Junggugeo Kaenada 중국어 캐나다: ★★★.5
After the death of her brother, Shin Yoon Jeong (Kim Gyu Ri) assumes his identity to become an apprentice to her father’s rival, Kim Hong Do (Kim Young Ho) with the goal of surpassing the master painter. Thanks to her provocative paintings drawn from daily life, Yoon Jeong stands out among the court painters, but she becomes distracted by cheerful and brawny hustler, Kang Mu (Kim Nam Gil). After Kang Mu learns Yoon Jeong’s secret, a romance blossoms between the odd couple. Hong Do is initially a disapproving teacher then transforms into a jealous interloper.
Portrait of a Beauty invests the majority of its attention on the visuals, which are usually accompanied by a sweeping soundtrack. Conversations become mere stop gaps until the next close up of a brush stroke, or a scene of Yoon Jeong and Kang Mu frolicking. As a result, we are left with a superficial impression of the characters.
Yet, one of the best things about the movie is Yoon Jeong’s self-initiated journey of sexual discovery, and her sweet relationship with Kang Mu. When the couple have sex while bathed in golden light, the mood is playful, and Yoon Jeong is a happy participant without any angst or guilt. Unfortunately, Yoon Jeong and Kang Mu never speak at length with each other, so their relationship can come across as the youthful infatuation that Hong Do accuses them of having.
Hong Do is pushed to the margins not just by the happy couple, but also by the screenwriter. He barely registers as a growing shadow on the couple’s love before his jealousy drives him to drastic actions. Thereafter, you can be sure that Yoon Jeong and Kang Mu will pay for her deception, and Hong Do will regret his lust.
Portrait of a Beauty is probably infamous for its nudity and sexually explicit content, but the charming romance and the heroine’s unapologetic sexuality are noteworthy.