[VIDEO REVIEWS]'Zoo' a screenplay within a screenplay

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[VIDEO REVIEWS]'Zoo' a screenplay within a screenplay

While DVDs are becoming increasingly widespread in Korea, they are still far from ubiquitous. Finding them can take a little work.

For buying, your best bet is to try major music stores. The Kyobo Book Center in downtown Seoul has a DVD section that has many Korean films. Yongsan Electronics Mart and Technomart both have areas with many DVDs, although be careful about buying pirated, low-quality DVDs. Expect to pay around 17,000-22,000 won ($13-17) for a DVD.

If that is too steep for you, video rental stores are stocking more DVDs. The Young-hwa Maeul franchise is especially good at stocking them (although their choice of Korean DVDs is often mysteriously lacking). And the Internet has many online stores that sell even Korean DVDs.

Art Museum by the Zoo

Directed by Lee Jeong-hyang. Starring Shim Eun-ha, Ahn Sung-ki, Lee Seung-jae, Song Sun-mi

It is startling how quickly the Korean movie scene has changed. When this film was released in 1998, it was the third-biggest movie of the year, drawing a then-impressive 450,000 viewers in Seoul alone. In 2001, that would not even crack the top 10.

Like many romantic comedies, its premise is somewhat outlandish ?Chul-soo (Lee Seung-jae) goes to visit his girlfriend while on leave from his military service, only to discover that his girlfriend has moved out and some other woman is living in the same apartment. He has nowhere to go, so he moves in with her.

Choon-hee (Shim Eun-ha), the apartment's new resident, is less than impressed with this arrangement, but Chul-soo paid her overdue rent and he is a good typist, so she puts up with it. The typing part is important because she is trying to write a screenplay for some sort of competition, but her miserable hunt-and-peck approach had been getting her nowhere fast.

They begin to collaborate on the screenplay, both projecting their troubled love-lives into the story line. Throughout the movie, their quirky, innocent film intersects with their real lives in inventive and fun ways. Choon-hee's movie features the zoo worker and amateur astronomer Joo In-kong (Ahn Sung-ki), and the art gallery worker Da-hye (Song Sun-mi).

Much of the fun and humor in the movie comes from the testy banter between Chul-soo and Choon-hee, but, unfortunately, the subtitling cannot express all the subtleties in the original dialogue. For example, at one point Choon-hee makes a play on In-kong's name and a word for a satellite, inkonguiseong. There is no way to translate that effectively. Also, the ages of the two protagonists play a key role in how they address each other, but English cannot really express that either.

The light but well-done romantic comedy did have one extremely unusual quality ?a woman director. In fact, in the last nine years of Korean cinema, less than 1 percent of film were made by women directors. But Lee Jeong-hyang, the director of "Art Museum," will soon release her follow-up, "Homeward Bound."

by Mark Russell

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