CAAM FEST 2016, San Francisco
The Royal Tailor (2014) is a highly entertaining genre-jumping period piece set during Korea’s Joseon dynasty. Anachronistic sight gags set the tone early on. Mowg’s orchestral soundtrack occasionally veers toward rock and soul. If court intrigue and star-crossed lovers in beautiful costumes are your cup of tea, this is the movie for you. From the festival program guide:
Sartorial rivals Dol-suk (Han Suk-kyu), a master craftsman devoted to tradition, and Kong-jin (Ko Soo), an avant-garde upstart with rakish charm, cross shears for the position of the king’s tailor. High fashion and political intrigue weave together this sumptuous court drama, replete with scenes of rustling hanbok and sensuous embroidery.
Written by Byounghak Lee and directed by Wonsuk Lee, this is a samurai movie where the protagonists battle with needle and thread instead of swords and spears. Royal tailor Dol-Suk and court newcomer Kong-jin develop a father and son relationship marked by poetic discussions about the moon and the meaning of life. In a fantasy sequence, they appear to emerge in another dimension. Conflict occurs when the protegé impresses the royal couple with his sewing skill. Maggie Lee in Variety compared their clash to “the psychological twists of Mozart and Salieri in ‘Amadeus’ in its engrossing tussles between craft and creativity, hard work and genius.”
The King ( Yeon-Seok Yoo) is the younger half-brother of the rightful heir who was recently killed. Consequently, he’s unsure of himself so having a glorious dragon robe designed by the prodigy Kong-jin will aid his esteem. The Queen ( Shin-Hye Park) is young and beautiful but like the King is also in a precarious position, having been a cast-off of the deceased older brother. She’s also in need of the right outfit when emissaries of the all important Qing Dynasty visit. Further complicating matters is King’s interest in the defense minister’s brat of a daughter, So-yi (Yoo-bi Lee) She doesn’t appreciate her assignment as concubine and has her sights on queen.
Ji-yong Kim is the cinematographer. Kyoung-sun Chae and Yoo-jin Shin collaborated on the art direction. The film’s all important costume design is by Sang-gyeong Jo.