Tuesday, October 23, 2007


ART MUSEUM BY THE ZOO (Korean romantic drama for Korean Film Fest)

Cast: Shim Eun-ha, Lee Sung-jae, Ahn Sung-kee and Song Seon-mi
Director: Lee Jeong-hyang
Time: 108 mins
Rating: * * (out of 4)

(Pic: Lee Sung-jae & Shim)
WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL? The term 'meet cute' is often used by movie reviewers to describe the funny way would-be lovers meet in romantic comedies. These 'meet cute' scenes are usually done to set up the romance between the leads. However, in "Art Museum By The Zoo" (a movie for the Korean Film Fest in Malaysia) the 'meet cute' sequences take up the whole movie, dragging on the inevitable conclusion that audiences would have drawn within the first few minutes...

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? Chul-su (Lee Sung-jae), who is on leave from the Army, arrives at his fiancee's apartment, planning to surprise Da-hye (Song Seon-mi). However, it is Chul-su who is surprised when he discovers that Da-hye has moved out, leaving the apartment to Chun-hee (Shim Eun-ha), a wedding photographer and aspiring screenwriter. More bad news follows when Da-hye tells Chul-su that she is getting married to one of his friends!
With nowhere to go, Chul-su is forced to accept Chun-hee's invitation to bunk in with her for the duration of his leave. This, however, is not that Chun-hee is in need of the soldier's company; it is because he has paid the rent for the month as he had thought Da-hye was living there. Another reason may be that she needs his help with a movie script that she is writing for a contest. Anyway, it soon becomes clear that the reluctant flat-mates are falling in love with each other - but neither would realise it, much less admit it.

HIGHS & LOWS: We have to sit through more than an hour of 'meet cute' banter about the way the script should be written, about Chung-hee's one-sided love for a Senator's aide, and over his preference for the zoo instead of the art museum next door. Running parallel to the main plot is a sequence of the love story they are co-writing - the one-sided love a museum staff (also named Da-hye) has for a zoo officer named In-Gong (Ahn Sung-kee). This subplot lends a dream-like fantasy to the movie but it also slows down the pace some times.
The one factor that makes this effort by writer-director Lee Jeong-hyang tolerable is the performance of Shim Eun-ha, the South Korean equivalent of Meg Ryan. She has an easy chemistry with Lee Sung-jae, and has the audience eating out of her hand whenever she is on-screen. However, as we readily adore her, we can't help wondering why it is taking such a long time for Chul-su to make his move for her. Does he have ice water in his veins?

THE LOWDOWN: This takes us back to the whimsical love story script written by the reluctant lovers. It is obvious that they know little about romance in the real world. And from the tone of this movie, neither does director Lee.


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