Two clowns living in Korea's Chosun Dynasty get arrested for staging a play that satirizes the king. They are dragged to the palace and threatened with execution but are given a chance to save their lives if they can make the king laugh.
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Soul mate minstrels Jang-sang and Gong-gil eke out a living in 14th century Korea through bawdy stories presented in a tightrope act; however, sexual interests of the rich over Gong-gil's androgynous looks impair their basic desire to entertain once too often. A line is crossed, an authority figure dies, and the pair must flee to Seoul. They soon take up with a trio of fellow minstrels and, lead by Jang-sang, present riskier shows that prove more lucrative; but, a scathing exhibition satirizing the king and his concubine puts them under arrest with a set date for execution. Forced to present themselves to the king for final judgment, they surprisingly wind up becoming his court performers, but the tyrannical king, though sensitive and intelligent, is also excessive and psychologically scarred, with the minstrel shows putting him uncomfortably in touch with buried issues over his dead mother (long ago forced to commit suicide by the court). This makes him dangerously unstable. The ...Written by
Trust South Korea to produce nice tragedies again and again. First it was "Friend", then "Joint Security Area", and now "The King and the Clown", which is about two male clowns being arrested for staging a comedy which mocks the King, and would be spared the death sentence if they could humor the King as much as they did to the civilians. This sounds a little like "Brokeback Mountain" taking place in Korea, but the speech and behavior the two clowns have towards each other is carefully crafted that they make it look more like a case of brotherhood amongst them. However, that does not in any way dilutes the affections we see between the two male friends, which are incredibly genuine. It is this genuine affection that makes this such a touching show to watch. Also, this is not just romance; this has elements of a thriller and social commentary interwoven within the plot. And all these roll out just nicely and rightly paced. No wonder it becomes one of the biggest selling movies in Korea, despite its modest production cost.
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