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Awesome Korean Movies

Christmas In August (Palwolui Christmas)

Director: Jin-ho Hur (1998, Korean, 97 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (N/A), IMDB (7.8), Wikipedia, Amazon.

Similar movies: death, romance.

Summary: Christmas in August is popular among Korean film students for its symbolism, camera work and character study. The movie is gently paced. Towards the end, there is a 15 to 20 minute long scene with almost no dialogues. The beauty of the movie lies in what all is unsaid. The actions and facial expressions of its characters convey everything. The main character in the movie is a photographer. The Wikipedia article explains the symbolism of his photos, picture frames and their locations in the movie.

Storyline: A photographer in his early thirties is terminally ill. He is living his remaining days peacefully. He has an infectious smile and from his outward appearance, he looks just fine. One day, a lovely young woman in her twenties walks into his studio. She is a parking violation officer and implores him to develop some photos quickly. The photographer obliges. The woman starts coming to his shop repeatedly. As they continue to meet, a gentle romance develops between the two. The movie is essentially a character study of these two persons, without much of a plot. Their friendship is smooth and natural, with no melodrama, no tension, no struggle. But they never hug or kiss or verbally express their fondness for each other. All along, the photographer continues to live a normal, routine life. Once or twice, he expresses anger and frustration, but only briefly.

Early in the movie, there are lovely scenes of three little boys arguing and fighting over who really is the most beautiful girl in their class. Then there is a grandmother who comes to the studio twice for her portrait shot, a young girl who wants to bury her face in her hair locks, and a family who wants their picture together.

Overall, a watchable movie. Other movies with a similar theme are Geethanjali (Telugu), Ikiru (Japanese) and Wild Strawberries (Swedish). In Geethanjali, the characters are young. In Ikiru and Wild Strawberries, the characters are old.

 

My Sassy Girl (Yeopgijeogin Geunyeo)

Director: Jae-young Kwak (2001, Korean, 123 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (N/A), IMDB (8.2), Wikipedia, Amazon.

Watch online: Amazon Prime.

Similar movies: comedy, romance.

Summary: One of the top romantic movies from South Korea. I liked the movie, especially the last half hour. Based on a series of real blog posts by a Korean guy. Storyline: 25-year old Gyun-woo meets a terribly drunk girl in a train. He feels awkward to help her but when he does, a deep sense of responsibility develops inside him. He decides to heal her pain. As their friendship progresses, she mistreats him time and again: slapping him, pushing him into a pool, forcing him to wear her high heels, and so on. Even though Gyun-woo finds himself in a masochistic relationship, does he ever lose his cool? No. What happens in the end? See the movie.

To be honest, I got bored by the 60-minute mark, wondering why this movie is so popular. Maybe it was the picture quality on YouTube. But I persisted and I found the last thirty minutes to be quite rewarding, where the movie explains the reasons behind the girl's strange behavior.

Why do I like 'My Sassy Girl'? Gyun-woo, the guy in the movie, exemplifies a mantra that a mentor once gave me, "When you love somebody, give them a lot of room." He reminds me of Lateef in the movie Baran (Persian, 2001). Both guys go to great lengths to ease the pain of their sweethearts. While Lateef is a passionate and impulsive doer, Gyun-woo is Zen-like: calm and relaxed, no matter what happens.

An English remake of the movie in 2008 was not so great. Instead, watch the original Korean movie from 2001. I later realized that the movie is also available on Amazon Prime.

 

Castaway on the Moon (Kimssi Pyoryugi)

Director: Hae Joon Lee (2009, Korean, 116 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (78%), IMDB (8.1), Wikipedia, Amazon.

Watch online: YouTube.

Similar movies: romance.

Summary: A love story with a bizarre plot but lovely! Two eccentric characters fall in love in strange circumstances. The guy finds himself on an island in a river after a failed suicide attempt. The girl is somebody with severe social anxiety disorder. She discovers him on the island through her telescope. The movie critiques modern living in high rise buildings with busy, stressful lives.

 

2 Nov 2013
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