My Love, My Bride (나의 사랑 나의 신부) – ★★★☆☆

My Love, My Bride (나의 사랑 나의 신부)

My Love, My Bride (나의 사랑 나의 신부)

After four years of dating, Yeong-min (Jo Jeong-seok (조정석) decides it’s finally time for him to propose to girlfriend Mi-yeong (Shin Min-ah (신민아). Despite their constant arguing, Mi-yeong accepts the proposal and for a while the two live in wedded bliss, much to the chagrin of their friends. Yet soon the realities of living with each other sink in and the newlyweds begin to fight with fresh vigor, creating an enormous amount of stress, as well as comical moments, between them. As their relationship becomes increasingly fraught both Mi-yeong and Yeong-min begin to develop their hobbies and lives independently, until issues arise that force them to reconcile their differences.

My Love, My Bride (나의 사랑 나의 신부) is a remake of director Lee Myeong-se’s (이명세) 1990 classic, updated to reflect contemporary relationships by director Lim Chan-sang (임찬상) and screenwriter Kim Ji-hye (김지혜). The result is a romantic-comedy which is very much lighthearted entertainment, one that attempts to derive comedy from the real-life situations newlywed couples face and moderately succeeds, yet is lacking in sufficient depth to make it more than mildly enjoyable.

For a time, married life is blissful for the newlyweds

For a time, married life is blissful for the newlyweds

As the poster and trailer suggest, My Love, My Bride is a fun take on the silly and trivial matters that afflict newlyweds, and the stressful situations that arise from them. From the moment the film begins the playful approach to marriage is quite enjoyable, as the lively text message conversation between Yeong-min and his friends debates the pros and cons of getting hitched, through to the rampant sex life the couple relish in following their nuptials. Director Lim does a great job in conveying frivolity through such sequences, with effective scenes impressively edited to keep the jokes coming. As the pace slows the story begins to become more concerned with the realities of marriage and the fights that arise, seeking to find humour in such moments. It’s a largely hit and miss affair, with scenes such as Yeong-min’s wandering eyes and jealousy at his wife’s interaction with another man comically executed, while others – that are mostly concerned with Mi-yeong’s life – are less effective.

This is primarily due to the fact that My Love, My Bride is a mostly male-centered narrative, which is unfair given the nature of the relationship. Director Lim attempts to generate sympathy for Yeong-min as something of a struggling artist with a nagging wife, but in reality he is quite the man-child. Mi-yeong’s complaints about urinating on the toilet seat and general lack of hygiene are wholly justified, while foreign audiences will certainly take issue with Mi-yeong’s almost slave status as she takes care of her husband dutifully while he merely barks orders. Luckily the film does attempt to address such issues, but due to the nature of the comedy it is not given sufficient depth. Similarly, the contrast between the couple as they start to consider other potential partners suffers from the same fate. Yeong-min’s thought-process and encounters are quite believable and funny, while Mi-yeong’s are far from it, lacking the sincerity of a woman’s true perspective and the realistic examination the film proclaims.

Mi-yeong becomes increasingly frustrated with Yeong-min's selfish, man-child ways

Mi-yeong becomes increasingly frustrated with Yeong-min’s selfish, man-child ways

My Love, My Bride interestingly explores how both Mi-yeong and Yeong-min have subsumed creative aspects of themselves in the relationship by incorporating their hobbies within the story. Again, the device is more apparent and developed for Yeong-min, as his focus on poetry becomes another stressful element in the marriage. His writing has the potential for a deeper perspective on the relationship but it is never explored, again forcing Mi-yeon to suffer in silence. The few scenes in which Mi-yeon’s artistic ability appear are also wasted opportunities to further examine her character, as aside from fleeting moments, her painting has little impact on the story.

In a bid to wrap up all the narrative strands and bring the couple closer, My Love, My Bride unfortunately falls into the same trap as many other Korean rom-coms by employing unnecessary hospital melodrama. Similar to this year’s earlier comedy Venus Talk, the inclusion of the melodramatic device – as well as sickly-sweet flashbacks – comes out of left field and is quite contrived, though has the desired effect of creating nice closure.

Flashbacks to earlier stages in their relationship remind the couple of the importance of their love

Flashbacks to earlier stages in their relationship remind the couple of the importance of their love

Verdict:

A remake of the 1990 classic, the updated version of My Love, My Bride by director Lim Chan-sang and screenwriter Kim Ji-hye is lighthearted and enjoyable fare. The story is largely hit-and-miss on deriving comedy from the realities of newlywed couples, mostly due to the unfair male-centered focus, particularly as the husband in question is quite immature. Yet there are enough fun moments to be had to make the film an entertaining viewing experience.

★★★☆☆

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Original director Lee Myeong-se and the cast of The Spy:Mr. K

Action/comedy ‘The Spy’ (스파이) gets a trailer

Original director Lee Myeong-se and the cast of The Spy:Mr. K

Original director Lee Myeong-se and the cast of The Spy/Mr. K

Superstars Seol Kyeong-gu (설경구) and Moon So-ri (문소리) are again teaming up for the big screen, this time with Daniel Henney (다니엘 헤니) for an action/comedy tentatively titled The Spy: Undercover Operation (스파이/협상종결자). 

The film – initially called Mr. K – has been in development for quite some time and has been surrounded in controversy, chiefly due to the very public disagreements between original director Lee Myeong-se (이명세) and the production team, whose visions for the blockbuster apparently differed wildly. Director Lee, whose credits include M (엠) and Duelist (형사), is an excellent filmmaker and one of the few genuine auteurs working within the Korean film industry today, however it was always something of an odd choice to have such an artistically-minded person at the helm of a big summer film. With director Lee’s departure, new director Lee Seung-joon (이승준), who was the assistant director on action film Quick (퀵) was brought on board, and now finally a trailer has arrived.

The Spy: Undercover Operation sees top Korean spy Kim Cheol-su (Seol Kyeong-gu) on a mission to solve a terrorist attack that occurs in Seoul, with the investigation taking him to Thailand. Yet being the best has meant neglecting his flight attendant wife Young-hee (Moon So-ri), putting a strain on the relationship. However while undercover in Bangkok, Cheol-su spots his wife with handsome rival Ryan (Daniel Henney) and begins to go against orders to discover what his wife is up to.

It’s quite a departure for the Seol/Moon team-up that brought audiences powerhouse performances in Oasis (오아시스) and Peppermint Candy (박하사탕). Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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Min-woo is a successful author with an idea he can't conceptualize

M (M (엠)) – ★★★★☆

M (M (엠))

M (M (엠))

Identity and memory are complicated postmodern concepts to convey cinematically. Michel Gondry’s sublime Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) is perhaps the most renowned mainstream production to interrogate such abstract subject matter, conveying the importance of love, loss and memory as fundamental in the creation and evolution of identity. Without them, Gondry posits, a person will forever be trapped in an identity loop where choices and mistakes are destined to be repeated.

M (M (엠)) also explores such abstract themes and, thanks to artistic auteur Lee Myeong-se (이명세), in a postmodern art-house style. The result is one that instantly polarizes audiences between those with expectations of mainstream conventions and those with an appreciation of art cinema; the former will dislike the absence of structured storytelling and unconventional visualization, while the latter will find enjoyment in the colours, mise-en-scene, and technical innovation.

Min-woo (Kang Dong-won (강동원) is a successful novelist, struggling to write the amazing idea locked within his brain that he can’t fully recall. Plagued by insomnia, Min-woo suffers from hallucinations and stress – when he does sleep, he is hounded by nightmarish dreams. The boundaries between reality and his subconscious blur constantly as Min-woo is confronted by images and scenarios both new and  vaguely familiar, all the while stalked by love-stricken Mi-mi (Lee Yeon-hee (이연희). Finally confronting each other in a bar, Min-woo tells Mi-mi his idea but awakes in his apartment with no recollection. Pushing away his faithful wife Eun-hye (Kong Hyo-jin (공효진) with his erratic behaviour, Min-woo attempts to track down the mysterious Mi-mi within the surreal landscape in order to unlock the story seemingly trapped within his subconscious.

Min-woo is a successful author with an idea he can't conceptualize

Min-woo is a successful author with an idea he can’t conceptualize

The visuals within M are astounding and a testament to the creative flair of Lee Myeong-se, who constructs and frames locations with phenomenal artistic skill. Each venue is masterfully created to portray the wildly different emotions within the subconscious of Min-woo. A street scene, which serves as something of a nexus point within the film, is constructed akin to a Parisian boulevard with the placement of sunlight and the camera filters working in conjunction to convey a beautifully romantic setting, emphasizing the purity of the love Mi-mi exudes despite her stalking. Conversely the employment of shadows and darkness adds genuine horror to scenes within Min-woo’s apartment as insomnia and nightmares take hold, while the alley leading to Lupin’s bar is reminiscent of Ridley Scott’s dystopian Bladerunner (1982).

Similarly the technical prowess within M virtually demands recognition for the innovations displayed. Camera angles and movements allow the audience to experience the disorientation felt by Min-woo, resulting in both having difficulty in perceiving dreams from reality. When Min-woo meets Mi-mi in Lupin’s bar their conversation alternates between moving and still images that capture the moments they share, as if being monitored as well as emulating photographs from a date. The meeting between Min-woo and his agent and later his father-in-law are absorbing as the camera zooms into a painting that emulates the restaurant itself; the painting-within-a-painting becomes a painting-within-a-film-within-a-painting becoming a wonderful visual device that expresses Min-woo’s confused perception.

The visual devices within M are highly innovative

The visual devices within M are highly innovative

The focus on artistic and technical merit results in lack of attention on the narrative itself, with the trajectory often not strong enough to link scenes and propel the film forward, instead relying on the suspense and mystery of the visuals to connect scenes. This is unfortunate as the narrative is highly compelling when given attention yet this occurs randomly and infrequently, detracting from the drive for resolution.

This criticism can also be applied to the performances of the central cast, often employed as a focus for the mise-en-scene rather than their acting ability. This particularly applies to Kang Dong-won as Min-woo, as his character is constantly a conundrum due to the various extremes of emotions that he portrays. As such it is problematic to form an empathic bond with him, made more difficult during moments of over-acting. Lee Yeon-hee however is incredibly endearing as Mi-mi, exuding innocence and demure femininity with confidence. Her stalking is cute rather than creepy through her wonderful mannerisms, and her battle with the shadows is full of suspense and horror. Despite the small screen-time given to Kong Hyo-jin, as Min-woo’s wife Eun-hye, she competently portrays an ignored housewife.

The street 'nexus' is highly romantic while Mi-mi's stalking is sweet natured

The street ‘nexus’ is highly romantic while Mi-mi’s stalking is sweet natured

Verdict:

M will undoubtedly not appeal to fans of structured mainstream films, with its abstract exploration of memory, loss and identity. For those interested in more artistic and experimental filmmaking, is a visual tour-de-force with incredible expression of colour and technical confidence. The poignancy of Min-woo’s journey through his subconscious is acute, and serves as a wonderfully thrilling and romantic addition to auteur Lee Myeong-se’s filmography.

★★★★☆

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