Tag Archives: Je-yong Lee

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….

3/4★★★

CREDITS

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 Hanmac Films/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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Asako in Ruby Shoes (2000, Lee Je-yong)

I’m a fan of Korean films. My introduction to the industry and my love for it is well documented here at The Stop Button, or at least it will be as soon as I get the archives up and going (next month, hopefully). And I’ve seen some great Korean films. I’ve seen some good ones too, but I have seen a couple great ones. But they were great comedies. These films manage to combine romantic comedy with the human heart in conflict with itself better than any American film has done since… well, I can’t even think of one off the top of my head, but I’ll bet it was in black and white. In other words, as of yesterday, I had never seen a great Korean romantic drama. The ones I had seen, some were good, some were just all right (I’ve yet to turn off a Korean film)….

I made a note to myself at the beginning of Asako in Ruby Shoes: “Films that start with the musical score over the production company logos… it’s a bold move.” Such a movie either signals something awful–bold because it’s obnoxious–or something else. If it weren’t for Asako, I wouldn’t have an example of something else. It means you’re establishing the film with its music before it begins… you’re not giving the viewer a moment outside the context of your film. Its literary equivalent is telling some of your story in the Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data information.

There were moments–about an hour in–when I thought Asako was going to fail. Well, not fail, but slope down and level off at two and a half or three. The film had just moved back to one story-line from another and the intensity lessened. Except–I realized at the end of Asako–Lee knows what he’s doing. I found I was waiting for the end, for example, to see how good he was going to do, not hoping for it not to fail too much. That sensation is exciting, since I don’t have it very often. Maybe with Bringing Out the Dead, since I’d forgotten its ending, I got excited. It doesn’t happen often enough.

It’s hard to describe the film though and it’s a shitty one to write-up in a lot of ways, because there’s no easy way for one to see it. Actually, I suppose you could join Nicheflix or buy it for eight bucks off eBay. There’s a transfer issue with the DVDs though, so you can’t deinterlace it, which is a pain when you’re watching it on a computer, which wants to deinterlace. (Deinterlacing, generally speaking, is a good idea). So I had to go through a whole process to watch this film–and I was only fifteen minutes in when I discovered how to correct the problem–but those first fifteen minutes were amazing. There’s some other film that kept having these wonderful false endings, where each time you expected it and were happy with it, then they kept getting better and better. I can’t remember what it was or when I saw it.

I’m already at the longest post of the year to date and I haven’t said much about the acting. Both the leads are great. Lee Jung-Jae is famous and I’ve seen a bunch of his stuff (though none of it hinted that he could be as good as he is in Asako). Tachibana Misato is apparently not famous and has two films available through Netflix–both are action movies starring Americans who couldn’t get work here anymore–which is too bad, because her performance is probably the better of the two. And he’s real good. They must be good, I hardly ever mention actors who don’t have some marquee value.

If I didn’t have to get up in four or five hours, I’d watch Asako again. It’s that good. (It’s so good I just used ‘that’ in a lousy way, all for emphasis).

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Written, directed and edited by Lee Je-yong; director of photography, Hong Gyeong-pyo; music by Cho Sung-woo; produced by Koo Boo-han; released by Cinema Service.

Starring Lee Jung-jae (U-In), Tachibana Misato (Aya), Awata Urara (Rie) and Kim Min-hie (Mia).