金曜日, 1月 23, 2004

I may be giving the impression that I do nothing but study and read books of great literary value. Pppphhhtt! It was Chinese New Year's Eve on Wed. (my birthday), and we stayed up late eating cake and watching My Sassy Girl (a Korean romantic comedy) and Hero (Chang Yimou's beautiful propaganda flick.

My Sassy Girl is a charming film that trots out every cliche in the genre:
she can't get over the death of her old boyfriend, he struggles in school to meet his parents' expectations, they search for each other but happen to be on opposite sides of the escalator, she bids him farewell at the train station but then starts chasing it...The fun is all in the delivery. The stars are great comic actors--indeed, it's when the movie becomes blatantly sentimental that it bogs down.

I find that Korean movies in general is rather melodramatic. As a friend pointed out, it's always boy meets girl, boy gets girl, girl dies of leukemia or boy meets girl, girl is actually his sister, boy and girl agonize for two hours, boy and girl are actually unrelated because boy's mom was having an affair. The Japanese already went through that phase a decade ago and are much more sophisticated--or perhaps I'm just being biased. :)

Still, while My Sassy Girl could have been a Japanese or Chinese film, Hero is an unmistakably Chinese film. When you get a bunch of Chinese people together, the regional differences always stand out (i.e. everyone dislikes the Shanghai-ese). But tied to it is always the identity of the "Empire"--all peoples (barbarians don't count) united "Under Heaven."

I watched Hero with a group of heavily Americanized high school classmates. Yet, every one of us walked out talking about the political message of the movie. The subtext is strong enough that it sometimes ruins my enjoyment of the visuals. More on this later.