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.
It makes me rather sad that the post with the lowest number of reads on this blog is Waikiki Brothers.
The reason is because that 2001 movie marks the debut of one very special actor. And because even though he was one of the leads in The Host (Korea’s top-grossing movie), he sure has a pretty small fanbase internationally. Most people will go “Park Hae who?” when asked if they have watched him on screen. (And because the movie is a well-made and critically acclaimed gem about a rock band, and it’s sad that not many people have heard of it.)
But I’ve loved this actor ever since I watched him play a postman in My Mother, The Mermaid. He can be a creepy murder suspect in Memories of Murder, a sleazy slimeball in Rules of Dating, or a perplexing enigma in Jealousy is My Middle Name. The guy’s a chameleon and he’s got da acting chops most definitely.
Meet the amazing Park Hae-il.
Suh In-ha (Park Hae-il) is a 20-year-old freshman at the university who falls in love at first sight with his senior, Hee-jae (Jang Jin-young). She, however, is in love with someone else.
For the next seven years, even though their lives take them in different directions (a chilling event turns hers upside down), In-ha continues to love Hee-jae with a steadfast devotion. She finally accepts his affection and they get married.
At this juncture, the logical thing to do is be happy for the couple, no? Yet here was where I had my first major grouse with Scent of Love (2003).
I like Jealousy Is My Middle Name (2003) a lot because I’m partial to Park Hae-il and this movie really revolves around him. In My Mother, the Mermaid he was so sweet but overshadowed by Jeon Do-yeon, and in Memories of Murder he appeared only in the last one-third of the movie. There’s a lot of Park Hae-il in Jealousy Is My Middle Name!
Lee Won-sang (Park Hae-il) is an English literature graduate student who works part-time for a magazine. He has just been unceremoniously dumped by his two-timing girlfriend who, incidentally, left him for the editor of the magazine, Han Yun-sik (Moon Seong-keun).
Han is a married man whose expertise seems to be wooing and dumping. He wastes no time dumping Lee’s girlfriend and then targets a part-time photographer at the magazine, Seong-yeon (Bae Jong-ok). Han and Seong-yeon quickly develop a sexual relationship. Lee, who is attracted to Seong-yeon, now finds himself working for the man who is responsible for his two consecutive heartbreaks!
I bought this movie because of Darcy Paquet’s review. He called it “a masterfully directed, superbly acted film which is at turns blackly humorous, thought-provoking, and horrifying.” That praise is right on the mark. Memories of Murder (2003) is extremely gripping stuff and the acting from the two leads and supporting cast just stupendous.
The movie is based on a real crime that took place in a small village in Korea. Between 1986 and 1991, ten young women were raped and murdered in a similar fashion: strangled by their own underwear. The plot focuses on the investigative efforts to uncover the murderer.
What a gem, My Mother, the Mermaid. A beautiful love story, breathtaking cinematography, and a lovely, lovely soundtrack. But what stands out above all in this 2004 movie is the acting.
Jeon Do-yeon is fantastic here in a dual role playing a mother (Yeon-soon) and her daughter (Na-yeong). The two look nothing like each other and Jeon Do-yeon’s transformation from Yeon-soon to Na-yeong is nothing short of astonishing. (From Yeon-soon to Na-yeong? Mother to daughter? Yes, because there’s magic in this movie, both in the watching and in the unraveling of events, as we move from present back to the past.) Go Doo Shim is the older Yeon-soon and her acting is riveting as usual. Rounding up the leads is my soft spot Park Hae-il, in my favorite Park Hae-il role. I dare you to find a more attractive postman in a kmovie – sweeter, gentler, with a more infectious smile. 🙂
Alas, just as our postman, Kim Jin-kuk, seems almost too perfect to be true, so my favorite half of the movie increasingly begins to resemble the stuff of dreams, something that Na-yeong (and I) made up. I can’t reconcile it with the other half – so stark, so disparate, so discomfiting.
And here I post a most spoilery lament >>>
I bought only two movies when I was visiting Seoul very briefly in 2006: Waikiki Brothers and Barking Dogs Never Bite.
When I think of the hundreds and thousands of offerings in the stores, it feels queer that I picked only these two very obscure titles. Okay, a limited budget was one reason but then again, I’ve never been very normal when it comes to my tastes in K-movies. (Duelist, which I love to itty-bitty bits, is an excellent example of how non-mainstream I am sometimes.) Anyway, I bought Waikiki Brothers because I’m a Park Hae-il fan and this is his debut movie.