Winter's Films Tried to Break New Ground

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Winter's Films Tried to Break New Ground

The Korean movie industry this winter has done its best to attract moviegoers into theaters throughout the freezing weather with a selection of heartwarming romantic dramas. Cinemas have hosted an unusually large number of what are termed "melodramas" in Korean, including "Sunaebo" ("Asako in Ruby Shoes"), "I Wish I Had a Wife, Too," "A Day" ("Haru") and "Bungee Jumping" ("Beonji Jeompeureul Hada").

These stories of love and melancholy have replaced last year's blockbuster action films such as "Joint Security Area," "The Legend of Gingko" and "Libera ME" at the box office.

The films managed to succeed due to a combination of gripping story lines, original concepts and masterful delivery and direction.

"Sunaebo," directed by Lee Jae-yong, dealt with an average man, a worker at a small district office who is fed up with his prosaic life. But his wearisome, if placid, daily life is shaken up when he accidentally encounters in person a Japanese woman whom he has previously met through the Internet. The director tried to show how random coincidence can shape, even rock, normal lives.

"I Wish I Had a Wife, Too," directed by Park Heung-sik, also features two unremarkable people - a banker and a school teacher. The film was a fine retelling of the tried-and-trusted theme of extraordinary love between ordinary folks.

"A Day," directed by Han Ji-seung, was a study of the unsmiling topic of a young married couple whose baby is destined to die just a day after it is born.

"Bungee Jumping," the most recent romantic drama, worked with the themes of reincarnated love and soul mates.

Though these melodramas were cut from the same cloth, none meriting special attention, critics say that all played a significant role in enlivening the overall movie industry. These recent films did break the mold of the typical Korean romance story line of tears followed by redemption and reconciliation. These dramas, studies in the small aspects of life rather than an exercise in coercing tears from the audience, laid a new cornerstone to the structure of Korean moviemaking.

At the same time, these films were successful at the box office as well, all except for "Sunaebo," attracting 100,000 to 300,000 moviegoers.

But they also left much to be desired. In spite of the good intentions that drove directors to picture daily routines without exaggeration, the films fail to tell what is really going on inside Korea. Cho Hee-mun, a movie critic, remarked, "The directors focused on styling their movies, and as a result, they have ended up creating their own limitations." While trying to make their films nice-looking, they failed to paint a true picture of the dark side of Korean society. Jeon Chan-il, another movie critic, suggested, "Regardless of the genre, movies have a responsibility to light up the past and present, as well as a vision for the future, and romance dramas are no exception."

by Park Jeong-ho

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