Dasepo Naughty Girls (다세포 소녀, Lee Je-yong: 2006)
Both students and teachers at the No Use High School are quite unconventional when it comes to their sexual habits – which are liberal to say the least – and Dasepo Naughty Girls follows several students struggling with teen-issues within this highly charged environment …
Based on a popular webcomic Dasepo Naughty Girls gets off to a memorable start with its day-glo musical opening, slick production qualities, lush cinematography and highly energised performances. It then settles into its series of sketches – loosely linked pieces that usually end in a a gag that’s either rude, daft, obvious or all of the above – following the antics of the students at No Use High School. With plenty of sexual references – although always used in very playful ways but with more serious subjects at their core (for example, a character questions his sexuality when he finds out that the girl he fancies is actually a guy), Dasepo Naughty Girls creates an interesting play on the sexual taboos of Korean society.
With a fairly large young cast who across the board impress throughout, Dasepo Naughty Girls only really has the time to focus on a handful of them. Poor Girl played by Kim Ok-bin, Cy (which is short for Cyclops, and he does only have the one eye) played by Lee Kyeon, exchange-student Anthony played by Park Jin-woo and a transvestite boss played by the excellent Lee Weon-jong are the stand out roles, but this is only because they’re given a little more screentime than the rest of the cast.
Cheekily provocative with its themes and situations, Dasepo Naughty Girls is refreshingly nudity free. Director Lee Je-yong (Untold Scandal) is no stranger to tackling sexual politics onscreen and so while it fits in thematically with the rest of his work, it also shows restraint and a careful hand in its treatment of a group of young teenagers. The young cast reference and flaunt their sexuality and attractiveness throughout, but manage to do so without actually baring any flesh. Anyone looking for a cheap thrill has picked the wrong film, but rather than feeling like a tease Lee Je-yong manages to shoe-horn in some serious subjects under the guise of a ‘naughty’ comedy. With its loose episodic format Dasepo Naughty Girls breaks with traditional film narrative – its as much about creating moments (images, ideas and laughs) as anything else, and largely works as a montage of scenes.
Surprisingly – given the energy shown elsewhere – where Dasepo Naughty Girls is weakest is in Lee Je-yong’s direction and pacing that is so low key that feels far too reserved for its own good. The fun and excitement which is so obvious on the screen is never matched by the (admittedly well produced) filmmaking. The result of this is that it starts to feel a little bit tiresome around the halfway mark. When there’s a last minute – and, it must be said, pretty much unnecessary – effort to piece together in its final half an hour so that we can be given a sense of finale, it feels too labored and in comparison to the opening feels a little dull.
Although slightly hampered by the reserved direction and pacing, there’s still a lot left to enjoy in Dasepo Naughty Girls. Spirited performances, gags that are so bad that they tickle you with their sheer nuttiness, great costumes, great hair (!) a playful approach to sexual taboos and an all-round fun attitude, it would be a hard-hearted viewer that wouldn’t find something to enjoy in this bizarre mix.
다세포 소녀 (Dasepo Naughty Girls)
Directed by Lee Je-yong
Produced by Ahn Dong-gyu
Written by Choi Jin-sung
Starring Kim Ok-bin, Lee Kyeon, Park Jin-woo, Lee Weon-jong, Yoo Gun, Kim Byul
Dasepo Naughty Girls Image © Dasepo Club Co. Ltd