Monday, January 30, 2012

The Classic (Korean, 2003)

Keulraesik (original title)
Directed and written by Jae-young Kwak
Starring Ye-jin So, In-seong Jo and Seong-woo Cho

Most romantic movies that I have watched have lousy story lines. Such stories were already taken from other movies resulting to a predictable ending. But The Classic is different.

Directed by Kwak Jae-young, The Classic was a long-awaited follow-up to his 2001 smash hit My Sassy Girl (Yeopgijeogin geunyeo). My Sassy Girl became a smash hit, making the careers of actors Jeon Ji-hyun and Cha Tae-hyeon rose into the world of stardom. It wasn't really surprising that a lot of people tagged The Classic as My Sassy Girl 2.

But unlike its predecessor, The Classic, as the movie title suggests, is a classic Korean romantic melodrama. It is totally different with My Sassy Girl in every angle.

The movie begins when Chi-hye (Son Yeh-jin) stumbled across a box while cleaning her room. The box contained an old diary and some love letters all of which belonged to hermother. Though some of the letters came from her late father, letters written by a man named Chun-ha caught her attention. Then, the movie jumps back about forty years ago to detail the love triangle formed between her mother (also played by Son) and her future father, Tae-su (Lee Gi-wu) and her father's best friend, Chun-ha (Cho Seung-woo). Her mother fell in love with Chun-ha after meeting him in the countryside, she was already betrothed to Tae-su in an arranged marriage.

As the film progressed, the movie goes back to the present time. Chi-hye, like her mother is also experiencing a similar predicament. She is in love with Sang-min (Jo In-seong), the boyfriend of her vain best friend, Su-kyeong (Lee Sang-in). She finds herself unable to express her true feelings for she fears that she'll lose her best friend and might hurt her. The movie continues to move from past to present and back again, forming a parallelism of heartbreak, adventures and lessons learned between the mother and the daughter, whose fates and destinies are amazingly interconnected.

Outstanding cinematography paired with with an equally impressive soundtrack matches the scenes showing the beautiful Korean countryside. This had enhanced the generally poignant and nostalgic mood of The Classic. Story-wise, The Classic is a constant shift between the past and present, detailing the on-and-off relationship between Chu-hui and Chun-ha. Their particular scenes are the source of the film's emotional weight and is no doubt supported by the strong performances of Son and Cho who are earnest and affecting in their portrayals of the star-crossed lovers.

One of the most interesting aspects of The Classic is how the director compares and contrasts South Korea of the 60s and present. The mother and daughter inhabit a seemingly opposite world. Her mother grew up during the time of military dictatorship. People during her time were still practicing Confucian norms, such as arranged marriages). The daughter, on the other hand, lives in a democratic type of government with social reforms, with the will and latitude to chart her own future. Despite the fleeting times, some things remain the same, like the internal and social pressures that prevent Chu-hui (the mother) and Chi-hye (the daughter) to express their feelings.

The Classic truly conveys the 'love across time' theme. It explores the need to look up with the past in order to fully understand the present. What the movie tries to convey with us is how parents wished their sons and daughters to accomplish something in their lives in which they couldn't. Thus, on a bigger scale, The Classic tells to how the unfulfilled aspirations of past generations, whether they are democratic reforms or gender equality, are being realized in today's South Korea, as witnessed by the contrast made between the worlds that mother and daughter inhabit.

The Classic may not be as quirky as Kwak's breakthrough hit My Sassy Girl. Nonetheless it is still a good movie. The Classic is a romantic melodrama movie armed with the strong and effective showings from lead actors Cho and Son. Director Kwak had also penetrated the movie to a deeper level, which he poingnantly showed the dreams and aspirations of parents for their children, as well as South Korea's achievement of being a nation.

The movie may not be truly a classic one for some, but it comes pretty close.

RATING: 8.1 / 10


  1. This is the first Korean movie i saw. Korean pictures were not flowing into Manipur(India) market and this perhap was the most succesful. Really love the soundtrack.

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  3. i was watching korean and japanese movies, though i only can understand by reading the subtitles. nonetheless, i still can tell which is good and which is better. i had have watched a-lot and only few makes me cry.. this one is great.

    i had read lots of reviews about this movies saying it is the best, and it shows. though at first i thought it is an "Allie-Noah"(the notebook) copycat, but turns out better. i love the twist, the plot, the scenery, the music, the story! kudos to the staffs, dirfectors and the artists..

  4. Good article... May I share an Interview with Akira Kurosawa (imaginary)