I love Koreatown in the springtime…

Wherein I blog about all things Korean in Los Angeles

Bittersweet movies November 25, 2007

Of all the movies I saw at last week’s film festival, I’ve now identified my clear favorite. But first I have to say I didn’t hate any of the movies I saw, although there was one that wasn’t completely my thing (it’s not a movie any of you recommended, so no fears there). I was delighted that I finally got to see My Wife Is a Gangster, and I can’t figure out why MWIG 2 is so readily available while MWIG 1 doesn’t seem to be available anywhere, even on Tiger Cinema the last I checked (shame on you, TC). MWIG 1 didn’t disappoint, although I was prepared to be disappointed since I’d been dying to see it for so long. High expectations, you know. But no. Hilarious movie.

But not my fave.

Trust me to go dark and pick a totally non-comedy gangster semi-redemption pic for my favorite film. The Raven Favorite Award for KOFFLA 2007 (that’s the festival’s abbreviation) goes to A Bittersweet Life.

If you haven’t seen this movie, SEE IT. But if you hate antiheroes, don’t see it, because Lee Byung Hun’s character is an antihero extraordinaire. But after years of being a ruthless, conscience-free mob enforcer, he suddenly encounters a situation where his conscience won’t let him follow orders, and the movie follows his journey from there. Dark, bloody, tense, and awesome. It can be hard to portray an antihero sympathetically and get into his mind so we can understand him (witness Michael Clayton, which I just saw… oops, I can’t talk about that here, it’s not Korean), but A Bittersweet Life manages it.

Not to sound shallow, but Lee Byung Hun is also total eye candy. But he could have been hot as all get out and I still wouldn’t have liked the movie if it had worked less well.

Also in the movie were Shin Min Ah and Lee Ki Young, both of whom have been mentioned here before. Lee Ki Young even got a whole post dedicated to him here. Despite what I said about him then, he clearly does get shoved into gangster roles a lot. And as for her, well, all I can say is she pulls off the sweet and innocent act with grace, but c’mon, how often do real gangsters end up with sweet, innocent mistresses? Of course, real gangsters probably don’t look like Lee Byung Hun either. Her character was necessary for the story. It worked well enough. I let it slide.

P.S. The photo is from english.chosun.com.

 

Wearing Glass Slippers While Marrying the Mafia August 24, 2007

Today’s post is about Lee Ki Young. Mostly it’s about him because I just saw him in a movie yesterday and was startled to recognize him from the kdrama I’ve been watching, and this way I can talk about both of them in one post. And also it’s because I’ve been impressed by his acting.

Upon looking up his filmography last night, I realized I had seen him twice before without realizing it. He played the coach in Marathon, which I only managed to see half of, and he was in A Prince’s First Love, an eminently forgettable kdrama in which he played a resort manager (I take it back, I only wish I could forget this drama, that’s how bad it was despite its cast, which also included Cha Tae Hyun of My Sassy Girl fame). I have to say, the role of the manager in particular was so unlike what I’ve been watching Lee Ki Young in recently that I totally would never have recognized him. Guy’s got range. And here I thought they were pigeonholing him as a mafia boss.

A mafia boss is what he was in the movie and drama I mentioned above. The movie, in which he played only the small role of an opposing don, was Marrying the Mafia (not hard to guess there were some gangsters in that one), and it proved to me once again that it’s wiser not to go into a movie with high expectations. It had its moments, but the emotional turning point for the main character was sparked by a tired old cliche of a scene which kind of ruined it for me. I won’t say what it was, but trust me, it should be stricken from the canon of Korean screenwriting.

The same goes for a lot of the kdrama, which is Glass Slipper (DramaWiki calls it Glass Slippers). I mean, seriously, it’s sad when you find the secondary characters in a drama more interesting than the main characters. Glass Slipper started out by setting up some promising characters and situations, but then it advanced everybody fifteen years (I knew that was coming), introduced a new love interest that I really didn’t care about at all, and proceeded to launch into tired, seen-it-a-million-times kdrama territory. Ho hum. However, Lee Ki Young is one of the few interesting characters (there are about three of them, and I perk up whenever any of them show up onscreen). He plays a mafia boss with a heart of gold, which I grant you may not be the most original type possible, but he brings life to the role. His character went against his conscience to get where he is, and we know it (well, okay, partly we know it because we saw him do it in the first few eps, but he did a great job of showing us how it felt). Now I’m waiting with bated breath to see if he redeems himself in the end. I can’t believe I’m actually going to watch all 40 eps of this thing just to find out, but I am. 40 eps. *sigh*

Come to think of it, he brought life to the role of the resort manager in A Prince’s First Love as well, bad though the writing was in that drama. It’s sad when the material doesn’t live up to the actors in it.

Lee Ki Young is also slated to appear (or already is appearing, since I guess it’s currently airing or may have just finished airing) in this year’s much-awaited drama Time Between Dog and Wolf, starring Lee Joon Ki. I’ll be watching this for the two Lees, since I know they both can act. Don’t disappoint me, guys. I’m so tired of being disappointed.

 

 
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