I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK (2006)

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Who said that master of vengeance Chan-wook Park can't film romantic comedies? I don't know, but if someone did say that, I'd present to him I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK (Ssaibogeujiman Gwaenchanha) and ask to check again.

Cha Young-goon (Su-jeong Lim), a young factory worker that is sent to mental institution, because she think's shes a cyborg. She refuses to eat food and constantly attempts to expose herself to electric shocks, believing that it will recharge her instead.

Park Il-sun (Rain), a young man, that's hospitalized for his antisocial behavior and schizophrenia induced kleptomania tendencies. He also believes that he can steal and posses other people souls, often mimicking their manners of behaving.

Park Il-sun takes interest in Cha Young-goon well being after her condition gets even worse after medical electroshock treatment. Both of them start spending their time together, living though their own weirdness and the ones of other patient that surround them in this asylum.

The structure and narrative of the movie is quite bizarre and at times confusing, but so is minds of the characters portrayed in it. Even though these characters are complex and puzzling, the story told is quite simple.

Visually really colorful and robust movie deals about darker and familiar to Chan-wook Park themes, workings of human mind, but this time he is taking it a little bit lighter, tying to fix it instead of damaging.

Korean pop superstars Rain's first role in movies that many thought was only a marketing ploy to promote himself and film, not expecting young star to perform well, but they were wrong, he's not only a good (I suppose) singer, but a good actor as well.  Su-jeong Lim should too be complemented on her acting abilities. Being crazy is not that simple.

A little bit of comedy, drama and absolutely crazy fantasy sequences, directed by Chan-wook Park, whats there not to see? It's worth watching even if only to check out a different side of this famous director.

DVD from Amazon

Castaway on the Moon (2009)

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Castaway on the Moon (Kimssi pyoryugi) was a positive surprise to me when I saw it, coming from quite unknown director Hey-jun Lee for whom this movies so far is the biggest and most recognized work that gathered some amount of awards in Asian region.

A man burdened by debts, failed relationships and job that drains him has had enough. He makes suicide attempt jumping from the bridge into river Han. But by accident he survives and wakes up being washed upon a shore of small uninhabited island in the midst of river. Finding himself in silly situation, where civilization is all around him, yet he cannot escape. He tries to find a way to leave the island and still is determined to end his life, but slowly as he adjusts to peaceful rhythm of the island, his resolve changes. He finds reasons to continue.

 A girl, that had some kind of traumatic experience earlier in her life, hiding behind her computer screen, pretending on the internet to be someone else, someone beautiful, successful and happy, wanting to be appreciated by people she's never seen. Living secluded in her crammed room, never going out. The only thing that brings genuine happiness to her is pictures of the moon, that she takes during the night, from her window. "You cannot be lonely in a place where there is no one around." is what moon represents to her. One time she points her camera at the island and sees a man, and large letters carved in sand spelling - HELP.

While obviously those of you who watch a lot of movies, will make a connection to famous movie Cast Away with Tom Hanks, title and even the plot outlines are very similar. You might even think it's a remake of said movie with added a bit of Korean twist, but I assure you it's not. It's genuinely good movie able to stand on it's own.

A touching story of two troubled people who by chance make a connection. Both are taking a break from the outside world. Both are damaged in their own ways. And while dealing with hard issues, it's essentially a positive movie that emphasizes importance of hope. To call it simply a love story would do no justice for it attempts to expand on many other matter.

Essentially this movie is two actor show (Jae-yeong Jeong & Ryeowon Jung) as we see only them for most part of the movie, but what a great job they did, believable and enjoyable performances, supported by excellent cinematography and enhanced by directors skillful ability to bring out raw emotions from the viewers.

Highly recommended. Black bean noodles.

Blu-ray from Amazon
DVD (R3) from YesAsia

Sex is Zero (2002)

Genre: Comedy, Romance

And now for something completely different, or perhaps just a tiny bit lighter in the mood. Sex is Zero (Saekjeuk shigong). One of the highest grossing Korean comedies ever by director Je-gyun Yun.

Story follows 28 year old college student Eun-shik Jang (Chang Jung Lim). He is skilled in martial arts, has just finished mandatory army service, but he is completely socially awkward around others. Fortunately (or unfortunately for his serious learning pledge) he encounters fellow army man who had served in his division, and is persuaded to join student club of bodily fitness, where they try to make their bodies invulnerable. Soon, however, he falls in love with charming freshman student Eun-hyo Lee (Ji-won Ha), but he is given cold shoulder, as she fancies someone else. Will Eun-shik will be able to win her over?

Obvious Korean nod to American comedies, notably of very popular at that time American Pie. And it contains everything you could expect from such sex comedy. Dirty jokes, seemingly dumb main character that gets into inappropriate situations all the time and so on. However it wouldn't be Korean movie without strong flavor of drama mixed into it, for a brief time this crazy comedy show slows down and becomes earnest.

If you liked comedies such as mentioned American Pie, you will enjoy it, if you didn't, it's still worth to give a shot, as it still contains many Korean specific elements that you won't find elsewhere.

Entertaining, a bit vulgar but nonetheless fun comedy, definitely not for everyone, but it's impossible to please everybody :)

There is sequel released in 2007 simply called Sex is Zero 2, so it might be a good idea to check it out too, if you will enjoy this one.

DVD from Amazon
DVD from YesAsia

My Sassy Girl (2001)

Genre: Comedy, Romance

Movie goes who are not even familiar with Asian cinema had probably heard of My Sassy Girl (Yeopgijeogin geunyeo), perhaps due to not so good Hollywood remake, but even if you don't watch romantic movies, it's catchy name is floating out there in the air. And time has come to get to know it better, this romantic comedy that shook the east with it's popularity becoming icon of Korean cinema of early 2000's . Work of director Jae-young Kwak.

Plot is based on a series of true stories posted by Kim Ho Sik about relationships with his girlfriend, which gained huge attention in Korean internet community.

Kyun-woo (Tae-hyun Cha) is lonely college student, still unsure with what to do about his future. One day while on subway train he meets really drunk, wildly behaving girl (Gianna Jun), and due to circumstances commuters think he's her boyfriend. With no choice left but to help her, unsure what to, he decided to take her to local hotel to sleep off alcohol. Next day she calls her "savior" angry demanding to explain what happened previous night. They decide to meet and new friendship begins. With time Kyun-woo sees how crazy and silly his new friend can be, one moment hitting him like a punching bag, and next one crying upon his shoulder. Despite everything Kyun-woo is determined to help her overcome her problems and make her life happy.

Really sweet romance comedy. As movie is longer than 2 hours, with most of the screen time dedicated to these two, you could think that it will be boring rid, but the chemistry between them is striking, and with well thought plot, with lots of fun, romance, drama and even a bit of action, it's over before you even know it or want it to be.

Beside Hollywood, My Sassy Girl has been remade in Japan, India and China, which says lot about it's popularity.

Excellent lighthearted romance from Korean to watch with your other half, or alone :)

DVD from Amazon.

3-Iron (2004)

Genre: Drama, Romance

A masterpiece from master of Korean drama - Ki-duk Kim, which earned him many awards, including Best Director award at 2004 Venice International Film Festival and granted international recognition of his talent. After premier at said festival he received 15 minute long standing ovations from audience.

3-Iron (Bin-jip, "Empty House" as translated from Korean language) follows drifting youth Tae-suk (Hyun-kyoon Lee) who breaks into houses of other people while they are away, but instead of robbing them, he cleans up, washes clothes, repairs home appliances and so on. In a way he partakes in the lives of these people. One day house which he visits is not empty, he is being spotted by housewife Sun-hwa (Seung-yeon Lee). He leaves, only to return later on and witness abuse which she is subject to from her husband. A love story begins.

Interesting thing about the movie is that the main character doesn't speak, but his performance of body language and mimics is astonishing and probably expresses much more than the words could possibly do.

Must see.

DVD (US) from Amazon.
DVD (UK) from YesAsia.