[ENTERTAINMENT] Korean Films: Success Breeds Failure

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[ENTERTAINMENT] Korean Films: Success Breeds Failure

There was a time when Korean movies were crude and unpopular, a time when making movies here required a colossal effort of will to secure funding and find an audience.

But the success of Korean movies such as "Shiri" and "Joint Security Area" elevated Korea's film industry to new heights. Korean films now command a 40-percent share of box office receipts. But the recognition that the film industry can now compete for has led to new worries about the quality of the movies produced. "Geunyeo-ege Jamdeulda," directed by Park Sung-il, which opens at theaters March 17, confirms that this anxiety is not just about paranoia.

Kim Tae-yeon, who charmed the public with her impressive performance in the movie "Geojit-mal" ("Lies"), directed by Jang Sun-woo, stars in this soon-to-be-released movie as Su-bin, a young woman who competes obsessively with her lover's career as a music composer. She does everything in her power to win his attention, leading her companion, Jae-mo (Lee Ju-hyun), finally to give up his career. This leaves Su-bin with a mental disorder.

The director and producer remarked that they were inspired by the French film, "Betty Blue" (1986) directed by Jean-Jacques Beineix - and indeed they were. The only difference in the plot of the Korean version is the occupation of the male character. In "Betty Blue," Jean-Hugues Anglade is an aspiring novelist, while in the Korean adaptation, Lee Ju-hyun is a music composer.

The Korean movie is not likely to meet the high expectation of Korean moviegoers, who have come to expect higher quality. Though the actress Kim Tae-yeon throws herself into her role just as enthusiastically as Beatrice Dalle did, this movie comes up short on many counts.

For one thing, what fuels Su-bin's infatuation with Jae-mo is not properly demonstrated or explained. Events are unconvincing. To win sympathy from audiences, movies must win empathy, which is difficult to do if there is no emotional or logical reason for it. The way the plot unfolds is problematic. There is little cause and effect.

This is particularly true when Su-bin tries abruptly to injure herself when Jae-mo abandons his dream and decides to remain a farmer. Her disillusionment and her sudden switch to the bizarre are not adequately explained.

Moreover, the movie spirals further into strange territory with redundant supporting roles, bedroom scenes that fail to jibe with the rest of the film and excessive, often unnecessary, obscenities.

And these are not faults of a single film. They can can be found to a greater or lesser degree in many recent Korean releases, including "Gwangsigok" and "Club Butterfly." Since "Joint Security Area," Korean movie directors and producers seem to have forgotten past difficulties, becoming complacent with their short history of success, mechanical and lax.

They must understand that for sustained success, they must adhere to the same strictures and standards now being imposed in other areas of Korean society.

by Park Jeong-ho

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