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'Relation' Trips Over Own Subject Matter

2009/11/05 Source

By Lee Hyo-won
Staff Reporter

"The Relation of Face, Mind and Love" is the first installment in the seven-part TV soap-meets-movie series TeleCinema Seven, which brings together top Korean stars and directors and Japanese writers.

Popular Japanese scriptwriter Shizuka Ooishi presents a romantic comedy akin to "Shallow Hal" that attempts to ponder the classic question of how much looks weigh in when it comes to love.

Note the emphasis here is that it "attempts" ― and ends up being no more than a clichéd mess of B-movie parodies, third-rate slapstick and characters who are completely devoid of any graspable personality or appeal.

The only concrete effort the film makes is in whipping up some fancy hardware and props such as expensive sports cars and glitzy interior spaces. The movie thus trips over its own theme and showcases style over substance.

The movie could have been, at best, a mindless diversion for fans of the leading actors, perhaps as a straight-to-DVD project, but it drags on endlessly, and appears to end twice before it finally does, with a sigh of relief for the much-distracted viewer.

In the aforementioned Hollywood flick, Jack Black's character is cast under a sort of spell that forces him to perceive the inner beauty in people; and he thus falls in love with an obese woman who, in his eyes, looks like Gwenyth Paltrow.

This movie begins with a minor car accident that results in a type of "temporary visual impairment" that makes beauties appear ugly and vice versa. Realism is often of little importance when it comes to well-told fiction; it is believability that matters. However, such minor details become something to scoff at since the rest of the movie is just as unconvincing.

Kang Ji-hwan, who emerged through the hit romantic comedy "My Girlfriend is an Agent", plays the "perfect" man Kang Tae-pung, a world-renowned architect who also happens to look like a GQ model. Tae-pung is constantly emphasizing the importance of substance over style in architecture, but of course has yet to apply this philosophy when it comes to love.

He is unable to forget his dead fiancée (played by lead actress Lee Ji-ah, "Beethoven Virus") but falls head-over-heels in love with an inebriated Wang So-jung (also played by Lee), who passes out in front of his office building. The "My Sassy Girl" moment ― where all is forgiven, even the most deplorable acts, if you're pretty ― is possible since "visually impaired" Tae-pung sees a beautiful resurrection of his late fianc?e rather than the ugly duckling So-jung really is (the pretty actress paints on a few freckles and wears false teeth to be the homely heroine).

So-jung is completely baffled that Prince Charming keeps calling her his "goddess" (he really does). But the lesson du jour lies in how she supposedly makes him fall in love with her for her true charms, like how she is humble and unafraid to be goofy.

Tae-pung's eye problem is fixed, however, by the time So-jung returns from a business trip, and Tae-pung fails to recognize her.

The problem here is that Tae-pung is an unlikeable hero; apart from his superficial qualities, he has no redeeming ones and often confounds love with convenience. His so-called love for So-jung is founded in how she doesn't nag him and the fact that she can cook.

Meanwhile, the "Shallow Hal" issue seems to be an issue So-jung must deal with, since she's the one who is fixated with Tae-pung's looks, despite his blatant personality flaws.

Now playing in theaters. No English subtitles available.

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