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Double Dose of Melodrama Comes to Theaters

2003/11/27 Source

By Joon Soh
Staff Reporter
This year has brought some interesting thrillers, horror flicks and comedies, but it's time to get back to the meat and potatoes of the local film industry: the melodrama.

Opening in theaters this week are two additions to the genre that, being tasteful and understated, may not be as commercially successful as the more hyped films on the market. But "" and "Video-rul Ponun Namja (Rewind)" _ both by first-time directors _ deserve viewing, as they are impressive romantic tales that boast intelligent dialogue and strong acting.

Of the two, "" (pronounced "I.N.G".), directed by Lee On-hui, probably has the better chance at the box-office as it has more recognizable stars. Actress YIm Soo-jeong, who plays Min-a, a terminally ill high school student, starred in the summer horror hit "A Tale of Two Sisters", while Kim Rae-won plays Yong-jae, a happy-go-lucky college student _ reminiscent of his role in the wildly successful television drama "Oktap Bang Koyongi (Cat in a Rooftop Room)".

The story revolves around the reclusive Min-a, who is having a hard time adjusting to her new school. Having spent most of her young life in a hospital, Min-a keeps her true feelings and her malformed left hand hidden from the world.

That is until Yong-jae, a photography major at a nearby university, moves into the apartment below her. In spite of her feigned disinterest, his good-natured antics begin to draw her out of her shell.

A simple story of love and friendship, the film could have easily ended up being contrived and patronizing. But instead, "" is a young adults film in the best sense. Like the earlier films of John Hughes, "" is successful at taking the teenager's world at face-value, warts and all.

But whereas most films about teenagers present the characters as trying to grow up too fast, "" is happy to let kids be kids, enveloping the movie in a tenderness and sadness that feels surprisingly genuine.

Fast forward 15 years or so years and one gets to "Rewind". Based on the novel of the same name, the film, directed by Kim Hak-soon, is about people in their 30s trying to find love after innocence has faded and disillusion has set in.

The protagonist, played by Jang Hyun-sung, is a man who opens up a small video store. Having given up on his law career and his marriage, the man, whose name we never find out, fills up his days with meaningless conversations with customers and watching videos.

One day, the man begins receiving poetic letters from a secret admirer, left in the tape-return box at night. These small hints of a possible romance break up the monotony of his melancholy days, and lead him to wonder which of his female customers could be writing to him.

Some viewers may get frustrated by the slow and deliberate pace of the film; the sounds of a spoon clinking on a cup or a tape inserted into a VCR become minor dramas in and of themselves. But underneath the minimal quality of the narrative, one will find a complex portrait of the little things that make up a life.

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