August 18, 2012

Can Love Become Money? – Episode 18 – Korean drama review

Uhm Ji Won rides behind Yun Jung Hun on a bicycle with her arms wrapped around him as he pedals happily;This episode brings Yeon Jun Hun and Uhm Ji Won together in real romance at last. And it was worth waiting for. They are so very adorable together. In Tak is open and relaxed, while Da Ran is carefree, and just the right amount of strong. Although his transformation is more drastic than hers, it has been a shift by such gradual degrees that it’s completely believable. We feel this is who he really is, should have been all along.

Jo Yeon Woo looks haunted and stressed as his plot starts to unravel; In Tak describes his feelings about Da Ran to Mi Mi, who has to notice that they don’t in any way resemble her relationship with Seon Woo. She is starting to see the driven, haunted Seon Woo behind the charming and polished veneer, which has been cracking for several episodes, ever since the real Hong Mi Seun put in an appearance. His control is slipping on all sides, and Mi Mi defiantly chooses the role of In Tak’s cousin over the role of Seon Woo’s lover. In the end, though, she implements the next phase of Seon Woo’s plot for her own reasons. It must rankle that she’s doing it for In Tak, rather than for him, but Seon Woo is way too far gone into obsession to consider that a happy relationship might do more for his pain than an elaborate revenge scheme.

Yun Jeong Hoon and Eom Ji Won shop for furnishings for their new life together;Meanwhile, In Tak and Da Ran are such sweet lovers that we feel we could watch them for a whole series. In Tak even tells Da Ran his darkest secret, and she takes his hand, reminding him how young he was. Later, she puts two and two together to make Seon Woo. Her co-conspirators are stunned when she bows out of the game at the moment of triumph, in a long overdue fit of conscience. There are still too many secrets for the idyll to last, and by the end of the episode, Yeon Jung Hun gets another opportunity to express emotional extremes, and does it fabulously, leaving me to wonder for the umpteenth time what kind of training Korean actors get that makes them so very good.

The conspirators are closing in on In Tak, though the details are sketchy, as if the writers think we don’t care as much about the financial machinations as we do about the relationships. Now where would they get an idea like that? Actually, as involved as this plot is, they’ve kept it pretty clear, which is saying something where Korean drama is concerned. If we don’t know something, it’s because they haven’t revealed it yet.

When I first watched episodes 14-18 without subtitles, I was extremely confused by all the different women In Tak was meeting. He went on an obvious date with Eun Seol. Not only was Da Ran tagging along, she seemed mysteriously pleased by it, despite the fact that she and In Tak had already kissed (did I guess that was for the benefit of a Dalmatian? I did not). There were a number of emotional scenes with Mi Mi, who was calling him 오빠 (oppa – could mean big brother/male relative, could mean boyfriend. Are you thinking “eww”? Join the crowd). Then there was the real Hong Mi Seun, and finally, the contract bride (do I even want to know what that is?). Last but not least, Da Ran. Glad to have that all cleared up. I certainly never could have imagined what it was all about on my own!

Curious about the lyrics of the theme song? English translation

[I’ve already posted a series review, so I probably won’t go back and review episodes 14-17 and 19-20, but I thought my readers might enjoy this episode review anyway]

Also with Yeon Jeong Hun:

More Can Love Become Money? reviews
Vampire Prosecutor (Season 1) reviews

August 17, 2012

KBS Drama Specials – Butcher Barber, Gate of Truth, Re-Memory & Don’t Worry, I’m a Ghost

KBS is keeping the one-act Drama Specials coming. Here are four more that I watched recently:

Butcher Barber (aka Knife Barber) – A battered woman tries to hire a killer to free herself from her vile husband, a loan shark whom she has married under duress. She approaches three former thugs who have been pointed out to her. Two are butchers in a shop owned by the third, a barber. They reside together in an apartment above the shops, and insist they are now living peaceful and ordinary lives. However, they succumb to her combined desperation and persistence, and help her out by giving her a job and a place to stay. Soon they learn just how dire her straits really are, and she learns their lives are not quite as ordinary as they seem. She and the barber begin to fall in love. He has another secret, and has to weigh his commitments and risks.

The outcome is pretty predictable, but it’s still worth watching how they get there. Park Sung Woong, last seen in Young Love Jae In (read my review on Drama Fever), once again performs well as a man of contained passions. There are a couple of violent scenes – both turn out not to be as they initially appear, but the second one is a bit hair-raising all the same. At least, if you, like me, cringe at straight razors!

Korea really needs to get a handle on the loan shark problem, even if it means the end of Korean drama as we know it. I’m prepared to make the supreme sacrifice and watch nothing but sit-coms to free the Korean people from this terrible scourge. Is it really necessary to barge into homes and businesses, beat people up, break their stuff, and force them into unwanted marriages and pornographic videos? SO uncouth. Why can’t their predatory lenders just garnish paychecks and ruin credit ratings, the way they do in the U.S.?

Don’t Worry, I’m a Ghost – Korea has a bit of an amnesia problem too. Shall we send specialists? They can’t possibly have enough to treat all the cases that occur in dramas. Perhaps they could persuade a few plastic surgeons to switch specialties. I suppose treating an amnesiac ghost, like the one in this drama, would be a challenge, unless she happened to be haunting a neurologist. Don’t Worry, I’m a Ghost started out as a nice, if convoluted, little romance, but just when a satisfactory conclusion was in view, catapulted us into one of those moral quagmires where a decent person takes way too much responsibility for events he couldn’t possibly have controlled. A big “huh?!” from me.

Gate of Truth – I kinda liked this one, primarily because most of it takes place on the grounds of a scenic Buddhist temple, where the illegitimate daughter of a monk’s fall from grace is growing up. It’s not a bad life, but she longs for real parents, and is crushed when her dad, back on the path of non-attachment, passes through and refuses to engage with her. She carries her bitterness about this into adulthood, until she watches the lengthy flashback with us, and realizes she has taken it all too personally. I don’t really get the point of living an indifferent life, and neither does she, but she learns she was better loved than she suspected, and finally respects her dad’s struggle to live by his chosen values. A rare window into the Buddhism which provides an intriguing counterpoint to Confucianism in Korea. Both perspectives inform most dramas, but not usually in a way that is discernible to westerners.

Re-Memory – This story revolves around a woman with severe prosopagnosia (more commonly known as face-blindness), an intriguing real-life condition that I happen to be familiar with. A museum staffer who can’t recognize faces is assaulted, and her assailant is killed in the struggle. She can’t identify the man who rescued her, and can’t quite remember what happened either (what did I tell you, amnesia everywhere). As she grows closer with the investigating officer, who has reasons of his own for being interested in the incident, moral quagmire again ensues, and they learn something about themselves and each other. This was an icky mix of gratuitous female helplessness, vengeance quest, and romance. Not entirely unlike Knife Barber, come to think of it. There is a twist at the end that redeems it partially, but it’s still icky.

KBS Drama Specials deal with ordinary people in extraordinary situations. I wish they’d trust the viewers a little more, and give us ordinary people in ordinary situations instead. Writers like to pose the question “what if?” What if nobody died, developed major health problems, or lost everything? Are there other stories that would interest viewers? Try us.

Other KBS Drama Special Reviews:
For My Son
The Most Glorious Moment in Life
Amore Mio, Crossing Yeongdo Bridge, Park Huisol: Maiden Detective, and Strawberry Ice Cream