Hot For Teacher aka Who Slept With Her? (Nuga geunyeo-wa jasseulkka?)

Korea (2006) Dir. Kim Yoo-Sung

Appropriating the title of a classic Van Halen hit for its international release was probably a smart move in making this Korean school based comedy sound a lot less prurient, not to mention cumbersome in its transparency. Neither title quite tells the whole story but certainly succeed in grabbing our attention and piquing our interest, for better or worse.

Trainee teacher Uhm Ji-young (Kim Sa-rang) starts a one month assignment as the temporary French tutor at a Catholic all-boys school, causing a stir among the students and male teachers alike by being a sexy young woman with a capricious demeanour. One of Ji-young’s supplementary duties is to organise the school festival but she refuses to do the same old religious play they always do and instead suggests a dance show.

With volunteers being sparse, three boys are singled out to support Ji-young – pervy troublemaker Myong-sub (Ha Dong-hoon), shy and afflicted Jae-seong (Park Jun-gyu), and serial lothario Tae-yo (Ha Seok-jin). Each one of them falls in love with Ji-young and when a rumour spreads that Ji-young slept with a student, they are the prime suspects.

It’s easy to mock but this film boasts five writers, meaning director Kim Yoo-Sung had the help of four others to complete this bawdy, exploitative American Pie-lite romp full of predictably shameless lewd gags most of us could expectorate in five minutes. Yet, there are attempts, often vain but what do you expect – to try to turn this into a moral tale of sorts on the damage of rumours.

Told through flashback, the film half-heartedly breaks down into a triptych focusing on the three suspects in the afterhours tryst witnessed by Mr. Cha (Lee Hyeok-jae) the bullying discipline master who himself fancies Ji-young but is too proud to admit it. When Cha does finally confess to Ji-young it goes badly, thus the perceived sexual misdemeanour is his shot at revenge.

First is playboy Tae-yo who can have any woman he likes under his spell in less than four minutes, from school staff to police officers. He only pursues Ji-young because she seems impervious to his charms, only for him to fall under hers. Presented as a vain, self-obsessed Casanova Tae-yo’s profile piece would normally be the least satisfying of the three but it is topped by that following Myong-sub.

Known for his practical jokes and unhealthy devotion to porn, Myong-sub often has sex toys and the like in his school bag which doesn’t endear him to most people or evoke many laughs either. The fact he resorts to using a love potion win Ji-young over says all you need to know about this sleaze bag.

Despite the most ludicrous backstory, Jae-seong comes across as the most sympathetic and likeable of the trio but is not without his issues. His physical appearance is a riff on the US teen comedy where the cast were always older – actor Park Jun-gyu was 42 at the time but this is explained. As a child Jae-seong used to suffer from facial swelling when drinking water so a spiritual doctor gave him a potion that stopped the swelling but made him age prematurely.

Oh and the swelling didn’t leave, it was distributed from his face to… well, you can guess where to, right? Cue many erection/masturbation gags and an uncomfortable scene of a 30-something female urologist (Shin Yi) literally and lustily throwing herself at Jae-seong after seeing his member. Yet, Jae-seong is a sensitive and moral boy whose infatuation with Ji-young being the most innocent, at least compared to his two friends.

For a comedy I must confess this didn’t raise a single giggle from me meaning either I’m becoming a prudish curmudgeon or the writing is too predictably beholden to the genre. Most of the “humour” involves leery peaks down Ji-young’s top or her skirt riding up to reveal her suspenders, Cha walking in on or spying upon the most innocent of situations and assuming the worst Carry On style.

The moral of the story is introduced late in the final act, played as a moment of sobering drama in the hope of elevating this hitherto tawdry presentation to a work of allegorical poignancy. It doesn’t work of course, at least not convincingly, but does fleetingly suggest there might have been an idea for this to be a cautionary satire on objectifying women and equating sex appeal and teenage lust as consensual promiscuity.

But this would be giving Kim Yoo-sung and his writers too much credit, because of they felt that way they would have written the script that way and not just reheat the usual passé fan service aimed at the lowest common denominator. Let’s hope the film he is currently shooting – his second, 12 years after this one – is more mature and boasts a more focused script.

A former Miss Korea in 2000, the pretence of this film being anything but a vehicle to capitalise on Kim Sa-rang’s obvious sex appeal is laid out the moment she appears on the screen performing in a slinky group dance number to Glen Miller’s In The Mood. This isn’t Kim’s first rodeo however, having made two films and appeared in TV dramas before this outing.

Maybe Kim herself is under no delusion of being a Korean Zhang Ziyi, willingly throwing herself into this role, exploitation and all. Although Ji-young essentially is quite innocent in that she doesn’t actively leads the boys on; some might disagree because of her short skirts and high heels combo attire but any sexual frisson engendered is completely in the minds – and groins – of the boys.

There are worse examples of the smutty teen comedy in existence, so Kim can at least breathe a sigh of relief there. Had Hot For Teacher been made in 1986 I no doubt would have enjoyed it back then – sadly, it was hackneyed in 2006 and in 2018 it is shamefully prehistoric, awkward viewing.

For horny teens only.