Ever since Kathmandu opened it's bajars to pirated DVDs, Korean films have come flooding in. It is a bit of mystery why this is so, but if Bollywood's mush doesn't do it for you any more, turn to the sap fest of Korea.
Take My Sassy Girl, for example. After becoming the second biggest grosser of 2001 in Korea, and inspiring DreamWorks to produce a remake of the same name (slated for release soon), this cutesy romantic comedy is now one of the most widely circulated films in Kathmandu.
What is it about this film that not just teen girls, but even the laddest of lads have sought it out, and often enough, loved it? Comedy and melodrama in equal parts, the film tells of a romance between a shiftless student, Kyoon-woo (Tae-hyun) and an embarrassingly saucy, stroppy, bellicose-rather than plain old sassy-girl (Ji-hyun). But let's not get into the plot. If you really care about plot, watch The Godfather trilogy or something.
Instead, watch Sassy for the antics that this love story lends itself to. If you have a thing for watching a hot chick beat, dominate, and humiliate a whimpering boy (who secretly digs it), this movie is for you. Consider the heroine's fantasies about rescuing her boy from lethal circumstances, their slapping game, her insistence that he trade his sneakers for her high heels. Perhaps it's simply innocent play; but given their sexless romance, one wonders whether it isn't a case of discreet S&M.
But the frolics end soon. And then comes the tearjerker drama with enough sugar to make a kilo of jeris. Early on in the film, Kyoon-woo mocks the Korean penchant for melodrama and not long after, the film itself turns into one. Suffice it to say, a romantic comedy isn't romantic anymore without some punishing emotional kinks.
Ad-boy and pop singer Cha Tae-hyun is charming in his first major movie role. But, really, all he has to do is be cute, and that is no challenge for him. Jeon Ji-hyun has more to work given her whacky character, but she isn't what you'd call terrific. But never mind. Watch director Kwak's wispy effort for what it is: My Sassy Girl is a film with killer charm and very engaging chemistry.
Dir: Kwak Jae-yong
Cast: Jeon Ji-hyun, Cha Tae-hyun.
2001. 137 min.