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My Best-Friends Hot Girlfriend - CA VLOG 103
Korean 65, Imported Total attendance: They are listed in the order of their release. In their first crack at romantic comedy, Sol and Jeon take on parts which, although lacking the emotional extremes of their previous roles, form the very heart of this charming film. Sol plays a lovesick bank teller who can't get marriage off his mind. He records videos for his future wife, telling her how curious he is to find out who she will turn out to be. When he meets a former classmate played by Jin Hee-kyung , he thinks he's finally found his match. Jeon, meanwhile, plays a teacher who works across the street from his bank. After a few accidental meetings, she works up the courage to ask him out, but is rudely rebuffed. This is the debut work of director Park Heung-shik, who worked as assistant director to Hur Jin-ho for Christmas in August Content to revel in the ordinary, it lingers on unimportant details and its heroes' various quirks. Although at times this comes at the expense of plot, it imparts to the film a sense of honesty, as well as an unhurried pleasure. By the latter half of the film we begin to feel quite intimate with the characters. Ultimately this movie feels like a comfortable old pair of jeans. While it makes little effort to leap out and grab one's attention, viewers will be pulled in by its light humor and the way it makes its characters' lives feel so familiar. At the sight of that image, I immediately flashbacked to the top-grossing Korean film of , Lee Jeong-guk's The Letter, since a tree had significance in that film. The Letter, to me, exemplifies a melodrama gone wrong, horribly cheezy and forced. Still, it was successful at the Korean box office, so perhaps those in charge of marketing A Day felt an allusion to the imagery of The Letter would allow A Day to dovetail that film's success even though such a scene by a tree never occurs in A Day. They are a couple who very much wants a child but have had trouble conceiving. When they are finally successful, with the help of modern medical technology, their fantasies about the family life they feel should emerge are challenged by further obstacles that arise. The film becomes a story on how this couple processes their adversity and how it strengthens rather than weakens their bond. Thankfully, A Day does not end up being to the letter of The Letter. It comes close at moments, particularly due to the lesser performance of Lee Sung-jae who initially fails in making the playful moments that lovers share convincible. Still, Lee's character does grow on you, with the help of a confident performance by Ko So-young as his wife, and you begin to appreciate him more. Most of the fights and intimate moments between the couple are believable and notable in what they convey about the growth of the characters and the moral dilemmas their predicament poses. The standout performance, however, is by Kwon Hae-hyo, the only tolerable presence in an excruciating film of the same year, O Ki-hwan's Last Present. Kwon is masterful in his comic delivery in a small part as the manager of a store that sells baby items. As evidence of his skill, let me note that a smirk just emerged on my face while thinking about his brief appearance. I look forward to a vehicle that allows Kwon to shine in a feature role developed from his gifted repetoire. Kim Chang-won also delivers a finely sober performance as the couple's doctor and indirect marriage counselor. Without moralizing a message upon the audience, A Day presents a moral quandry that, thankfully, leaves the decision up to the parties most directly effected. While watching the film, I found myself referencing one of my favorite novels by my favorite Japanese writer, both of which will go unmentioned because such would risk revealing main aspects of the plot. Although very different works, particularly in their intended audience, A Day a popular drama and the book a major literary work, there is a similarity in the point of struggle. Whereas that book's little bird tells a tale of a man choosing an isolated struggle with his responsibility to act on life's random trials, A Day addresses the communal struggle of this couple while hinting at the professional quandries and societal constraints around them. Considering how important that book is to me, perhaps that is why I was so touched by this film while having no reference points of comparison in my life of involuntary singlehood. Although not every director of melodramas has the patience of Hur, the economy of Kaurismaki, or both like Ozu, Han, for the most part, directs a compelling story of love surviving the trials and tribulations that life brings to us, reminding us the fantasy is always far from the reality. And the strong performance by Ko which won the Grand Bell Award for Best Actress and wonderful supporting roles by Kwon and Kim keep this film from entering the histrionics and kitsch that all melodramas risk. Although arguments could be made for more deserving directors of best of the year honors, Han's work in A Day definitely warranted the consideration and his winning of the Grand Bell for Best Director is one I can personally live with. Adam Hartzell Tears Garibong-dong is a district in Seoul which has become known for its population of homeless teens. Set within this locale, Tears details the lives of four young runaways who, despite their differences, join together in an uneasy partnership. Although Tears is director Im Sang-soo's second film, he was envisioning it in his mind years before the release of his debut feature Girls' Night Out In the mid-nineties, he developed an interest in the lives of homeless teens and decided to live among them for five months, trying to understand them and earn their trust. Tears is based on this experience, and although certain dramatic elements of the plot are fictional, Im insists that most all of the situations and conversations are taken from real life. Shot on digital video, Tears captures the gritty feel of its protagonists' lives. Ultimately, however, the film is less concerned with exposing the excesses of street life than in coaxing us to side with the teens, or at least see life from their point of view. Im tries hard to make his heroes seem human and to show us the insecurity behind their tough behavior. Shots of abusive parents or cruel employers remind us of the forces that have shaped these kids' lives. Yet the film's most memorable scenes are probably its quietest, when the kids carouse on a muddy beach or creep towards sexual intimacy. These moments hold enough gloom and beauty to let us picture these kids either in or out of their present lives. Particularly worthy of praise are the group of debut actors who star in this film. Without their guts and talent, Tears would never work. Although similarly-themed works have been shot before in Korea and elsewhere, Tears remains worth seeing for its finely-drawn characters and personal approach. Darcy Paquet Bungee Jumping of Their Own Despite being shackled with perhaps the dumbest English title in history of Korean film, Bungee Jumping of Their Own has drawn interest both in Korea and abroad for its unusual story and the fine performances of its actors. Its strength at the domestic box-office came as somewhat of a surprise, particularly given that it flirts with the issue of homosexual relationships and the hostile reception they usually receive in Korea. The film opens in , when university student In-woo becomes infatuated with a woman who shares his umbrella in a rainstorm. Their developing relationship is presented in fragments that highlight the awkwardness and humor of their situation, and yet the underlying seriousness of their feelings end up forming the crux of the story. After learning that In-woo must leave for his obligatory two-year service in the military, we jump 17 years into the future to find him as a high school teacher, married to another woman. His earlier insecurities appear to have vanished, and he commands the respect of his students for his passion and his willingness to stand up for their rights This is the debut film by director Kim Dae-seung, who worked for many years with Im Kwon-taek as an assistant director for such films as Sopyonje, The Taebaek Mountains, Festival, Downfallen, and Chunhyang. Although Bungee Jumping of Their Own does not feel in any way like an Im Kwon-taek film, the time Kim spent as an assistant director appears to have paid off, and he is surely a director to keep an eye on. Each of the film's three major segments contain vivid scenes, presented in a manner that strips them of their sentimentality. The film's opening is striking in its visuals, humor and sadness, while the scenes shot in the present contain an unusual energy. Later in the film the mood turns much more serious and issue-oriented, in an unusual plot twist that I omitted on purpose from the above synopsis. One effect of these various moods is that it showcases the acting of Lee Byung-heon , who since his role in Joint Security Area has earned great respect for his talent as opposed to his looks, which have always attracted notice. In Bungee Jumping of Their Own he excels, drawing laughs, respect and fear from his viewers in turn. Actress Lee Eun-ju is also outstanding in her smaller role, with her words and manner establishing the young couple's relationship as the key event of their lives. The ultimate question for this work is whether it all holds together, as it unites a myriad of clashing moods and themes. At times it feels uneven, like it tried to cover too much ground, but the originality of this film will ensure that viewers do not soon forget it. Darcy Paquet Last Present Last Present is a tragic romance so manipulative that you can almost hear its cogwheels and pulleys clicking and whirring like a well-oiled machine. A leaf is turned when he accidentally finds out that Jeong-yeon is dying from an unspecified incurable disease. Yong-gi, initially devastated, makes a resolution to win the TV gag contest at all costs, all the while hiding the fact that he is privy to his wife's secret. Intertwined with this sappy disease-of-the-month narrative are dollops of sepia-toned flashbacks concerning Jeong-yeon's object of childhood crush: Gee, who was that cute boy that had stolen her heart in the elementary school? As Linus Van Pelt once claimed, sugar cubes doused with honey can be a delicacy. But they are better served with a pinch of cinnamon, of course. I readily concede that Last Present may be as effective as a canister of tear gas in delivering "three-hankie moments" for many viewers. Henry plot contrivances are unflinchingly presented, without embarrassment. In fact, I suspect that the filmmakers, especially newcomer director O Ki-hwan, self-reflectively indicate their awareness of the movie's shameless melodramatics in the climactic gag sketch, in which the protagonist is seen squeezing his tear-drenched handkerchief like a wet towel. Last Present is by no means an artistic triumph of any kind and I would hesitate to even call it a good movie, but it is professionally put together, fulfilling the audience expectations to a tee. I might have felt more charitable if the pairing of Lee Jung-jae and Lee Young-ae worked out better. I personally do not think Last Present's characters play to their strengths. Lee Jung-jae is not really convincing as an aspiring comic, and has trouble conveying the Chaplinesque "tears behind the smile" quality demanded by the role. Not that he gets much help from the screenplay As for Lee Young-ae, even without any facial makeup, wrapped in dumpy housewife clothes, she stands out like a flawed emerald among rows of huge, immaculately shining glass beads. At the risk of sounding politically incorrect, I must point out that Lee is simply too beautiful: Instead of feeling sorry for Joeng-yeon, I was feeling sorry for Lee Young-ae the actress, bending backwards, nay, contorting herself, in order to play an "ordinary" woman. I mean, what's the point? The great Japanese director Ozu Yasujiro was once criticized for repeatedly casting the radiant Hara Setsuko as an "ordinary housewife: Ozu's response was to the effect that a director should be able to use the personality and looks of an actor to create a character, going beyond simplistic "realism," and that's what he has done with Hara. Ergo, it is possible for Lee Young-ae to be convincing in a role like Jeong-yeon. I just think that it might take more than a good performance on her part. In the end, the main pleasure of Last Present for me remains its solid supporting cast. Failan's Kong Hyeong-jin is woefully underused but still leaves a favorable impression as Yong-gi's long-suffering stand-up partner. Veteran bit players Kwon Hae-hyo and Yi Mu-hyeon instantly recognizable faces from many, many movies, even if you cannot remember their names are hilarious and believable as two entertainment-industry con artists: I would have loved to see their characters expanded. Finally, the single most moving scene in the whole movie for me was the bittersweet reunion between Jeong-yeon and her high school best friend, Ae-suk, played with restraint and skill by Ku Hye-ryeong. This small scene has the aura of truthfulness that is rather lacking in other portions of this slick but artificial tear-jerker. Four high school students in s Pusan form an inseparable group of friends, despite their differing backgrounds. Years pass, however, and fate and violence combine to drive the four apart and test their friendship. Director Kwak Kyung-taek's voice trembles when talking about this, his third feature, and it's little wonder why: Friend is a true story based on the lives of his three childhood friends the role of Sang-taek, the wealthier member of the group who goes to study abroad, represents the director himself.
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