Mi-suk Lee

…ing (2003, Lee Eon-hie)

While the Koreans do make the best ‘dying girl with mysterious illness falls in love’ better than anyone else, I’m not sure it’s an honor one would want. The amazing thing about how well they make these films is I don’t have any complaints with the writing of …ing. It’s fine. It’s effective, engaging, occasionally too much, but only once or twice. As far as a melodrama goes, it’s got a great base. There’s a really unique element–the dying girl doesn’t know she’s dying for the majority of the film, another surprise I actually can’t give away, and then there’s a nice coda on the film. The problem is the director. I could use a baking metaphor here, but basically, the director dropped the ball over and over and over again. The film’s got two great endings it doesn’t use, it’s got some easily correctable mediocre scenes–all from a directorial and editing standpoint, so… yeah. Lee just dropped the ball.

See, the girl’s a great artist and it never comes up. Beginning and end, those times are it. It’s not just a missed opportunity, it’s a logic problem. She doesn’t have time to be an artist because we spend the whole movie with her. The handling of the mystery illness and the deformed hand are questionable too. They come up in some really good scenes, but it’s real clear the filmmakers are skirting the issue.

The acting’s excellent. Lee Mi-suk is great, not much of a surprise there, as the girl’s mother. It gives Lee a lot of different angles to play–sad, funny, whatnot–which lets her give the character some resonance, because once the romance takes off, she becomes a device more than anything else. The lead, Lim Su-jeong, is good too, but since the film never firmly establishes she doesn’t understand her condition… it’s a bit of a guessing game. The guy, played by Kim Rae-won, gets to have the most fun and he shows a lot more range than initially visible.

It’s a stalely directed tear-jerker with bad music choices, but if you’re going to watch one, it’s one of the better ones.



Directed by Lee Eon-hie; written by Kim Jin; edited by Lee Hyeon-mi; music by Bang Jun-seok; production designer, Lee Jong-pil; released by Tube Entertainment.

Starring Lim Su-jeong (Min-a), Kim Rae-won (Yeong-jae), Lee Mi-suk (Mi-suk), Yun Chang (Kyung-soo) and Kim In-mum (the crossing guard).

An Affair (1998, Lee Je-yong)

After Asako in Ruby Shoes, I had high hopes for An Affair, Lee’s first film. Seeing one film, then going back and watching earlier films from the same director can be odd. You’re watching the blossoming in reverse. I’m trying to think of someone whose first films aren’t good. An Affair is good, it’s just not as good as Asako. It came really close to being… close to Asako, but Lee’s powerful visualization isn’t fully realized in An Affair. He has wonderful framing–there’s one particular scene, when the two people having the affair are walking along a lake and their motion pulls the camera… until the end the shot, they’re in control of the camera, not the director. The sound design is the most striking. Every one in the film works to create the mood. The music’s also important, but the sound design is more masterful. Everything hasn’t come together yet. He doesn’t understand just how important he make his shots.

More, however, the film’s problems come from the screenplay. For the first half of the film, the cuckold is poorly defined. He’s a successful architect… he works too much… blah blah blah. In the second half, of course, we learn he’s harboring deep feelings for a coworker (and has been for years) and suppresses them to keep his marriage together. He reacts to his suspicions in wonderful ways… ways the character in the first half wasn’t capable of realizing. The boyfriend, played by Lee Jung-Jae, who’s usually great, is an enigma for the first half of the film. It could have been a stalker movie during the seduction. Lee (the actor), in all of his other films, realizes these conflicted characters, and here he’s got his armed tied behind his back… (by Lee, the director). The film hides the character and his intentions from the audience, which is not a good thing to do.

Lee Mi-suk, the wife, gives the film’s best performance because it’s her film. She’s quiet and her performance is a perfect performance for (the director) Lee’s style–it synthesizes with the rest of An Affair. Lee Jung-Jae’s doesn’t (again, not all his fault), but it needed to do so. Together, however, the two leads are wonderful. They play very well off each other and, in the early scenes, the ominous air about the boyfriend begins to make one wary of the film. You can’t trust the film and a film like this one–(it’s long… it’s boring… it’s that good boring I love so much… it’s a lengthy 108 minutes)–you need to be able to trust it.

An Affair is a good film, made by a great director who wasn’t quite ready on the writing. But, he had a co-writer, so… who knows….



Directed by Lee Je-yong; written by Lee and Kim Dae-woo; director of photography, Kim Yeong-cheol; edited by Ham Sung-won; music by Jo Sung-woo; produced by Lee Se-Ho and Oh Jung-Wan; released by Cinema Service.

Starring Lee Mi-suk (Seo-hyun), Lee Jung-jae (U-in), Kim Min (Ji-hyun), Song Young-chang (Jun-il) and Lee Woo-hyun (Jin-soo).

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