All posts by yook

My Sassy Girl Film Review


    Garnering various accolades for being a standout in the genre romantic comedy, My Sassy Girl entreats the audience to the comical story about the goofy play-boy wannabe named Kyun-woo and his erratic, tumultuous relationship with his tough-skinned, aggressive girlfriend, who is referred to as The Girl. Released in 2001 in South Korea, My Sassy Girl originated from a series of online blog posts detailing the romance of a couple who met in unexpected circumstances in the metro station in South Korea. Directed by Kwak Jae-yong, the film is known for the combined acting of its celebrity actor and actress Cha Tae-hyun and Jun Ji-hyun who play Kyun-woo and The Girl, respectively. Having much international success, especially in countries in East Asia, the movie boosted their careers and inspired remakes of the film in several other countries: U.S., Japan, India, and China.

    Given the dual nature of romantic comedy as a hybrid genre, the audience can expect to see an eclectic mix of different themes playing together. Being in a relationship with the stubborn Girl, Kyun-woo constantly finds himself in situations in which The Girl subverts gender roles and putting him in embarrassing situations. While constantly ending up in comically ridiculous situations, Kyun-woo continuously perseveres in his role as The Girl’s boyfriend, jumping through hoops for her to be happy. In one instance, The Girl subverts the gender roles by guilt-tripping Kyun-woo into wearing her high heels while she wears his sneakers, emasculating him as he chases The Girl past groups of students and through an ongoing baseball game at his own university. Throughout the film, he comically ends up in prison surrounded by gangsters several times and as a hostage of a renegade soldier of the South Korean army. In each situation, he depends on the movie’s heroine The Girl to rescue him.

    Besides exploring subverted gender roles, the movie dabbles with the theme of fantasy and time. In various scenes, The Girl and Kyun-woo will adopt the heroine and the secondary acting roles, respectively, in the various screenwrites created by The Girl. While some of these fantasy stories may take place in a sci-fi world or an ancient Korean peninsula, the heroine’s character is always from the future, evoking the theme of time. Time becomes associated with transformation for the sake of growth as the movie progresses as exemplified by Kyun-woo. While he struggles and perseveres in being the boyfriend that The Girl needs by playing a secondary role to the film’s heroine, Kyun-woo shows his best qualities through his desire to compliment The Girl’s personality while improving himself throughout the story’s progression. These key moments when Kyun-woo takes the spotlight show the romantic side of the film–as the camera captures a continuous shot of his monologue, we see significant growth in him as a character through how he becomes sensitive to The Girl, making her a priority and a responsibility.

    After seeing My Sassy Girl, the audience will enjoy a unique viewing experience–one that inspired similar films that cannot compare to the original. Through the various themes expressed in role reversals and romantic moments, the audience will enjoy this hybrid drama in which they will share the happy and sad moments in the characters’ lives while laughing at the same time.

Film Review for “The Time to Live and The time to Die”


       In his semi-autobiographical film The Time to Live and the Time to Die, director Hou Hsiao-Hsien tells a coming-of-age story that is reflective of experiences of growing up in a Taiwan inundated with various refugee groups of the Chinese diaspora as a result of the communist regime coming to power in mainland China. Born in Guangdong province, Hou’s family and other refugees moved to Taiwan in 1948. This is the time period that the film shows the main character Ah-ha’s childhood years. Then, the movie cutted to his teen years in which he experiences his coming-of-age in a Taiwan redefined by its immigrant population and its historical context. For viewers unfamiliar interested in a film reflective of a young man’s coming of age during the period of the region’s history, they will see a mixture of themes of coping with life’s difficulties that nicely paralleled the melting pot of immigrant groups’ experiences in Taiwan. Similar to the how Taiwan became a country made unique by its political juxtaposition to China and influx of refugees from the mainland, this film will entertain viewers with a unique coming-of-age film made further unique by the setting in which it takes place.

          At the beginning, the audience will see the immigrant identity reflected in Ah-ha’s experiences as a young boy in his family’s new situated lifestyle in Taiwan. While Ah-ha grows used to living in Taiwan, the theme of homeland reoccurs whenever Ah-ha’s grandmother tells him she will take Ah-ha back to mainland China. Other remnants of Taiwan’s past as a Japanese colony can be found in the still shots of Ah-ha’s family going about their lives in a Japanese-style household indicated by tatami whereas reminders of the communist rule and Taiwan’s strained tensions with the mainland are reflected in militarization of tanks. With the death of his father, the film immediately shifts into his coming-of-age period as a young adult, but the theme of immigrant experiences continually permeates the film.

        In his teenage years, Ah-ha lives in Taiwan as an adolescent male, and his experiences reflect themes of masculinity, responsibility, and death as he matures as a young adult. While actively projecting his masculinity through gang fights, billiards, and lifting weights, tensions between his life at home and his time outside of it with his friends arise when he begins to focus on caring for his mother, his three young siblings, and contemplates his future by taking placement exams to enter a university. In other words, he had this image of being a man given how he always socialized in young-adult-male dominated environments in which his head is filled with a sense of comradery, images of naked women, and the need to become muscular. When faced with responsibilities toward young children and the death of his grandmother, Ah-ha is stripped of this embedded sense of masculinity–he becomes a young adult who has to deal with realizations of his duty as a male in the household with certain inherited expectations. With the death of his grandmother, Ah-ha reflects on his memory as a child collecting fruit with his grandmother, hinting at failed filial piety as a major theme when the young generation in Taiwan fail in their role of caring for the previous generation in their family.

       While the audience may draw comparisons between Hou’s film and Yasujiro Ozu’s Tokyo Story, people watching The Time to Live and the Time to Die should expect a different film with respect to the portrayed experiences and the themes. Whereas both directors make use of film techniques such as breaking the 180 degree rule or taking shots that explore the depth of setting, Hou employs the background and setting to a great extent to express historical aspects of the time period. Throughout the movie, the audience should expect a unique film that is reflective of a Taiwan diversified by various Chinese identities as expressed in the use of different Chinese dialects. As Ozu establishes himself as a director with Tokyo Story, Hou creates a film that actively performs the identity of a “new Taiwan” in the mid-1900s.

      Through viewing this film, the audience will enjoy viewing themes of a coming-of-age film in a historical and culturally-embedded setting. Each scene has historically relevant details along with metaphors hinting toward themes of the film, creating an intricate and enjoyable viewing experience. After watching Hou’s The Time to Live and The Time to Die, avid film viewers of works from East Asian directors will have no trouble seeing Hou as an accomplished director in his medium and will anxiously wait for the next opportunity to view his work.