Thursday, October 07, 2010


  No, the post is not about me. Not about my ancient taste in men either (OK, it changed rapidly lately, ekhem). I'm not sure if there is any Korean movie I watched so many times. Maybe there is, but... not that important now. I didn't read the manga, and I tried to watch Japanese drama, but ended up hating it throughout the first episodes so I dropped. This movie, on the other hand, is perfect.
Title: 서양골동양과자점 앤티크
Release date in South Korea : 2008/11/13
Genre: comedy, drama
Antique is like a breath of a fresh air in the cinema. It is directed by Min Gyudong in such manner that every minute is a gem. The plot is somewhat simple: a young man Kim Jinhyeok (played by, stop my heart, Ju Jihun) wants to open a cake shop and hires a well-known patissier Min Seonwu. Their journey through life just begins. With time we get more characters entangled in each other's lives. We get to know a quirky ex-boxer, Yang Kibeom (played by oh so cute Yu Ah-in), and the dimwit bodyguard Nam Suyeong, who apart from his looks has nothing to be proud of.
Cake shop. What's interesting in a movie about cakes? I was hovering over this movie for almost two months before I finally sat down and watched it long time ago. From that time on, Yu Ah-in is on my watchlist, and Ju Jihun got a solid post in my heart. I was so biased, truthfully the plot didn't appeal to me at all.
But finally I gave it a shot and I'm so glad I did (the same with SKKS, thanks to Yu Ah-in in it^^).
This movie is a comedy and drama in the same time. And even a musical.
Technically, Antique is unique (and I possess a rhyming technique^^). It is shot in a very strange way with this warm filter inside the cake shop, and two hues outside: either blue or bluish white, or yellow. On top of that - montage. Such innovative and great montage I have not seen for a quite long time. Scenes were changing one into another in form of comic cadres, with a voice or using a single element from the scene before. Stills don't do this movie justice. It has to be watched with eyes wide open just for the technical way of shooting it.
Musical scenes were well done in an old way, with everyone participating in singing and dancing. The sequence of delivering cakes on Christmas Eve was so witty cut and montaged that we got a spinning wheel of events linked only by Jinhyeok, and ended with tired and soft Merry Christmas.
Cast did good if not great. Ju Jihun improved a lot, and there was only one scene in which I felt that he could do better, but it's still the good direction with his acting. Kim Jaewuk was good, not exceptionally brilliant but good. Even Andy Gillet was good, not like usual Westerner in Korean productions looking like if they read their lines from the table. Kim Changwan was superb as the old man with unresolved past. Yu Ah-in was always in the character. This hit me while watching the movie for the XX time. Because sometimes one character can be very distinctive and well sketched at the beginning of a movie/drama, but towards the end becomes blurred and bland. It's not the case with Antique characters. They changed, because under certain pressure everyone's changing, but they managed to maintain the main points of every character.
Story... Hmm, maybe I'm reading what's not there, but I don't find Antique all that light comedy at all. It can be viewed like this of course. But U. Eco said once that every interpretation is not over-interpretation if we can give the proof for it.
As I mentioned, the story is about the young man, name Jinhyuk who wants to open a cake shop and hires a patissier. With every minutes we get more details, the story goes back in time to his high school days and even further in the past - to his traumatized childhood.
If this doesn't work - few recipes at the end.
And one more funny fact: in the scene where Jinhyuk slapped Seonwu... Jihun thought it would be in one shot, so he slapped him for real, with what he could. It turned out that the scene was repeated over a dozen times and poor Jaewuk ended with ice on his face. Ahahaha...
   The movie starts with short talk on the school roof. It's the graduation day, and young, bespectacled Seonwu says his feelings for Jinhyeok. The reaction of the other boy is in total opposition to his face and, apparently, his thoughts, because he ends up smearing the cake into poor Seonwu's face. Ten years later he starts a cake business even though he hates sweets.
The moment Seonwu enters the shop looking for a job, Jinhyeok remembers him. As we get to know, Seonwu possess a strange charm, that makes everyone, gay or straight to fall for him. Jinhyeok laughes his ass off in disbelief, but they end up in gay club where Jinhyeok says that Seonwu found a new job. 
So their working days start, causing constant frustration and display of extremely bad humor of Jinhyeok. Seonwu can't work around women, so poor Jinhyeok has to give up his hopes for sexy staff and hire a male employees. After six months a delivery boy shows up and is willing to work here. Trust me, the job interview here was one of the best scenes I have ever seen in the movies. Sarcasm, bad temper and inability to crush two people drove Jinhyuk crazy. Perfectly acted.
The young boy starts as an apprentice, cause he loves cakes and wants to learn how to make them. Sadly he's not Seonwu's type.
In the meantime strange man starts coming to Antique and is willingly hated by Jinhyuk, who, on top of that is also bothered by his bodyguard. Then it is revealed that pretty Kibeom is an ex-boxer.
Please pay attention to the second plan when our kkotminam is faced by another boxer. The actors in Korean movies don't usually just stay and make the background for the actors on the first plan performing an action. It looks like if the whole plan is alive, both first, second and third as well. This gives an incredible realism to the movie. As if the actors being on the background don't care they are not main in this moment, just play their character the best way possible. And this scene is for those who don't have faith enough in Jihun.
Meanwhile a French guy comes to Korea for a hotel fair. It is an ex-lover of Seonwu. Perfectly put by Jinhyuk: "Those guys met, had sex in the first 15 minutes and spent the rest of their time fighting, like in those boring French movies". I second that, Jinhyuk-ah!^^ Jean-Baptiste Evan wants to take Seonwu to France and the fireworks of Jinhyuk's jealousy start to spark. Jean-Baptiste likes to solve his problems by fists, so Seonwu is rescued by our brave team. Kibeom gets the invitation to Paris to study patisserie. He goes there in the end, and after that bodyguard of Jinhyeok also disapears, saying he wants to start on his own. And Jinhyeok starts to go to gay club, being hot-tempered as always.
OK, nothing much, right?
But wait, because there is a second layer to this story.
Why Jinhyeok hates sweets?
   When he was 10 he was kidnapped and held in one house. The man who kidnapped him fed him cake every day. The kid (then name Minjun) managed to escape, hurting the man in his leg with a pen. From now on, the old man limped. It was not explicitely said whether man abused him sexually or not, but there are few hints tht it might be the case. When the boy was rescued and saw his parents, he suddenly backed off from his father's embrace. Both his mother and grandmother were sure of it. Whatever the truth is, was he or wasn't, Jinhyuk saw this as the reason of his unsettled life. He never had any real realationship. One girl told him he tried too hard, the other called him the exact version of the messed up herself, the other didn't like his protection. He wanted to commit suicide, but he didn't. He wanted to dug out his memories from the past. He wanted to remember what happened, seeing this as a factor hampering his every relationship. Since man liked cakes, he opened a cake shop, counting he can lure him.
The abductions and killings of young boys were his obsession, he wanted to get the trail of the modern kidnapper, projecting on him the man who kidnapped him in the past. By sheer chance he rescued one missing boy from the hands of the said murderer.
In the same time Jinhyeok realised he'd probably never regain his memories back.
One terryfying scene is at the end of the movie, when an old man comes to the Antique to buy a cake. When given the cake he goes away, Jinhyeok sees him off and notices that the old man limps.
And no, this is not an American movie. There is no miracle, no easy solution. Jinhyeok stays with his blank space in the past. Memory didn't come back.
But the peace of mind came. And the acceptance of Seonwu at his side.
   So, do watch this movie when you need something optimistic but not totally empty. Watch this movie when you have completely nothing to watch. Watch it if you can sympathize with not that perfect guys. Watch it if you don't turn your head away seeing a guy hugging another guy. Watch this movie for it's powerful dose of brightness. Watch it if you like technically perfect movies.
Antique is like a clearing among the trees, lit by a bonfire. There's brightness, but also there are the shivering shadows of the trees around.