Director: Song Hae-Sung
Studio: Premier Entertainment
About This DVD
'Failan' a rare gem in Korean melodrama
"Failan" is a love story about a couple who've never met. Actually, it's about a one-way affection a lonely girl desperate for love feels for a good-for-nothing low life who only married her to make some quick cash.
Not a romantic setting and certainly not a typical movie plot - which is why it was so shocking that the film was so good. This is the kind of movie that takes hold of you, haunts you in your dreams for days and makes you really, really think about what love is (when was the last time a Korean film made you think about anything at all?).
The film's main character is Kang-jae (Choi Min-shik), a fashion-defying bum who spends his days playing video games, beating up kids half his size and running for his life when he sees his ex-buddy-turned-boss coming around the corner.
So not tough is he, in fact, that when a middle-aged supermarket owner beats him and pulls his hair, all he can say is, "What can I do? She's my mother's age?"
Thus, it's not surprising that when his gang leader friend asks him to take the blame for the murder he committed during a drunken rage in exchange for a large sum of money, he agrees, calculating to himself, "10 years behind bars is not a bad price for a ship."
What stirs an unexpected storm in his grim life, however, is a letter - from his wife.
Wait, did he have a wife? He barely remembers, but then recalls a small wad of money he pocketed for marrying a Chinese immigrant who was stranded here without family or a visa. Apparently, she has died of a fatal disease and the police was summoning him to identify her. This is to be his last trip before heading for prison.
The journey turns out to be something else altogether, though. It begins with the letter addressed to him that the police brought. In it is a letter written in childish Korean script, "Dear Kang-jae ... Thank you. I was able to work here because of you. Everybody here is kind. But you're the kindest because you married me." A love letter never sent.
These words touch Kang-jae, who slowly learns that the poor, lonely girl secretly loved him for his act of great kindness, not knowing that he hasn't thought of her once since signing the marriage papers and taking the fee. In her belief in him as the "kindest man" and thus a man worth loving, however, he sees himself anew.
He also realizes he has lost the chance to love such a pure-hearted woman. This is overwhelmingly clear when he meets his wife face to face for the first time: standing in the dark, cold mortuary where her corpse is wheeled out to him for identification. Later, when he visits Failan's house and her landlord cries, "Why do you come now? She waited for you for so long," he breaks down and weeps.
There are a number of wonderful things about this film, the greatest of which is the structure. Telling a love story between two people who've never met, and so realistically, is a great feat in itself, but even more impressive is how the director brings together the framing story and the romance. The film has the kind of conclusion that sends chills down one's spine for its poetic perfection. The little bits of flashback scenes showing Failan falling in love with Kang-jae are also memorable and touching.
Perhaps the quality of the script is not at all surprising, though, considering that it was written by Jiro Asada, Japanese writer famous for "Love Letter" and "Popeya." In fact, it's not hard to detect the same tragic air that perfumed "Love Letter" in "Failan."
If the writing credit goes to Japan, however, the acting and directing talent are indisputably Korean. Choi (who is famous for his comical role in "The Quiet Family," chilling North Korean spy in "Swiri" and a murderous husband in "Happy Ending") is nothing less than brilliant in this work, playing a third-rate sluggard like it's his real job.
Director Song Hae-sung, who debuted with another romantic tragedy "Kara" in 1999, also showed surprising maturity, replacing prettiness with more genuine beauty - real life, with its rotting parts and all.
Last but not least is the actress of the title character Failan, the gorgeous Hong Kong star Cecilia Cheung of "Songwon" and "Twelve Nights." Appearing without any makeup, she manages to look beautiful while poisoning the film with such quiet sadness that she will likely replace Korea's most popular actresses as the most memorable heroine in Korean cinema ever By Kim Mi-hui Staff reporter.
|Audio Format:||Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, DTS|
|Video Format:||Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1|
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