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Archive for the ‘review’ Category

I had to rescue my review of Friend, Our Legend on Thundie’s Prattle. This was a no-brainer. Just who else is going to write a review of this by-now obscure, under-appreciated, dark show about gangsters? Starring Hyun Bin, in his least appealing but most compelling character of a brutal and brutalised man? I found it hard enough to watch – not because it’s bad (it’s brilliant) but because it’s depressing – let alone write a coherent review about such an angst-fest.

Rescuing my photographs from Photobucket.com (Damn you photobucket!) I am struck afresh by the palette — shabby brown, and dark. This pretty much sums up the aesthetic of the show. To go with the psychological darkness, the depths, the wringing of the heart… Oh! Oh!

Watch this if you dare. I promise you, you will never see Hyun Bin the same way again. When you see him phoning it in as another wish-fulfilment cardboard hero in another piece of lazy fluff, you’ll just want to knock his head and shout at him, “What are you doing, man! Has it come to this? Are you prostituting your talent now?”

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Re-watching Thank You and revisiting my review in Thundie’s Prattle, I realise to my horror that all my beautiful, painstaking screencaps have disappeared from our earlier posts on Thundie’s Prattle. *Waves fist at photobucket*. It’s not the end of the world. The graphics are still in photobucket. But it’s pretty painstaking to pull them off photobucket and insert them into wordpress, one by one. This calls for a real-life exercise in evaluation – which reviews are worth saving? Which are worth polishing for posterity?

Sorry, Sungkyunkwan Scandal, you were crack and I loved you, but you are not significant or important. Neither are my grumpy snarky reviews of Road Number One worth saving. What’s worth saving?

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Comrades. I was thinking about Comrades the other day, when the theme song rolled up on shuffle. What a great show. It was awesome. It was devastating.

I wrote my review on Thundie’s Prattle having watched just four episodes, but it never let me down. It just got better and better. Watching it was an incredible experience. The ending had me feeling broken-hearted and shell-shocked for days, as no other show has done. You should have seen us on Twitter, having a collective melt-down, and having to give each other virtual hugs. (Ah, good times!)

Why don’t they make k-dramas like that any more?

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She’s alive! And blogging!

Yes, it’s amazing. I’ve popped up again, after more than three years during which I have not once gotten the urge to blog. Which may have something to do with the fact that these days I watch maybe a couple of k-dramas a year. (By the way, any recommendations for me, from 2017?)

Then a few days ago I was sorting through my stuff when I came across Thank You (MBC, 2007) and decided to give the show a re-watch. Big mistake. Down the rabbit hole I went, marathoning over a few days when I should be doing other things, having a pleasurable weepfest. Yes, I cried. But I also rolled my eyes and LOL-ed a lot. Then I read my TY review for Thundie’s Prattle and rolled my eyes some more – gosh I was besotted by the show! And dang, did I need some fierce editing, lol! To be fair to myself, that was my very first k-drama review. But I’m a bit embarrassed now by how many free passes I handed the show. I must have been very much in love with Jang Hyuk!

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*Warning: Somewhat spoilery*

After I finished watching Secret Love Affair, I had trouble sleeping (for other reasons) and found myself thinking about the show in the dark on my bed. A sign, surely, of a good show, that one thinks about it after it’s finished.

I thought long and hard about the ending. To be honest, I didn’t love it. I thought it was a tad facile. I didn’t hate it, though, it was just okay rather than bad. I thought about how perhaps I in particular and we the television audience in general have grown so used to over-stimulation and over-dramatization, that an ending that doesn’t blow us away with charred remains scattered all over the floor might seem dull.

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I thought about how some people got so bored with the show they dropped it, and yet others love it to pieces. What a funny thing taste is, eh? And how I myself wasn’t exactly addicted or compelled – I easily dropped it for a few weeks in the middle – and yet how much I do actually like it. I still think it was rather slow. But I didn’t find it tediously so, and I suspect the show would hold up to a re-watch marathon. In fact, I already want to re-watch the last episode, knowing how it ends, to pick out the clues and catch all the subtleties.

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Wow.

I was so moved by that ending. I’m going to have to go off and have a little think about the show before I can write very much about it. But in the meantime here’s a short first reaction…

It didn’t turn out as I expected. And while little more than usual happened, still not nearly as much as you might expect from the last stretch of a drama about a Secret Love Affair. And yet the ending, while not what I predicted, felt completely right and organic. A teensy weensy bit indulgent, it has to be said. But I forgive it its soap-box moment because it stayed so classy to the end.

Secret Love Affair episode 15 Yoo Ah In

What makes it so terribly moving? I was practically in tears at the end. Is it because it’s about Lurve? That doesn’t usually move me, to be honest, in itself. Is it the gorgeous music? The Mozart that I love? The Dvorak that leaps and sparkles? Is it the phenomenal acting? (Bravo, Yoo Ah In! Bravo! Well done again, Kim Hee Ae! *standing ovation*) Is it the beautifully elegant directing? Is it the irresistibly wistful tone? Is it the whiff of Brahms, of the potent mix of classic art and love that can not be denied? Is it the strong tinge of sadness?

All these things. But mostly, because with PD Ahn Pan Seok’s usual magic, the people and story feel real to me. Nothing feels meaningless or manipulative. It all feels like an authentic, heartfelt story of real people. Of a real complicated woman within whose breast beats a heart of equal part good and evil, funk and courage, and beauty and spoils. Of a man who in being true to himself and his art is wise beyond his years. And of life that is usually messy, sometimes held together precariously by compromise, occasionally surprised by nobility, and lifted by the possibility of redemption for those who have the courage to reach for it.

Secret Love Affair episode 15 Kim Hee Ae

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So, how was this episode for you? Those of you who are still on board this slow train.

This episode was a wow for me. Just… WOW. The dinner party from hell. The slow burn. Fury of Thwarted Grand Passion expressed through musical performance, which should have been cheesy but really wasn’t; rather, it was something unspeakable that stabbed me in the heart.

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Again, nothing much actually happened. Nothing was particularly surprising. But I was just gripped and on the edge of my seat.

This will all end in tears. Surely. I don’t see how else it can otherwise stay true to its escalating sense of doom.

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Another quietly insightful episode.

Great art, in my opinion, is about the human condition. Not, primarily, about plot. What happens is not nearly as important as how, which is not as interesting as why.

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Secret Love Affair exemplifies this. When things start heating up, instead of having more things happen, like coincidences designed to make you gasp or scenes designed to manipulate your emotions, PD Ahn Pan Seok and writer Jung Sung Joo turn inwards. This may not make for titillating television, but it does make for very compelling art. We turn to why Hye Won leads the life she does and makes the decisions she does. We turn into Sun Jae’s helplessness and frustration. We look inwards into their joy and despair. We dig into the people around them, as crisis peels off whatever thin layers they have left.

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