I recently met up with my (real life) first love. We have both moved on since those oh-so-distant days, and we are now friends so casual I usually forget that I once thought that a light would go out in my life if I never saw him again. And when I do remember I feel a little embarrassed. Nowadays, I even find him a little tiresome when I see too much of him. However, I don’t blame my younger self for having fallen for his wit, charm and mild eccentricity. With the benefit of hindsight I realise it was probably a good thing that things didn’t work out between us, but nonetheless I can’t regret the feelings I once cherished for him, which were real to me then and are now woven into my life’s story.
Delightful Girl Choon Hyang (DGCH) (or Sassy Girl Choon Hyang) was my first k-drama love. I no longer think it is the best thing ever, and if I watched it for the first time today I suspect I might find some plot contrivances tiresome. But it will always have a special place in my heart and I can’t regret the love I lavished on it. I thought it might be interesting to explore what made it so attractive to me at the time, what struck me then, and what qualities might endure (and endear) today.
It was about two weeks ago that I had this ‘brilliant’ idea to create a poll of our favorite actors and their most-loved roles. So I posted the first poll (male roles) and then the second (female roles), patted myself on the back and went about my merry way, whistling.
And then it started. A reader told me I had left out Song Il-gook. Oops. Then, while happily sipping my Diet Coke at a mall, I nearly choked when one missing name popped into my head. Uhm Tae-woong!
Still, I resisted. I’m made of sterner stuff, after all.
But last night I was brushing my teeth before bed (and I tend to get some of my wildest ideas for recaps and posts when my mouth is full of toothpaste foam, don’t ask me why) when it hit me.
A male protagonist who did not speak a single word but gave me the chills. A movie which was not a horror story but felt ghostly.
I watched 3-Iron (2004) with my mouth open, transfixed but not enthralled. In some scenes my hair stood on end. Events on the screen, each more surreal than the one before it… Was I dreaming them? Things are upside down or turned around… You feel a sense of violation and intrusion, and yet you can’t stop watching. 3-Iron reminds me thus of Oasis. Fascination and revulsion in equal measure.
Take the intrusion aspects, for example. From a shabby tenement to a grand mansion, it’s interesting the types of houses that Tae-suk (Jae-hee) breaks into. In one apartment you can’t even tell you’re in Korea, it looks so American. Of all the houses, the one that gives him and Sun-hwa (Lee Seung-yeon) the most emotional comfort is a traditional Korean house with its old-world furniture. This is the house that she returns to a second time, by herself. And even though what she does is so odd (lying down on the sofa to sleep in the presence of the male houseowner), yet somehow it feels right.
The houseowners (the most loving couple in the film) leave her alone, and that gesture of acceptance and hospitality speaks volumes. In this world where Tae-suk and Sun-hwa are alienated and floating around like ghosts, here is a place that they can return to for rest and refuge. Yet the reality is that it is not their home and they are still trespassing. Everything is still a farce, frighteningly so. When will it all come crashing down?