Tag Archive | Japanese

Unexpectedly Meeting Kiyoha & Seiji, in Sakuran

Updated April 3, 2014 🙂 All these captures from the film enlarge when clicked on ❤

PART ONE.

 0.  Seiji & Kiyoha happiness  Sakuran (2006) is the most riotously color-full film I have ever seen. The kaleidoscopic backdrops are enough for me to like this movie. Its soundtracks are as engaging (Ringo Shiina’s album Heisei Fuuzoku = Japanese Manners). Most of them sound celebratory, some are as defiant as courageous splashes of adolescent rebelliousness, and at the correct times so mournful that they transport me back to reality all the way to the tears.

1.  Kiyoha-Higurashi & her sisters entertain a guestIt is based on a manga, one which I have not read and so I have no points of reference other than the little that I know of Japan like its woodwork, clothing, paper walls, woodblock prints, communal bath, ground drenched by rain-pour, a field of cherry trees in bloom, a stiff sense of honor and shame. It was a very enlightening tour into a past life yet also instructive of norms that prevail. Sakuran will not pale against any comics-rendition of the life of an independent-willed girl sold and reared in a pleasure district of feudal Japan, in a courtesan house.

2.  Kiyoha & an admirer _infatuation & camaraderieThis is not a film for those who see all women entertainers, past and present, who dress up and perform roles like that of the geishas of today as nothing but just dispensable prostitutes. If it is approached with this mindset then the film will be reduced into just another commercial project, having profit as the worshiped purpose. The foundational but covered-up elements of soul-captivity and abandonment of alternative life choices will get trampled under the power of the intent to titillate. The heroine in this film represents those who constantly rage against their caged fate — it is her refusal to be dampened that always gets her in trouble with the others and it is around this characteristic of hers that the story revolves.

6.  Seiji is behind Kiyoha _parade of Higurashi the Oiran

The Oiran Parade, which is still done until today.

For a fact, there are distinctions between Japanese women entertainers of the past and geishas of today, and other classifications I am not familiar with. This can most likely be easily surfed in the net (see the added note * below). There are those that were termed as courtesans, which connote sexual involvement, whereas geishas are professional entertainers, very expensive, very strictly trained in the well-defined structure of the traditional Japanese arts. Entertainers such as the geisha are living icons of entrenched Japanese ideals, expressions of a unique worldview set in studied harmony. They are breathing windows into a world where many would like to be but couldn’t. They are 3-D picture frames, animated paintings, enfleshed music. Though this film may not lead us down into the depths of a courtesan’s introspections it does form a bridge with which we are allowed to see a glimpse of the richness of souls inhabiting a so-called “floating world”. 5.  Sakuran_2007 _a little bragging does not hurt(added 1March14:  There’s the film Yoshiwara Enjo, which is also called Tokyo Bordello, set in the 20th century that treats issues related to the floating world with more depth than Sakuran does. There’s also a legend going by the term Oiran Abyss or Oiran Edge that tells of several courtesans’ tragic fate, but I still haven’t looked this up.)

If there is one fault in the film it is that the main character has too pretty a face, a potential distraction from the seriousness of the running themes. But when seen against the fact that this is a real-life rendering of a manga heroine, Kiyoha, then the choice is perfect. Anna Tsuchiya does give Kiyoha a distinctive persona, one that is a bit different from the rest. Moreover, she does not hesitate to move the appropriate facial muscles, and admirably too, to generate the range of emotions felt by either Kiyoha the tigress, or Kiyoha the kitten and several more.7 .  Seiji & Kiyoha mourn a friend

In this film is where I first saw Masanobu Ando, as Seiji, who is among my favorite heroes. Seiji is not a man of expressive passions. His role is that of a dedicated and upright businessman and overseer of the establishment. He has to have eyes at the back of his head for Kiyoha though, because he has learned early on that she is not the meek conformist. Nevertheless Kiyoha has a higher regard for him than for the house’s owners, who in turn trust him in his ability to peacefully handle her. Kiyoha’s personal little girl apprentice addresses him in honorifics, as Seiji-dono (whereas its equivalent would be Seiji-sama nowadays).

7.  Sakuran_2007  the Yoshiwara main street at dawn

Unlit Yoshiwara main street at dawn. This aquarium, in the foreground, is hoisted on top of the entrance gate.

For the fans of Oguri Shun, I assure you that you’ll see his face here within a span of 10 seconds only, but it’s a face that will surprise and delight you. He made the most of the 10 seconds to make a very unforgettable appearance.

Kiyoha’s last glimpse of her hometown was with the cherry blossoms, sakura, lining the road as a madam hurries her to her new house. She enters the gates of the red district at night, when all the lanterns along the main street are lit and she, the little girl, is just as appreciative of the sights as she was with the sakura. But not for long she gets fed up with the all-women company within the enclosure and she develops the perpetual urge to run away, which she does attempt sometimes. Women can be bitches to girls who have complexes — usually girls, or any human, will not run away from where there is warmth. Plus, she misses the sakura. Seiji, who was already a young adult by then, catches up with her at a little shrine in the district during one of these flight urges. 8 .  Higurashi & her samurai suitor In this shrine stands a forlorn cherry tree that has never bloomed even once. He placates her and promises to take her out of the enclosure once this tree shows a flower. In fact, no sakura has ever bloomed within this entire pleasure district.

Kiyoha grows up retaining her independent spirit. She scratches and growls whenever she is wronged. She does not guard her speech or her actions as rigidly as the other girls do. She has become a streamlined rebel, conforming yet apart. Then her heart gets broken by a puppy of a man. Seiji supports her as she adds more rigidity to her back. She goes on with living, generously giving affection to whomever she likes — to little trainee entertainers, to elderly or penniless clients — she does not discriminate, and being nasty to those who violate the common codes of courtesy.

9.  Seiji confers with his benefactorsShe gets pregnant by an anonymous father, then loses the baby. Seiji nurses her like a mother throughout her pain, staying up beside her bed. As she mourns for her baby Seiji’s surrender to their separate fates is palpable. Seiji was born of a “whore”, of an unknown father, and his conversation with her was analogous to a declaration of a non-obsessive love. When she woke up in the middle of the night, still physically weak, she covers the now sleeping Seiji with her blanket and then goes out to seek peace at the shrine. There only the bright moon could see and hear her, in her midnight blue kimono with a print like that of distant galaxies. Seiji tracks her down.  He feels her pain and he stays put like the nearby cherry tree as he catches her sobbed surrender to a loss so great she felt like her breath was being drawn from out of her. Seiji comforts her like a father or a brother or a sister would.

10 .  Seiji is mother father brother sister to KiyohaThey have a strong but well-guarded bond. Kiyoha is the head courtesan, Higurashi the Oiran, the main reason why their business flourishes. Seiji is the house’s chosen heir and is soon to be married to the owners’ niece. In his heart he would rather have Kiyoha, but, shikataganai, he cannot. It cannot be helped. Convention, duty, and gratitude to the couple who reared him and supported his mother prevent this. A samurai falls in love with Higurashi, puts a forest of blooming cherry trees all over the district, formally and publicly announces his intention to marry her, being rich enough to give the house the amount to offset their loss of her to him. But in her heart she’d rather have Seiji. Similarly, shikataganai, it cannot be helped. She is but a bought woman bound to the rules of the house, and a powerful samurai must not be embarrassed.

10. Seiji & Kiyoha farewellKiyoha and Seiji, on the last of the evenings she’ll be at the house, speak their goodbyes and well wishes to each other by subdued glances and short words. No drama. No fanfare. No lingering exchanges. Their faces, softly lit in this late night, spoke loudly enough in the stillness and in the helplessness of it all.

The following morning while the fog has not yet lifted Kiyoha arrives almost breathless at the little shrine. Her face lifts a smile. There Seiji stands, staring up at the tree. A desperate storm is raging in their separate lives but they greet each other as if each day in the world will always turn out bathed in golden sunrise. Then surprise. A gift.

11. Seiji & Kiyoha last hopeDomo arigato gozaimashita, Sakuran. An adolescent who is attentive of life will easily understand the plot. But most likely it will take one who has truly lived and loved to sense the delicate layers of this fairytale-like story. A non-Japanese will, of course, perceive many of the themes differently, like possibly being confused that the oiran (an artist as well as a courtesan) is more highly regarded than the geisha (strictly an artist only)*.

In the end one of its general messages could be that it takes a tremendous amount of courage to get hold of a happiness that is outside the bounds of convention. And faith, too. As Kiyoha’s first lover told her before he died, “There can’t be a cherry tree that doesn’t flower.” However, there are different sorts of conventions to be basing happiness on. Seiji’s & Kiyoha’s family in the house think they have chosen the foolish way but for me, one from the audience, I concur with them. Seiji has forever been witnessing Kiyoha raging against the world that is full of suffering, as she herself described it in one of their dialogues.

“World” meaning where she finds herself now and from which there seems to be no escape. Seiji & Kiyoha are like these two fishes trapped in a small worldSeiji, too, may have silently raged against the way his entire life has been, and will henceforth be, tied to the house where his mother once worked. They are like the two goldfishes living in just a few handfuls of water. Happily for them they dared that there is life outside the gilded cage (though none for the poor fishes outside the bowl). Sometimes, too, happiness is just a matter of timing, or that only those who look out for it will catch it as it passes by.

*added 1March14:   Thanks to the page http://www.kawaiistudyjapan.com/?p=197  I now know that sakuran means confusion. Indeed, almost each frame is a riot to the eyes. It’s right on the film’s theme: Kiyoha’s life is surrounded by a confusion of flamboyance and artifices; she herself constantly fights to stave off confusion in her thoughts and feelings; there’s an aquarium stuck on top of the Yoshiwara’s gate defying/mocking the fishes’ inability to be suspended in air, although its primary message would have to be “captivity”.

PART TWO.  …half of the story retold in pictures…

1.  Kiyoha leaves home

Kiyoha leaves home.

2.  Kiyoha enters the gate of Yoshiwara

It was night time and there was a feast when she first entered the Yoshiwara gate.

3  a.  Kiyoha, fascinated at first sight of Yoshiwara at night

The sight was fascinating to her.

3 a.  Kiyoha attempts to run away

She keeps attempting to run away.

3 b.  Seiji catches up with her, at the Inari Shrine, still inside the red district

Seiji catches up with her at the Inari Shrine.

3a.  Seiji tells Kiyoha to stop trying to run away

He tells her to stop trying to run away.

3b.  Seiji shows Kiyoha the cherry tree and says he'll take her out of Yoshiwara once it flowers.

He shows her the cherry tree, and says he’ll take her out of the Yoshiwara once it blooms.

3 c.  Kiyoha is punished for attempting to run away

She is punished for her misbehavior.

4.  Kiyoha is betrayed by Soujiro

Kiyoha is betrayed by her lover, Soujiro.

5.  Kiyoha is punished for misbehaving

She is punished for her misbehavior.

6.  Seiji knows Kiyoha's going out to look for Soujiro

Seiji asks her if she’s ready to face anything as she stealthily goes out to search for Soujiro.

7.  Seiji tells her not to waste her tears on Soujiro

Seiji tells her not to waste her tears on Soujiro.

8.  Seiji rushes

Seiji rushes in at the commotion.

9.  Seiji holds back Kiyoha

He holds Kiyoha back.

10.  Seiji drags Kiyoha away from the fight

He drags her away from the fight.

11.  Seiji says... Cry and you lose.

He tells her three things… Cry and you lose.

12.  Love and you lose.

… Love and you lose.

13.  Win and you lose.

… Win and you lose.

14.  Oiran Parade of Higurashi from Tamagikuya, Yoshiwara _Sakuran 2006

Kiyoha succumbs and becomes the Tamagikuya Oiran, Higurashi. This is her parade.

15.  Seiji is always behind Kiyoha

It is Seiji who is behind her…

16.  Kiyoha surrenders and becomes Higurashi Oiran

The Oiran, the highest ranking courtesan of the floating world, is a highly regarded person.

17.  Seiji & Kiyoha, performing their roles bravely

Higurashi and Seiji, at the center of the frame, dutifully perform their roles in life.

18.  goldfish hoisted atop Yoshiwara's gate

Night view of the goldfish atop Yoshiwara’s gate.

 

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My Appreciation for Some Film/Drama Artists and Their Work

yisan poster

Yisan

This post is complementary to the post Dear Actor/Actress, I Respect You. This is a collection of my personal expressions of appreciation for some of the characters/artists and movies/‘dramas’ (here for now mostly South Korean) in the past year or so that I’ve started to turn to them for my vicarious learning-of-the-wider-world, and for entertainment, too. The fonts in pink are links to other posts in this blog. ❤

There has already been numerous “stories” I’ve wanted to speak about in this blog, to share my pleasure in them — also Japanese, Chinese/Hong Kong, Taiwanese, Filipino — but there isn’t time enough. In the mean time I decided to little by little pool some my thoughts related to them and post them here in order to reaffirm and say more of my appreciation for the hard work put in by writers, directors, staff, artists, and everyone who has put their sincerity in producing such quality work.

This little post of mine is a way of saying a BIG THANK YOU to the artists/musicians and visionaries working with the film industry who have contributed to the going-round-of-the-world, in the positive way, wherever they are and however they are doing in life now.

Every time I see a “film” I cannot help but be emotionally affected anew by the money-side of the business, just barely able to imagine for myself the financial difficulties that many of the workers/artists involved are experiencing. One “big” example that has made me very sad is the event involving the director of Taewangsasingi ( = The Legend, or The Story of the First King’s Four Gods). With that event this drama has become more valuable to me. Many a time has Taewansasingi lifted my spirits, what with the fantastic soundtracks by the superb Mr. Joe Hisaishi.

Jang-geum and her adoptive father Dukgu

(Dae Jang-Geum = Jewel in the Palace) Jang-geum and her Dukgu ahjussi (“uncle”)

I feel bad that “stories” and story-making is dealt with around the world like just any other mass-produced commodity. People keep imbibing these products, films and dramas, because the stories of our lives and the stories we see/hear about talk to each other. These stories are us, our lives (Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes has THE BOOK on this: Women Who Run With the Wolves). The way that greed takes advantage of our need for stories is one ugly reality. My wish for us all story-lovers is to be of help in propagating the pro-biotics, the good germs, the life-supporting elements that we pick up from these stories and anything associated in their making, and to identify those that kill the heart and so be able to deny their power in our lives.

[I hope to add more thoughts here, and pictures also, when I can have the time. Some pictures here enlarge when clicked on. Thank you to the original owners, the makers of these films. ❤ ]

 

Tree_With_Deep_Roots  (2-3).mp4_snapshot_17.00_[2013.10.16_23.39.51]

a young King Lee Do solves a giant sudoku

for:  Tree With Deep Roots

I’ve seen enough sageuk and I say this is among the top.

a young King Lee Do

young King Lee Do (Song Joong-ki)

It fills the sensibilities much more than it pulls at the heartstrings. I am grateful to those who were involved in making such a valuable treasure — I don’t care if it’s just mostly fiction. What matters is that it talks about humanity and is a champion of compassion, openness, and hope. The cinematography + music is refreshing, too. Congratulations to all who have worked hard on it, and it’s not only the actors/actresses but are also all those myriads of people not seen on screen. Banzai! Ganbei! Salud! Prost! Mabuhay! Long live 뿌리깊은 나무 ! Hooray!

radical King Lee Do

the adult King Lee Do

 ⇐for:  Han Suk-kyu

Sir, I fell in love with your King Lee Do / Sejong in Deep Rooted Tree ( = Tree with Deep Roots). I’m so inspired by the character you projected. Though he had much sorrow he was also surrounded by superb people, his friends. I said to myself, wow, a king who makes an impossible dream come true together with friends who in turn love him not as a king but as a person, not the least his son the prince. It’s out of this world yet I find it all realistic. I look forward to seeing more of you on screen, sir. I wish you the best, and much happiness.

Chuno_24 CLOSURE 23

Jang Hyuk as Dae-Gil in Chuno

 

for:  Jang Hyuk⇒

At first I thought you were just some show-off actor when I first saw you in Chuno. But seeing you in Tree with Deep Roots raised my respect for you into unprecedented heights.   🙂    Thank you for putting your heart into your work, Mr. Jang Hyuk. May the many people you inspire by the characters you play be blessings to you as well. I wish you the best.

 

Muhyul decides for Lee Do

Muhyul decides for Lee Do

for:  Cho Jin-Woong

I already admired Mr. Cho Jin Woong when I saw him in Chuno, with the role of an upright soldier ordered by his direct superior to betray the same. When I saw him again in Deep Rooted Tree in a yet another heroic role I decided that I’d like to watch more of his movies/dramas. Though all the actors/actresses in Deep Rooted Tree are superb, and I really fell in love with the king, !and I’m awed by the storyline, but I think Moohyul is among the most regal sageuk personas I have come across. Every time Moohyul appears on screen I would think ‘handsome’, ‘elegant’, ‘proper’, and he’s the best dressed in the drama, too. However, it’s his tiny facial expressions that qualify him as human enough to be the king’s buddy == their teamwork/friendship is impressive … (Sir, I wish you happiness in your work. Salud!)

 

for:  Kim Sung-hyun

… awesome character in Tree With Deep Roots  (as legendary mercenary Kareupaeyi) … wish you all the best!

 

for:  Painter of the Wind

Dan Won & Hye Won paint a mural

 Dan Won teaches Hye Won how to do a mural

 DanWon-HyeWon = the best love story. It’s comparable to the best of love stories there is out there. I believe it’s due largely to the very authentic acting. Their body language speak volumes and the music (Song of the Wind), especially in Episode 4 when they were doing that mural, is smack on the mood. I found myself wishing for a Sonsaengnim like Kim Hong Do  🙂   There’s so much to see and hear (wow lots of music) in here. 20 episodes is too short for me  🙂   I’d have loved to see Dan Won and Hye Won work together for a loooong time, make beautiful art together, make up for lost time, enjoy their special relationship with the king. They still have so much to learn from each other. I love it that their personalities match, and that’s why they always have fun when they’re together, and they understand each other without too much words. So much symbolism and parallelisms.. and I also love the art school guys’ support for Yun Bok and Sonsaengnim. I must mention Hyung/Orabeoni Young Bok as an ideal bff, and even lover…he’s the sweetest… Congratulations to the author, writer, artists/musicians, and directors for a story that will live on. I’m so happy for all the staff/workers and actors/actresses that were involved in this production — you’ve accomplished something very valuable and relevant…I’ve been so touched by its gravity and respect for the audience…thank you very much…I wish you all the best…blessings.

Portrait_of_a_Beauty _fireflies Yunbok & Kangmu

fireflies Yunbok & Kangmu, in Portrait of a Beauty

for:  Portrait of a Beauty  (added 20Feb2014. This film was based on the same novel as Painter of the Wind, above, was. The story is, of course, treated differently here, but is just as haunting.)

Is the movie good? Yes. Is it worth discussing? Yes. Would adolescents understand it? No (they will flounder among the themes; the story’s sense will simply pass over their heads). Was it made just to make money? No. Is it credible? Yes. Where do the depths lie? 1) In Kim Hong-do’s confession of how he failed his student. 2) In Yun-bok’s integrity, in expressing into paper the contents of his/her mind and heart with full honesty. 3) In the film’s reliance on visuals rather than on verbal elaborations. 4) In showcasing the contents of a human’s heart: jealousy, greed, violence, generosity, openness, frailty, trust, courage, lasciviousness… How does the entire film strike you? It’s a fusion of a novel-storytelling (I feel like I’m watching in front of my eyes the words that I read that sound in my head) and a painting (I will never forget the golden sheen of the lovers’ skins, and the general lighting with which they were encased inside that building as they laughed/glowed in each others’ company) and an anthropological study (of a society where females have very limited range of freedom plus that they exist to cater to the needs of the males, where the males were like demi-gods, where royalty is as distant as the moon, where societal class was the measure of a person’s worth). What is the over-all mood? It has a cadence with which one won’t be disillusioned into expecting a happily-ever-after ending. One sits in front of the screen with gravity. For me, I was constantly feeling watchful, because of the constant threat of Yun-bok being uncovered. Then I felt protective of the love between Yun-bok and Kang-mu, where Kang-mu (by actor Kim Nam-gil) was freed from his class thereby becoming just another man reveling in his love for a woman, and Yun-bok’s true form was uncovered and she became a female just like any other human female. Then I felt disgust over the whole cannot-be-helped situation, in the weakness of the respected teacher, in the arrogance of traditions. If the darkness of the night is the context/environment within which Yun-bok’s art/”beauty” exists, then the fireflies are 1) Yun-bok being able to draw out from within herself and transfer onto paper her perception of life; 2) Yun-bok and Kang-mu’s love, where Kang-mu the mirror-maker is himself the mirror with which Yun-bok saw her real self.

 

Lee Bang-ji, warrior (musa), Ddolbok's teacher (sabunim)

Lee Bang-ji, warrior (musa), Ddolbok’s teacher (sabunim)

for:  Woo Hyeon

Sujini & Ahjussi, drinking buddies

drinking buddies, Sujini & ahjussi (Lee Ji-ah & Woo Hyeon)

Dear Mr. Woo Hyeon, I immediately became your fan the first time I saw you in Taewangsasingi. Now I’ve just seen you in Deep Rooted Tree and your character Lee Bang Ji is among my favorites ever. I’m looking forward to your character in The King and the Clown which I plan to watch next. Please stay healthy and thank you very much. Mabuhay po sila!

 

for:  Kim Sun-Kyung

Ma’am, I saw you first in Taewangsasingi interpreting a very strong character, though regrettably the storyline had to kill Ho Gae’s mom early in the drama. Crime Squad was where I saw you next and I really appreciated the way you incorporated being funny, scary, and cool into the character of a cop who is always ready for action. Crime Squad is among my favorite drama series. I look forward to watching your other roles. I wish you the best in life!

 

Gen. Go & Bason, in Taewangsasingi

Park Jung-hak & Kim Mi-Kyung, as Gen. Go & Bason, in Taewangsasingi

for:  Park Jung-hak

Sir, I really really love your role in The Restless  🙂   It was a superb projection — even as a woman myself I don’t think I could outshine your elegance and finesse in there — and it made me see that you’re among the best actors! I wish you the best, always!

for:  Kim Mi-Kyung

Ma’am, my hats-off to your Ba-Son character (Taewangsasingi), such a far contrast to your Dae Jang Geum (Fugitive of Joseon) … my respect …

 

for:   Crime Squad (Detectives in Trouble)

hungry, Sae-hyuk & Min-joo

hungry after the fall, Sae-hyuk & Min-joo

I rated this drama 100%. I like the personalities/roles of Song Il Guk and Song Ji Hyo here (plus the others in the main cast also). Despite that she calls him ‘Ahjussi’ still Park Se Hyuk and Jo Min Joo are right for each other, they’re funny together, not sticky sweet to each other, each passionate of their respective jobs, supportive of each other, accepted as a close-buddy-pair by everyone around them, and so their ‘romance’ wasn’t a source of ‘stress’ for me. Their bond, and the scenes where they are together, was a ‘comfort zone’ to me all throughout the drama, since the scenes have crimes for base stories. The crime-storylines cannot be underestimated also, especially the last case, on which I really gave my full attention to. I am relieved that Se Hyuk and his team are shown to be competent cops who sincerely care for people, and so for me this itself is the drama’s statement, that evil intentions does not pay. Wow, the actors/actresses here are among the best, including those who played small parts. I salute Mr. Jang Hang-Seon (as Retired Team Leader Kwon) and Mr. Kim Kyu-Cheol (as Jo Sung Tae) for roles that are unforgettable to me. This is among the dramas I am never tired of watching repeatedly, the music is good, there’s always something to laugh about, there are many very important life lessons to be picked up, though I do speed thru some gory scenes (!!ironically I learned a nice Korean phrase from one of them: “jal-hae-sseo-yo”, meaning “Well done!”) The bonding within Se Hyuk’s work team and the hilarity in Min Joo’s workplace also endear this drama to me (thank you Shocking.com!) !Park Se Hyuk and Jo Min Joo! Aja! You’re my favorite pair! Thank you ‘Crime Squad’!

 

for:  Chuno (The Slave Hunters)

Chuno_23_1. yangban-in-disguise converse with slave-rebel 12

Eop-bok

Chuno _Seolhwa (0)

Seolhwa

I’d still say NO NO NO to violence but in this series, notwithstanding, I see balance restored, demons vanquished, hope nurtured. My topmost favorite is the slave Eop Bok.  He’s as subdued as the foundation of a huge edifice, having learned to keep to himself that he used to hunt tigers. Of the females my favorites are the slave Cho Bok-yi (she projects an aura of hopefulness despite her dismal status and she neither looks down on slaves nor envy the nobles — she has an inner joy that shines through her ragged appearance, especially that she’s in love) & the silly entertainer/prostitute Seolhwa (her beauty lies in her “simpleness” and I’m happy that she falls in love with Dae Gil). The fast action-music is super! I’m infatuated with it as much as I am with the hot male leads. On a serious note, this series has been enlightening for me, on the way “slaves” and “nobles” see themselves and the world around them, on the distance of the “gap” between them so much so that it’s difficult for somebody of one class to connect with or to get across to the other. The friendship of the 3 buddies Daegil, Choi & Wangson is really admirable. I’m very glad I decided to watch this one not so much because I was entertained but because I learned much about human beings. My many thanks to all who worked hard in this drama. If you’re a fan of Mr. Jang Hyuk then I heartily recommend Tree with Deep Roots.

 

for:  Lee Han-Wi

Mr. Lee Han Wi is definitely one of my favorites. I’m always glad when I see his face on screen, like having that feeling of coming home. I first saw him in Damo, then in Chuno, then in Freeze, then in War of the Arrows — there’s always something ‘hard’ yet ‘soft’ about his character portrayals. I wish Mr. Lee Han Wi the best, and good health!

 

for:  Damo (The Legendary Policewoman)

Ah, Damo, you broke my heart, then you restored it, then broke it again, then offered to mend it. Millions love you already because of that, so what else can I say?   🙂   You’re one of the best romantic sageuks out there. I wish blessings to all who have been blessed in the struggle to get hold of what your story had to say. The struggles and the triumphs of the 4 main characters (for me they were Yoon, Ohk, Sung Baek, and Soo Myung) was awesome. The supporting cast did not lag behind in prominence, too. I greatly appreciate the presence of Mr. Lim Hyeon Shik in it even for the short time that it was. Ah, Damo, I’m still looking forward to analyzing the movement of your storyline.  🙂 As of now I’d say the Yoon-Ohk, Ohk-Sungbaek, and Sungbaek-Soomyung tandems, as well as the camaraderie in the Left Police Bureau, are worthy of envy. May the good influence of Damo live long!

 

for:  Kwon Oh-Jung

Sir, you’re definitely definitely hot in Damo  🙂   I wish you happiness, salud! [added 19March2014: At last, by Empress Ki episode 36 I got to see the whole of your face and it felt so right. I hope the hairstylists don’t pull your hair down over your face again…]

 

for:  The Restless

Jung Woo Sung _The Restless _2006I watched this movie because of Jung Woo Sung — his eyes mesmerize me. I got a very nice surprise when I saw Mr. Heo Jun Ho in here also — I’ve become a big fan of his since Jumong and so I always think of him as ‘Haemosu’ 🙂 I treasure this movie The Restless because of ‘Haemosu’ PLUS Mr. Park Jung Hak’s portrayal of his role — which is another very nice surprise. What impressed me most here is Ban-Chu’s regality, especially the effect of his hair. However, it’s Yi Gwak’s hair that I fell in love with  🙂   its ‘softness’ complements his eyes. I had a big laugh when somebody asked him of what he ate that made him so tall 🙂 ! The panoramic views, the lush grass, the petals, and the firefly-like lights are delightful…they echo the plot’s insistence that it’s love that changes the world.

 

for:  Ji Jin-Hee

It’s been almost a decade since I first saw you, Mr. Ji Jin Hee, and after so many dramas/sageuks that I’ve been through you remain a big favorite. I watched the movie Paradise because of you and afterwards I found myself so inspired by it. Thank you very much, to you and to everyone involved in its making. Your parents must be very happy to have you, indeed. Please continue to be in projects that will encourage the ordinary everyday person. May God bless you.

 

for:  Lim Hyeon-Shik

Sir, thank you for your portrayals in Dae Jang Geum (as Jang-geum’s Dukgu ahjussi, seen sitting with her at the second topmost picture in this post) and Yisan (the eccentric painter who teaches Songyeon). You’re one of the best! I wish you happiness and health 🙂

 

for:  Seo Beom-Sik     Seo Bum Sik

Just want to say a WARM HELLO to one of my favorite actors ever! Ever since I saw you in Jumong I’ve always looked for you whenever I’m into another sageuk/drama and always am happy whenever your face appears on screen regardless of your role. I wish you all the best, and blessings! [added 19March2014: I knew it! Since you are cast as antagonist to Goryo’s King Wangyu ( in Empress Ki) then most likely the character you play will be killed in battle. I was not wrong. Phew! Well at least I got to see that you’re doing as great as ever…]

 

for:  A Frozen Flower

I’m glad I watched this film. I looked at the struggles of the three main characters. I find it awesome, how they handled it. The three actors did very well, always a tug of war between suppressing or expressing emotions. A Frozen Flower 2008 _posterThe king is frightening, the queen is courageous, Hong Lim is true to himself, wonderful set design and costume, and music. I think the ‘flower’ also refers to the CAPABILITY of the queen and of Hong Lim TO LOVE AS PERSONS, as an individual, that would have remained ‘frozen’ had there been only the king as the object of that love (Hong Lim as lover and the queen as wife). Had it remained so then Hong Lim would not have known passion of the like that he had with the queen. And the queen would not have gotten pregnant (you know what I mean). Unfortunately for the king an un-freezing/thawing/warming happened between the two persons closest to him and, well, he just had to do something to re-freeze it, so to say. I agree with xxxxx, that “the interpretation of the ending will depend on the person.” For me I choose to see it as a happy ending for both the queen and Hong Lim because somehow, given the context vis-a-vis the capability/power of the king, both Hong Lim and the queen evolved into his/her “own person”, they became ‘persons’ and not just ‘bodyguard/subject’ and ‘queen’, and they also came to know how it is to truly/selflessly love another “person”.           

and also:

… yeah I’ve been wondering too about the flower that’s been “frozen” ..

sword dance, A Frozen Flower

sword dance, A Frozen Flower

It does make sense that the queen’s facial expressions have to be “frozen” and yet have to express emotions at the same time, and I think she has done it very well… she has to project coldness and distance because this is what’s expected of her in that setting…
Hong Lim was VERY COURAGEOUS when he sent the honeysuckle tea to her, and again when he gave her the necklace—a mere “servant” does not do that to his queen, because in this setting doing that is like shouting out your love, nevertheless the queen answered when she wore the necklace in public—it was a very safe way of shouting out her love, in which Hong Lim would only be the one to understand the message…

Hong Lim’s sexuality has also become “unfrozen” when he fell in love with the queen… instinctively he just kept mum about it when the king asked him how it was to become a “man” at last— he gave the king an evasive answer to protect all three of them, knowing that the king would be jealous of the queen and he didn’t want her to be a target of such ill-feelings, knowing that the king would be hurt and he didn’t want to betray the king even in that way, and for himself guarding that his newly found wonderful “freedom” isn’t “crushed” at its bud…

A Frozen Flower main cast _Jo In Sung _ Song Ji Hyo _  Joo Jin Mo

Jo In-sung, Song Ji-hyo, & Joo Jin-mo: the main cast having fun promoting their movie

What makes this story unforgettable for me is the portrayal of choices of victims of circumstance. I love it that Hong Lim and the queen did come to the point of being willing to die for each other’s sake—both had nothing at first, but eventually a self-sacrificing love blossomed, became unfrozen. Also, that Hong Lim might have felt betrayed by the king when he was ordered to father the queen’s child—I mean, he might have looked at sex as an expression of deep affection—and in a sense it would have bothered him that the king himself, the object of his affections then, would order him to a “betrayal” (one can’t simply switch affection on and off) …the saving grace is when he sees that the queen is alive, who with his growing baby inside her is the redemption of his castrated state, and so was willing to forgive the dead king, and be reconciled with him at his last breath for old time’s sake…

 

Hong Da-in's Do Mun Jipsanimfor:  Seong Woong

   🙂   if the doctor had not been there I really wished you for Da-in  🙂 but too bad the social stratification didn’t allow you to pursue her affections for you, because I saw that Da-in had a strong attachment to you also   🙂   — in The Fugitive of Joseon (Mandate of Heaven)…  anyway, your Do Mun character is unforgettable to me … I wish you the best!

 

Park Sae Hyuk_Jo Min Joo .Crime Squad. ep12  (6)

Jo Sang-tae under investigation

for:  Kim Kyu-Cheol

Sir, thank you for your Jo Sang-Tae role in Crime Squad … that has touched me, plus that he brought together all the main characters in the drama, at the finale … I’ll always remember your poignant scene with Jo Min-joo in front of her house   🙂   I wish you good health and the best!

 

for:  Jang Hang-Seon

Sir, I’ve seen you only twice — Taewangsasingi and Crime Squad — but you’re already one of my favorites   🙂   Please stay healthy for a long long time … !Ganbei!

 

for:  Strongest Chil Woo (Chilwu, the Mighty)Chil Woo ending

?who cares about the criteria of a “good” drama? For me this one’s so lovable with or without Eric and I’m counting it as among my favorites   🙂 The cast is super, many of my favorite actors/actresses are here. Even though for several their parts are small, still I will treasure this drama because of them. Personally I feel like for the 20 episodes I’m seeing the personality of Eric in drama form: serious depth and bursts of silliness   🙂

 

for:  A Werewolf Boy

This film is so human. I’d score it more than 100% if I could. It doesn’t matter that I had to depend on the translation. It’s not the fantasy or the scientific possibility part that attached me to this film but it’s the way the folks involved handled the situation. The mother, the neighbors, and the children are simply lovely people. Even a non-Korean like me can clearly appreciate that. This question plays in my head about it: what-if-it’s-true? If it’s indeed true then the story is simply beautiful, as beautiful as the lush garden that Chul-soo keeps in his home.

 

for:  Sungkyunkwan Scandal

Gul-oh!ahahaha umuulan ng kagwapuhan! ( = a raining of handsomeness)  🙂 this drama is so student-life, albeit set in sexist Joseon era, but that’s just how it was  🙂 I’ve had lots of laughs in here, it’s so entertaining as long as one can overlook the usual dragging dialogues. I’m in Lesson 7 now and I’m not gonna breathe until I finish this one, and then I’m gonna watch it again over vacation for in-depth analysis  !students rock!  🙂

 

for:   Tajomaru

It’s a fairytale — sort of, where the protagonists and antagonists keep switching. Beautiful scenic shots. Lovely lovely costumes. There’s tragedy all throughout but I like the ending, because it makes sense and it sets Naomitsu free from a horrible life under the shogun. I’m currently infatuated with Oguri Shun so any film that has him I’d definitely “like”.  🙂

 

for:  The Woodsman and the Rain

I have to write it in capitals: Oguri and the Woodsman _seatsTHIS IS A VERY GOOD MOVIE. This is my most memorable Oguri Shun character because this is where I first saw him and immediately I warmed up to him. Of course, Mr. Yakusho Koji is in his usual best. This movie is warm-hearted, funny, quirky, uncluttered, cozy to the heart. It reminds me of woodblock prints, seemingly monotonous but is actually rich and detailed if only one looks close enough. I’ve seen many other Oguri Shun characters after this but I love him most in here — and with his natural unruly hair! This is about family, friendships, authentic rural neighborliness, and film-making, too. If you love people, and if you also like anything Japanese, then this film is a treasure.

———————————————

A Sleeping Forest _poster

A Sleeping Forest

… that’s it for now … … I’d love to talk next of Kaneshiro Takeshi (Golden Bowl, & more), Kimura Takuya (A Sleeping Forest, & more), Eita (Toad’s Oil), Secretly Greatly, Ahjussi, Jun Matsumoto (Smile), The Men Who Tread on the Tiger’s Tail, Seven Samurai, Zatoichi (2003 film, especially on the geisha siblings and The Stripes tap dance at the end), Sakuran, Petal Dance, …  … currently re-enjoying the soundtracks of Return of the Condor Heroes 2006 … currently trying to watch Gu Am Heo Joon and Su Baek Hyang (theme song here is lovely) whenever I can … had just sped through the jewel Water Bloom and I highly recommend this old drama to anyone who loves the simple things in life or anything Korean or has Song Il Guk in it … set to watch old Keanu Reeves films plus his two newest, Man of Taichi and 47 Ronin  …

  … really want to find the time to make a nice post featuring Park Sae-hyuk, Jo Min-joo, Jumong, and Ye Soya  

  ♥

  ♥

  ♥ —————————————-

 

added 9January2014:

for:  Kisaragi

Kisaragi _posterAs usual, I wasn’t surprised at how this film ran, after watching several Japanese films already. It’s simplicity in complexity and complexity in simplicity, a constant harmonious motion from one point to the next, so artful, so tasteful, so subdued and successful in highlighting where it should — and great acting! I’d say the story borders on the absurd, but that’s storytelling for you. I was glued to the screen without meaning to, because I was skeptical at first and thought that I’d fast-forward. But then it just happened that didn’t realize I was mesmerized until the film’s almost over. If you’re an Oguri Shun fan it’s a must-watch. The heart of the story, though, is very realistic and should be taken with respect and gravity. It’s a statement on the personal lives of the faces in the entertainment industry.

 

added 16Feb2014:

for:  King’s Daughter, Su Baek-hyang

… (by Episode 89 –> ) … waaa! Kuchon dies! I don’t like this! waaa!

Kuchon says farewell to step-daughter Solnan

Kuchon says farewell to step-daughter Solnan

I really can’t comprehend how Solhi turns out like that when her parents were like angels. Solnan-Kuchon is the best step-father-daughter relationship I’ve ever encountered on screen. However, it’s the king and Jinmu that I worry most about, and on what effect it will be on Myongnong when he finds out that it’s for his and his father’s sakes that the king did all of these…I laughed loudly when I read somewhere that her blood boils whenever she sees Solhi on screen. Mine simmers. It’s unbelievable how twistedly selfish this character is. I really have no sympathy for her. Unlike many other sageuk antagonists, this spoiled brat has no excuse at all for her behavior. She’s just fortunate that Kuchon has not abandoned her, ever since then, despite seeing through her lies. In the real world there are indeed kids who end up that way despite being born in a nice and caring family. So, she better not have her cake and eat it, too, because I’m rooting for the happy endings for the nice people around her, including Jinmu. Would it be too much to hope that Solhi finds the right path somehow? Poor, poor, girl. She missed the opportunity of being good friends with one of the nicest queens I’ve seen on sageuk-land! As for Solnan and the nice prince, I really really wish for your happinesses 🙂 Please, let them end up together. [added 19March2014:  !ek! the smileys are now pudgy little faces 🙂 so kawaii! ah, I just finished the 108th episode, the final. well, what can I say of the ending?:everything was put into their places. it felt like I have just done reading a legend that will give me sweet dreams. I had thought that the way Solhi was resolved is rather the easiest way out. But then again I remember that in our class discussion in school me and my classmates rather saw that us humans actually have no free choices. It’s because there are factors affecting our behaviors of which we are not aware of, of which we have no control over. Still, I’d say Solhi had it really easy, lucky girl. But then if love is at work no power can go against it. subaekhyang. centennial fragrance. lovely story ❤ ❤ ❤ <– see I was right heheh the hearts are now available! ❤ nice WordPress, thanks 🙂

 

 

a very scared heir to the Yuan empire

a very scared heir to the Yuan empire

Anna taste-tests Bongi & Dong-hae's recipe

Anna taste-tests Bongi & Dong-hae’s recipe

for: Ji Chang-wook

hah… “Bakit ngayon ka lang dumating sa buhay ko?” ( = “Why is it that you’ve come into my life only just now?”, and it’s a nice song, too)  ahh… Ji Chang-wook-ssi, I like you now despite of your very pretty face 🙂 Baek Dong-soo didn’t convince me then; it’s this scared-ly Yuan emperor that did it, this adorably pale awkward spoilt rich kid, enough to make me go through Dong-hae’s life (Smile, Dong-hae) while waiting for the rest of the episodes (of Empress Ki), enough to make it fine for me that Sungnyang does not end up with the gorgeous Goryo king …

Dong-hae, Anna, & Bongi's family

Dong-hae, Anna, & Bongi’s family

 Bild 2014-07-06_14-07_003Mr. Ji Chang-wook, I wish you the strength to choose film-roles that will provide positive inspiration for the everyday person on the street, especially the youth 🙂 may you prosper in your choices and plans whatever they may be in the future … banzai! [Please see also about My Too Perfect Sons, below, after a bit of scrolling… thanks ❤ ]

 

 

Park Ki Woong _& Secretly Greatly co-stars

Secretly & Greatly co-stars

added 25Feb2014:

for:  Park Ki Woong

Hello Mr. Park, your character in Chuno Park Ki Woong _in Chunomade me think “Just another wannabe actor taking advantage of his good looks” because appearing as a villain like that shouldn’t be such a difficult job, and I especially detested how that character betrayed my favorite Eop Bok. But then I saw you as among the good guys in Secretly Greatly, in a subtle-multiple-layer character that you did very easily despite your pretty face, and so I thought I judged your face rather harshly. I am very sorry, Mr. Park. 🙂 Peace. I’m looking forward to appreciating your work again in Gaksital Park Ki Woong _sweetand I’m now preparing my heart and my mind before watching it, knowing that I will get involved in the story and I will not escape its effects on me 🙂 Mr. Park, please remain the sweet guy that I have found out you to be.Secretly and Greatly Kamsahamnida 🙂

 

… I will find time to write about Secretly and Greatly … I need to find a way to salvage it from the glaring violence that occupies much of its time … [added 23June2014]

 

 

added 2March2014:Donnie Yen - Tang Wei - Wu Xia - 2011

for:  Wu Xia (Dragon)  

… this 2011 movie, Wu Xia (or Dragon), says it is neither the past nor appearances nor parentage nor affiliation that makes a man … it has the stars Kaneshiro Takeshi, Tang Wei, and Donnie Yen set against the backdrop of an obscure Chinese village where life is simple and sweet … it features two kinds of family life: one is full of love and peace, the other is as gruesome as hell … Kaneshiro Takeshi _Wu Xia poster 2011if you plan to watch this movie then it’s best to find time for it because it deserves an undivided attention … it’s like a dish that has been richly flavored by subtle additions of an array of condiments and spices … what one can take out from it depends on how much of life one has already come across … it is neither shallow nor simply entertaining, because it remains as something to be pondered about long after you’ve seen it … this poster featuring Kaneshiro Takeshi’s face says the truth about it …

 

added 4March2014:

for: Emergency Couple

Baby Gooki

 (as of episode 11 15) !ahahaha I totally Emergency Couple- on the setunderstand why this drama is so beloved, coz it’s also making me grin with glee from ear to ear just witnessing the developments 🙂 I wonder how the story will end. Whether Jin-hee ends up with the awesome & handsome chief [ ❤ he is the actor Lee Pil-mo, more about him below, in for: My Too Perfect Sons] or gets back with cutiepie Chang-min I hope the other guy can end up happy, too (is that possible? !haha) Baby Gook _Emergency Couple _yawnI’m happy for Song Ji-hyo because she’s doing great here but I do hope she gets more rest …    Emergency Couple _Baby Gook _ ep15  I’m a bit worried that she looks like she’s not getting enough sleep … I really admire this actress 🙂 I can spot several events here that are similar to Crime Squad & I’m just delighted at the coincidences (having a meal together with Chief Gook/Park Saehyuk & where he secretly gets amused at her; she shops for a gift for Chief Gook/Saehyuk at a clothes store; Emergency Couple _Baby Gook  ep15she’s comfortable & nimble in footwear without heels; she has non-flamboyant but trendy/cool wardrobe; she’s struggling to prove her worth in her job) … I wish the best for whole team that’s making this series refreshing, intelligent, & fun to watch! And please don’t pressure Baby Gooki to work!  🙂  Emergency Couple _Baby Gook _ep15!NO NO NO NO! I just saw baby Gooki cry! Don’t put him in a situation where he’ll possibly cry! Or else remove him totally from the series! You can’t use a baby this way! Arrrgh!!! <– I’m sorry. Gooki visits Chief Gook_Emergency Couple ep15I think that was very strong language there. I still feel strongly against babies crying for no reason, but at the same time I understand the situation. [added 22March2014: By episode 16 baby Gooki is fine. I have a post on it, here, where I also share a few captures of him — has been updated and includes those until episode 21.]

 

for:  My Too Perfect Sons  (added 14March2014)

My Too Perfect Sons _castThis is a 54-episode family type drama. I’m in episode 13 now and its magic for me has not waned. This series has been cracking me up since the beginning. My Too Perfect Sons _ castI still don’t know how it ends but as of now I am convinced that I have found another jewel. I had no idea before I started watching it that it’s this good. I have already cried a load along the story but please don’t be put off by this. It’s a drama after all. I appreciate these tear-inducing parts because they help in making the characters more real-like. Also, many of these for-cry episodes act as removers of sting from the nasty characters. Harabuji Abuji MiranThus I am not stressed out by any one character here, making me appreciate more the unfolding of the story. So it’s not all silly laughs, and it’s not even an all-sweet-flow because there’s lots of nagging from all sides that personally I would be exasperated many times a day had I been living among them.

My Too Perfect Sons poster

this thumbnail zooms in greatly when clicked on

The story revolves around a family that has 4 adult single sons, of which the eldest 3 are professionals and are being nagged by their mother into marriage. I have put here photos of the main cast because I don’t have the time now for writing much about any and each. If you’ve been around quality K-dramas for a while you’d recognize that most of these faces are among the ablest in the industry. Names on the upper rows are the artists’ names, while those on the lower rows are their character names in this drama. I ended up here in my search for other Ji Chang-wook (the emperor in the current Empress Ki) and Lee Pil-mo (the ER chief resident in the current Emergency Couple) characters. If you like these two then My Too Perfect Sons is a must for you (incidentally, it’s Ji Chang-wook’s first drama). My Too Perfect Sons _mother Okhui & hers 4 sonsI already have lots of love for each of the main characters (except Choi Soo-hee, who has appeared only once so far hence the audience still has to get to know her). If, like me, you’d want to know more about ordinary folks’ lives in present-day South Korea then you’ll be charmed by this series. Don’t expect, though, that what you see here is an accurate description. Song Daepung & Kim BoksilIt is a tailored presentation, after all.     But I have warmed up to it this much because it’s near to the normal family situation where farts, burps, dog poops, and blowing of noses are part and parcel of living with loved ones within close proximity. My Too Perfect Sons _Song brothers + BoksilThere are lots of bond-drinking, too, but thankfully none has thrown up on another yet. I hope there’s none of this  here, hahaha. However, there was already something similar to this in one of the episodes. That one also cracked me up. The menfolk here are as crazy and as whacky as the womenfolk. This is among the rare K-dramas where I am not irritated by a bitch-type or a meek-type character. Yes, both types are here but somehow they manage to come across as bitch/meek with a substance.

My Too Perfect Sons _Song brothers L-R _Daepung, Jinpung, Seonpung, MipungNo one’s paying me to say things here. I’m just sharing my joy with you 🙂 I’m going back to watching episode 13 now. Have a super day! (Thanks to asianwiki for the My Too Perfect Sons main cast photos.)

>added 19 March 2014. Superb. I have just finished the watching the drama. I relished every episode of it. I’m smiling like the Cheshire Cat right now as I’m writing this update. My Too Perfect Sons did not disappoint me until the end. I now confirm that this is among my favorites. My Too Perfect Sons _Song brothers L-R _Mipung, Seonpung, Daepung, JinpungThe story of the Song family, of their 4 handsome sons and of the people involved in their lives, was carefully crafted to showcase family related events so as to encourage the viewer with the message that no matter what the situation is living shouldn’t be taken too seriously. It’s because in life no matter what the situation is unexpected events could always turn up and they could lead us to paths we never thought we’d take. Ahh, I’m so sleepy now I can’t think much anymore. I’ll just describe the entire drama this way: it’s like a cuddly teddy bear, big, soft, cushy, and warm. My Too Perfect Sons _Song familyIf I have to choose a most favorite character then it would be Song Gwangho (by the great actor Mr. Baek Il-seob), the father of the 4 sons. Anyone who has a father like him can’t be anything but a happy child, and anyone who has a child like him can’t be anything but a happy parent. But the rest of the main characters are also lovable in their own unique ways, including Miran the boys’ cousin who’s not in the photos above.

I now count this as among my treasure of ‘comfort’ dramas, stress relievers without fail, the others being:

Golden Bowl (Japanese) [background theme: bowling],

Hana Kimi – Taiwan [background theme: a girl in a boys’ school],

Yankumi's class at play _Gokusen 1Gokusen-1 [Japan, whacky boys’ class + whackier teacher],

Crime Squad [police work & a journalist],

The Legend (The Story of the First King’s Four Gods or Taewangsasingi) fantasy-myth,

The 5 kids studying _God of StudyThe God of Study [down-to-earth teenage kids and their awesome school teachers],

Take Care of Us, Captain [aviation & admirable characters of the 4 leads],

Return of the Condor Heroes 2006 [wuxia-fantasy],

❤ and, hopefully Emergency Couple [medical] based on episode 15 so far.

Kaja! (let’s go!)