You speak only to nag me about the damn law! Dismiss this nagging food immediately!" Another Minister asks the King to show some mercy to the other Minister who spoke up because of that Minister's long record of good service. The King gets angry: "Loyal to my father? Yes, but then why not to me as well?" The Kings helps the offending Minister up onto his feet so he can shove him down. He also tells he to get out and don't come back.
The King now rushes over to see the minstrels. He retinue follows him. He picks up a drum and starts beating it. He then tells Jang-sang to get up and accompany him with his metal pan-like instrument. Jang-sang joins in with the music of the King. The King keeps beating the drum so hard that the instrument's skin tears and is no longer playable. He throws the drum on the ground. He now looks around and asks where is his Gong-gil. The pretty, effeminate-looking man slowly comes up from behind the puppet stand.
The King virtually drags Gong-gil back to the throne room. He there begins to run his own puppet show using metal shadow puppets.
Jang-sang asks the Minister who works with them why does the King call so frequently for Gong-gil? The Minister in a loud voice says: "His Majesty calls whom he pleases. It concerns you not."
Once again it's night time before Gong-gil can go back to his quarters. Jang-sang has been waiting up for Gong-gil. He greets him and tells him that Cheo-seon wants the minstrel to leave this place. Gong-gil replies: "Fine, so we'll leave. But, after we do this, I really want to. We cannot do this anywhere else."
So the group puts on their last show. In it the two attendees plot to kill the mother of the King, played by Gong-gil. The King goes a bit berserk and he kills his Consort and one of her attendees with a sword. His grandmother tried to stop him, but he just pushed her out of the way. Grandmother clutches her heart down on the floor. The Emperor's grandmother dies.
The team is back in their quarters. Six Legs asks what the hell is going on here? "Every time we do a show, people end up dead!"
Gong-gil asks permission from the King to leave with the minstrels.
The King put an official's robe of a pretty blue on Gong-gil. One of the attendees comes in and says about Gong-gil: "An official's robe, just so becomes you." The King tells her: "Leave us." The attendee, however, wants to have Gong-gil stripped down to see if he is really a woman. The attendee starts stripping Gong-gil of his clothing. The King stops her by dragging her out of the room. Gong-gil begs to be let go.
When Gong-gil comes back to his quarters, Jang-sang accuses him of never having wanted to go with the minstrels in the first place. To have on an official's robe, Jang-sang says that Gong-gil must have been having intercourse with the richest man in China. Gong-gil tells him not to speak to her that way. Jang-sang walks away from his friend.
The King tells his Ministers that he has conferred a high rank on Gong-gil. There must be a celebration for the event. The Ministers say they are still mourning the death of the Queen grandmother. The Ministers suggest a hunt instead of a party. The King accepts that and Gong-gil has to ride in the hunt next to the King.
The minstrels are being hunted down and are supposed to pretend to be dead when hit with an arrow with a cotton ball at the end of an arrow. Six Legs and his two friends call Gong-gil over to them and they ask if he knows where is Jang-sang? Just then an arrow land right into a tree next to them. It has real tip on it. The minstrels get scared and start running for their lives. Gong-gil also takes off riding.
Jang-sang has been resting on to top of a small hut. He sees Gong-gil being chased down by the Minister and he decides he must do something to stop this. He races downhill to cut-off the chase. Gong-gil's horse gets skittish and throws the young man off his back. Now the two Ministers thing they have Gong-gil at their mercy. The younger Minister is going to take the first shot, but Jang-sang jumps on the man and brings him down from his horse. The older man now decides to shoot. Six Leg' rushes in front of Gong-gil and takes the arrow in his chest. Jang-sang rushes over to the older Minister and brings him down off his horse. He then starts beating the man in the face with his fists. Now the younger Minister is up and going to take a shot at Jang-sang, but the Emperor puts an arrow into the Minister's left elbow. Then the King puts two more arrows into the Minister.
Six Legs dies. A funeral is held for Six Legs.
The King re-enacts the shooting death of the younger Minister during the hunt. Now he gives the bow and arrow to Gong-gil and tells him to shot him. Then he changes his mind and tells Gong-gil to kill one of the female servants. Gong-gil shoots, but his shot hits one of the supporting columns for the beams. The effeminate man then collapses onto a couch. The King comes over to him and kisses him on the mouth.
The Consort has found a way to strike at Gong-gil. A Minister looks at the writing style on the flyer of the advertising for the minstrels written by Gong-gil. Now the Consort gives the Minister a written diatribe against the King that has been pasted up all over Seoul. The Minister reads: "In depravity upon depravity, the King . . ." The writing styles of the two documents match and the Consort says the author is the same person: Gong-gil. (Of course, everyone among the minstrels were writing in the style of Gong-gil, even Jang-sang, because only Gon-gil was trained in calligraphy.)
Now the Consort goes to the King to tell him who wrote the diatribe against the King.
The two friends of Six Legs tell Jang-sang about the diatribe poster. They say it not only criticizes the King, but the minstrels too. "We too could end up dead." They then say that the minstrels must leave now. Jang-sang gets up to leave with them. Gong-gil tries to stop him by grabbing his hand. Jang-sang pulls his hand away. So Gong-gil grabs a sword and jumps in from of his friend. Jang-sang asks if Gong-gil has gone mad? He takes the sword away from Gong-gil. Gong-gil makes such a loud protest against Jang-sang leaving that he draws the attention of even the King, but the King was already on his way to test Gong-gil's writing style.
The Consort orders Gong-gil to write the following: "In depravity upon depravity, the King with dancing girls on his lap, and clowns by his side, the King indulges in the most vulgar. . ." The consort shows the King that the writing is identical and gives the command to arrest Gong-gil. The poor minstrel protests that he knows nothing of this matter.
Jang-sang laughs really loudly and then says: "You have the wrong man. I wrote it. He's innocent. The audacity of it has my signature all over it." And now Jang-sang writes out the diatribe. He says Gong-gil learned to write from him and that's why the styles match. And Gong-gil has not the guts and audacity to write such a diatribe.
Now they arrest Jang-sang. He will be beheaded in the morning.
Cheo seon comes to see the King. He says it was he who decided to introduce the minstrels to the King's court. He wanted their plays critical of the court and King to show His Majesty how corrupt his kingdom is. The King stop him by asking if he wants to die? Cheo seon keeps on talking and the King order him to leave and never return.
Gong-gil begs His Majesty to spare the life of Jang-sang. He cries as he begs.
Cheo seon goes to speak to Jang-sang. Next we see them, they are outside and Cheo seon says to him: "You're free to go. Your work is done. . . . Forget Gong-gil." But Jang-sang is not going anywhere. He sets up a tight rope between two buildings on the courtyard and walks out to the middle of the rope. From there really denounces the King. After spoiling countless virgins, he has now turned to preying on a mere boy. The King grabs his bow and starts firing arrows off at Jang-sang. He misses each time, but he makes Jang-sang fall to the ground where the guards grab him. The King is going to kill the man with his sword, but Gong-gil jumps right in front of Jang-sang and begs the King not to pollute his hands with the blood of the vulgar. The King says that was well said, and now he tells Gong-gil to kill Jang-sang, who now virtually demands that the King kill him for he has nothing to lose.
The King says "nothing to lose"? He tells his men to sear the eyes of Jang-sang with iron. The red-hot poker is taken out of the fire to sear the man's eyes.
A day is set by the Ministers for a rebellion.
No long does Jang-sang have his eye sight. And he is tied by his hands by two ropes that keep him from laying down. Gong-gil is very upset by all of this. He has to entertain the King with a puppet act. So he writes about two people who commit suicide. While Gong-gil does this, he cuts his left wrist and the blood starts to flow out of him. The King can't see the blood because it is hidden by the puppet stand and the puppets in his hands. The story ends with the two people jumping into the abyss to kill themselves. After the two puppets die, Gong-gil faints and falls on the floor. The King gets up and now he can clearly see the immense amount of blood that has already flowed of of the body of the King's beloved. Of course, the King is very distraught about this turn of events.
Now he goes to his consort. He goes underneath her skirt as she is sitting down. He yells out for Cheo seon to throw a party. But Cheo seon has already committed suicide by hanging himself.
Gong-gil is saved.
Now the Ministers and the army is marching against the King.
Jang-sang is brought before the King. He is taken over to a tight rope. He immediately starts climbing up the tight rope to the top of the stretched out rope. He actually makes it across the rope while telling his story that he, in a sense was always blind, because he was blinded from seeing things that he should have noticed and seen. He made mistakes because he was blinded by things such as money and pride. But now he likes being blind.
Gong-gil yells out that Jang-sang is a damn fool knowing not where he's at. He tells Jang-sang to get down from the rope. Jang-sang makes a joke of it and says he's not coming down. So Gong-gil goes up on the tight rope.
Now the rebels reach the main gate of the palace and they start pouring in. The guards and servants get scared and run for their lives. The two men on their tight rope keeping a running conversation going between them. Both men say they want to be reborn as minstrels and nothing more. As the rebels break into the main courtyard, the two tight rope walkers rush out to each other and with the aide of the rope hop up in the air. The film suddenly stops with both tight rope walkers suspended in mid-air.
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