Sometimes I am wrong about things. When I first watched this movie, I thought it was nice, but would probably not make the list. But then it nagged at me for a couple of days, in a very strange way. Usually a movie either grabs me or it doesn’t. In fact, it is far more likely that I am going to fall out of love with a film after a period of reflection (sometimes I get seduced by the shiny stuff, and only when I gain some distance am I able make a long-term judgement. I would make a terrible film critic!).
So I watched it again. And again. At which point I realised – I rather loved it. With some reservations.
“Classic” (or is it “The Classic”?) is yet another film by Kwak Jae- young – he seems to have very quickly become one of my favourite directors. This film is totally gorgeous – seriously one of the best looking movies I have seen in a long time.
I’ll approach this a little differently than usual. I’ll start with the bad, as I think this is what made me initially unsure about the film. And my issues are all with the first 5 or 6 minutes. The opening sequence, although filled with the director’s usual tricks (some white Doves, classical music), seems awkward and just out of step with the rest of the film. We are introduced to our main character, and given some seriously bizarre background on her that HAS NO RELEVANCE TO THE FILM WHATSOEVER. Her Blood Type and her martial arts prowess just seem superfluous. If someone could let me know if I am missing something, I’ll happily retract this.
But then we get to the guts of the movie. What we have here is the old Cyrano de Bergerac device, where one individual writes love letter on behalf of a friend, only to fall in love with the target of the love letters. However, what we have here is that there a parallel stories going on – we have the present day story of Ji-Hae, and the story of her Mother, Joo-Hee, in the late 60’s. Both are played by the beauteous Son Ye-jin – who displays some excellent acting ability – not just an ability to cry (which she does have to do – a lot)
To be brutal, the present day story is far less engaging, frankly I felt no attachment with any of the characters. But the story set some 40 years ago is utterly charming. Yes, it is at times overwrought melodrama, but sometimes that is just what I need. The film manages to evoke a sense of time and place that is special. It deals with social issues (such as Korean Schools, and social conventions and mores) as well as delivering tales of both love and a friendship between the two male leads.
In fact, I find this friendship to be one of the strongest parts of the film. It would have been so easy for them to become bitter rivals – but the story goes somewhere else completely. It helps that both Cho Seung-woo (Joon-Ha) and Lee Ki-woo (Tae-Su) play the parts of unlikely friends to perfection.
As always with Kwak Jae-young’s films, the Music score is impeccable, and matches the beautiful cinematography.
I did notice that people only seemed to be able to talk about their true feelings whenever it was raining in the film. Fortunately – it rained a lot!
There was also a fair bit of scatological “humour” going on throughout the film – I am at a loss to work out the metaphor that was being addressed….
Now, I am not going to spoil the film too much when I say not everyone makes it to the end of the film. But I did find the sheer amount of bad things that happened to one character was maybe just too much. But the sometimes bad things happen to good people I suppose.
And then there is the end. In which things get wrapped up. For me it was too neat, and frankly unnecessary. I understand about circles being completed, etc. Just because and ending is happy, does not make it a happy ending.
However, this is a lovely piece of cinema. Highly recommended. Bring tissues.