Tag: yoo ah in

Burning (Beoning) 2018

After quite a bit of searching, finally, I caught this film at the nearby Art Cinema. There was a larger crowd than I thought there’d be; half of the theater like me, were people attending alone. This is the kind of crowd I love to see such a film in, because specific reasons, possibly highly cultivated reasons, almost certainly brought them there. 

For me it was Yoo Ah In  at first, but then my reason changed. As I read more about the reception at Cannes, and the origin of the screenplay as based a short story by Haruki Murakami, I began to prepare myself for a theater experience that would be an entirely new to me. 

"Jong-su, Hae-mi and ben, strange love triangle.  A film that would have deserved the Palme d'Or."  From the site Telerama.Fr
GORGEOUS PHOTO – from the site Telerama.Fr

I love to read Murakami just for the moods he sets, and that he brings the reader so well into a sort of suspended space of no particular attachment to specific ends. This makes it hard to rest, but also very restful, because one has to go along. 

Or at least that’s my experience of reading Murakami. So when I knew that Burning was based on one of his short stories, I began to anticipate in a different way. First of all, I felt that I could read more about the film ahead of time without worrying too much over spoilers, because no spoiler can give away mood. Someone can go on and on analyzing the plot points and the elements of a story that happens, and cannot touch what I most value about Murakami.

Second, I began to prepare myself to see a different actor than the one who had drawn me there, by which I don’t mean an actor not Yoo Ah In, but I began to prepare to see a different Yoo Ah In

I did. And I admire him all the more for what I saw.

(slight spoiler ahead)

Which was a stripped-down, no-shine, Yoo Ah In. What I am reminded of by way of comparison, are conversations I’ve had with my son about modern art. There are some artists he doesn’t ‘get’ yet, because he doesn’t want to. He can’t see the complexity in the simplicity they exhibit. In many cases, this is because he hasn’t seen previous works, so there is no belief in restraint, or the difficulty that may have been at play, not to show off. 

I’m sure that this is in large part due to the Director, Chang-dong Lee,
who is obviously masterful, however I have not seen his other films. One thing for sure is that he embodies Murakami, or at least I felt so, in the long scenes especially, set in the least stereo-typically inspiring environments. I will one day own this film just go back and linger in these moments. 

Other than that, I won’t say much more for now. I noticed that Rotten Tomatoes doesn’t even have “approved quotes” for the film, which means the studio has managed to maintain a bit of mystery. I’ll respect that. 🙂

On a lighter note. should I survey my local friends, Steven Yeun might be one of few Asian actors they know by name, along with Sandra Oh. However, having never seen The Walking Dead, I had 0 familiarity with Yeun before this film, and I’m glad for the introduction.

I was also so moved by Jeon Jong-seo‘s portrayal of the character Haemi. Just this week a brilliant journalistic story broke from the Miami Herald, which was about many Haemis. To say more would give away this string of the film, contradicting my determination above, but I may come back later.

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Of Secrets and Love Affairs

Secret_Love_Affair-0009
Image: Akiatalking.com

I like to watch some shows over and over again, gleaning from another  angle each time, paying more attention to one character or another, or revisiting questions I had before.  And I like sexy shows.  One might not immediately think of Korean TV as sexy as compared with American TV, but it is, especially in its quality of withholding.

An obvious example is Secret Love Affair, which has one of those titles I’m embarrassed by – just so cliche’.  Yet, it’s a beautiful drama, touching deep questions about what is important in a life and how people change over time, choosing different things.

Also, piano.  Piano runs through the drama as also metaphor for passion, as it has in various films in the past, films that are no longer really made.  The very reason I was drawn to Korean TV was nostalgia for a kind of film that seems no longer of interest in America; high quality romantic films like Notting Hill, or conflicted, sexy films like The English Patient.

Also, Yoo Ah In is the most complex actor I’ve encountered in a very long while.

I searched for a clip of an award acceptance speech for a Six Flying Dragons, but couldn’t find the one I was looking for, in which he played emotions across his face, unapologetically exuding an instrument many actors seem hesitant to show, or can’t.  So in that sense, he fits especially well the character in this drama, who is a hardly-contained and naturally gifted Artist.

I have friends who cannot stand ‘adultery dramas’ – who boil them down (imo) too far, and I respect those friends.  However, perhaps because I’ve lived so much of my life as an observer of sublimated happenings, picking up on dynamics people try not to show, I’m especially drawn to them.

She seemed restless.

In the summer of …

the whole of London was restless

in the face of the coming storm.

(lines from The End of the Affair screenplay)

Flying Dragons

Just a few episodes to go, of the best historical drama I’ve seen… a show that has been a vehicle to learn so much Korean history, and more importantly, has gotten under my skin with its surging and delving story lines and layered, duplicitous characters. How horrifyingly beautiful humanity seems, when taking in so many sides…

Bang Won’s obliterating ambition and ruthless willingness to betray anyone who presents an obstacle, coexists with a high-minded, and at least at first, softhearted calling, to take hold of and make a new world. And Yoo Ah In is an actor able to carry that role… able to allow the child, the future king, the idealistic adolescent, the ruthless prince, and everyone in between, to ebb and flow across his face.

Bang Won 2

He is not the only stellar actor in this series. SFD has transformed my impressions of an actor who plays harsh mother roles too well in other dramas, an actor who played a flat character-ed ex-boyfriend in a disappointment last year, and an actor who was ‘just okay’ as a lead after being a marvelous ensemble actor in Misaeng. It also gave a perfect opportunity to an actor I like, who isn’t always liked in general. Shin Se Kyung was the reason I was first drawn to the series, not immediately recognizing Yoo Ah In from Secret Love Affair.

Boon Yi

I love passionate takes on history, especially histories of places like Korea, which has fallen into the background of other histories (China, Japan) so often. Official writings are gleaned from not without skeptical inquiry, understanding the power dynamics of the times in which they were penned. This allows for revisiting of scenarios and flawed, majestic figures like Jung Do Jeon, the first Prime Minister of the Joseon Dynasty he co-conspired to establish.

Approaching this kind of material originally, I had hopes of gaining a better understanding of Confucianism in practice, Silhak especially, of which Jung Do Jeon was said to be the first, though unofficial, scholar. I’ve not had much luck in that regard. By the time I come to this subject matter, it is through so many other subjects, all of which have left indelible imprints, each necessary to understand the other therefore not so easy to parse apart.

Six Flying Dragons spans from the end decade or so of Goryeo, into the founding of the new country designed to be ‘for the people’, rather than for the corrupt leaders. At least in this telling, the issues of the time bear resemblance to current political discourse around inherited wealth and power, and the cycle/system which shuts out and exploits common laborers.

Sambong’s revolutionary vision (Sambong is Jung Do Jeon’s pen name) was meticulously written out and had begun to be implemented with King Taejo on the throne, before what is called the first ‘Strife of Princes’, when Lee Bang Won raises forces against Jung Do Jeon’s influence, killing he, and two of his younger brothers, one of whom was named Crown Prince. Still, Jung Do Jeon’s writings, left behind, and the vision contained within, would be the blueprint for the next 500 hundred + years.

Previously, my impressions of Lee Bang Won had been limited to the awful figure of a father shown in Tree with Deep Roots, which follows Six Flying Dragons chronologically. That drama centers on the scholarly and most highly praised of all the kings of Korea’s history, Sejong the Great, who was the third son of King Taejong (who Lee Bang Won would become), an admirer of Jung Do Jeon’s philosophy, and who created the Korean alphabet Hangul.

Had I done a little homework back then, I might have had more regard for King Taejong’s complexity, but instead had resigned him to the category of brutal dictator. SFD rights that error in spades, by giving many reasons to fall in love with his sense of righteousness early on. He had me when he asserted his desire to be not good, but just.

“I looked for you” he says to Sambong, when meeting him for the first time. “I have seen all your thoughts; my heart raced again.”

idealistic bang won

And although drunk with power as he takes the lives of his enemies, there is also the reaching in for something like prayer, somehow the sense of sacred duty as he acts, and as he accepts his actions and what may result. His willingness to act, and to accept responsibility and blame, is key to our almost understanding him.

Bang Won

I love also, when a writer is able to sneak something or someone in, and in just a few scenes, impart another entire captivating story line, as these have done with Cheok Sa Gwang.

Cheok Sa Gwang

The elegance and brutality of the fighting, the high regard for each character’s skill and dreams; rarely granting their wishes but rather giving them Roles, often of honor, within wider, overlapping landscapes.

Bang Ji

All the while (48 episodes out of 50, so far, and never losing momentum!) watching I’ve held a sense of shared values and trust, like I had with Misaeng. Blends (fact and fiction, fantasy and history, romance and trajedy), are my favorite genre; not much else makes sense.

Even the music is fittingly haunting.

And, in spite of the serious tone you might gather from these glimpses, this is also a world with warmth, love, and humor, that even allows for a character like Hwarang Warrior Gil Tae Mi.

Gil Tae Mi

And warrior Moo Hyul, the supremely tenderhearted…

Moo Hyul