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Posts Tagged ‘A Wife’s Credentials’

Another slow, elegiac episode.

How great is it that they incorporated Billy Joel’s Piano Man? I thought it would be the more sentimental New York State of Mind, since Hye Won was talking about her life in New York. But Piano Man is better. At first I thought, haha how obvious. Sun Jae is a the Piano Man, of course. But as I listened to the song (along with Hye Won and Sun Jae), I remembered that the song is about lost dreams and finding oneself trapped. How amazingly fit. It’s a song about musical talent reduced to scraping a living, which puts the entertainer on the same level as his audience and forms a special bond.

Secret Love Affair ep12 Billy Joel Paino Man

So, ok, let’s name the elephant in the room. This show is slow. Very slow. I mean, it’s beautiful and sensitive and elegant and all that, and I personally appreciate all these qualities. But nothing happens. Mind you, I do feel it. I do understand the slow stew of passion and pain. But sometimes, in television, we need a bit more movement.

It has crossed my mind that maybe Ahn Pan Seok started out with only twelve episodes’ worth of plot because he anticipated, consciously or subconsciously, that he would get the End of the World end-this-show-now chop again. But he didn’t get the chop, and now he has to figure out how to fill in all the gaps. How ironic that this show, the weakest of his trio of A Wife’s Credentials, The End of the World and Secret Love Affair, should be the most well received. It makes me feel a bit sad. Mind you, I’m very grateful to Yoo Ah In for investing this show with star power and hence staying power; and who can begrudge the boy anything when he’s doing such a great job? But the ways of the world do make me feel sad, sometimes.

Secret Love Affair ep12

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Secret Love Affair is such an interesting show. On the one hand, it’s not cracky. Not at all. It’s not in the least addictive. Its pace is leisurely and at times — dare I say it — it’s not even particularly compelling. Sometimes I’m not even very sure what, if anything, happened in an episode. I don’t find myself rushing to gobble down the next episode. But when I do watch it, I like it very much. Not madly, but deeply. It has a stirring sensibility. And as ever with Ahn Pan Seok, it feels real to me.

What just happened?

I appreciate the way it is taking its time to explore all the awkwardness of an illicit affair, and an age-inappropriate one at that. It’s the realistic little touches that impress me. How Sun Jae’s youth is not so much a cool factor as something of a liability (what would he do or say next, in a moment’s unthinkingness? Eeps). Unlike the Mary-Sue manufactured noona-toyboy who is perfect (Oh, how Noona is SO cool to have snagged him!), in real life, lack of maturity isn’t always a cool or even desirable thing. And I appreciate that Sun Jae is not that mythical creature — the perfect toyboy who can do no wrong and who is going to solve all our noona’s problems and sweep her into heavenly bliss with one clasp of his young virile arms.

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My Verdict: Very Promising.

Judging a book by its cover, or a television series by its first episode, is a risky business. But it’s not an entirely futile endeavour. A book’s cover can often tell you a lot about it, if you know what to look for. And so, I feel, is the case with k-drama. There are a few basic commonsensical rules: Pay far more attention to who is writing the script and who is directing, than to who is starring in the show. Don’t take the trailer too seriously. Try to pay little attention to the (usually clumsy) plot synopsis released by the network. But watch the first episode, and notice its tone. Is it frenzied or patient? Is it already incoherent? (think how it would be once it got into live-shoot…) Is it going for cheap thrills without making much sense? Does the show pay more attention to characters (good) than to dramatic events (not so good). Does it look thought-through, or just thrown together? Is the editing, storying and music soundtrack all hanging together, or feeling random?

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The First Episode of Secret Love Affair was not an instant win. Compared to PD Ahn Pan Seok’s recent works, it didn’t have the charm (and tension) of the first episode of A Wife’s Credential (jTBC, 2012), nor did it have the awesome immediate drama of The End of the Word (jTBC, 2013). But I feel quietly confident.

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I should re-title this blog Annals of a K-drama Watcher in Retreat or something.

Still entirely, thoroughly, disinterested in current k-drama. Can anything awaken me from my stupor?

Why, actually, yes. PD Ahn Pan Seok can. If he is just fractionally on form, the uncompromising artist who crafted A Wife’s Credentials and The End of the World can totally rouse me from my k-drama ennui. I’m SO EXCITED. 17 March, baby. A Secret Love Affair.

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But, wait. Kim Hee Ae? Is that you? That lovely, mild woman from A Wife’s Credentials? Is that really you? You look so… different… 0_0

Double hooray for Yoo Ah In, if nothing else he should draw in the fangirls and ensure that SOMEONE will be subbing this sucker, and maybe this time I won’t have to wait three months before I can watch Ahn Pan Seok weave his magic.

In the meantime, I’m probably going to continue keeping a low profile on current k-dramas (and hence, nearly zero blogging potential), while I focus on munching my way through legacy such as Shin Don. Which is, incidentally, by way of slow cook, as at Episode 21 getting way past “mildly interesting” to “simmering”. Nom Nom.

In other news, Pride totally fizzled out. Totally. By the end, smothered by noble idiocy and overkill-by-Kimataku (like, He’s So Cool So Why Bother With Sense or Characterisation?) I was wondering why I was bothering. Sigh. Very sad, it is.

What a unremitting grump I’m becoming! Soon, y’all will just be yelling at me, “Just stop blogging, already!”

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I’ve always been shy about admitting to being a k-drama watcher, in real life. People jump to all sort of conclusions:– That I love long-winded and weepy soap operas. Or that I dote on long-winded and portentous period court intrigues. Or, if they are more up-to-date, that I like Secret Garden and Coffee Prince. Or that I swoon over Hyun Bin and Lee Min Ho. All of which is totally untrue. The way I see it, I just don’t watch what most people think of when they think “k-drama”, so I’m not really lying when I say I don’t watch that stuff.

A Wife’s Credentials is a case in point. It is my k-drama of the moment. It is why I watch k-drama. How on earth am I supposed to play this to the world out there? “Oh yes, I like k-drama. It’s realistic, elegant, well-acted, and thoughtful.” How on earth are people supposed to square this with Winter Sonata? They’d think I’m seriously deluded and have terrible taste. But if I start explaining that there is middling populist k-drama and good k-drama (usually obscure), and that I watch mostly the latter, I will merely seal my reputation as the world’s greatest pedant and intellectual snob. Best to avoid this conversation altogether.

AWC B&W poster

Anyhow, back to A Wife’s Credentials. What a great show! Even with my expectations already set sky-high, I wasn’t disappointed with its second half. Even with its story set up for all its pieces to move in apparently predictable directions, it forged on strongly, engaging me constantly, and even surprising me.

Click on link for extremely spoilery musings about its final episodes.

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After a considerable hiatus, I have resumed watching A Wife’s Credentials (ep1-7 review here) and have fallen in love with it all over again. How can any k-drama be so grown-up, so sensitive, and so subtle? It is a miracle of television, a miracle.

AWC poster

Why did I take such a long break from this show? I lost momentum at the point when decent English subtitles got harder to find, I was feeling heart-broken and scared on behalf of the characters in the show, and then my non-k-drama life kind of reared its ugly head and let out a great big roar. So, what with one thing or another, I put this one aside for a bit. But I always knew I would definitely come back to finish this. Definitely.

And coming back to this, I’m amazed afresh at how genuine this show is. How thoughtful the script is, how heartfelt the acting, how elegant the direction, and how organic the music. Once again, I don’t feel as if I’m watching television; I feel as if I am entering a parallel world.

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I’m slowly watching A Wife’s Credentials. It’s really hard going. Not because it’s no good, but because it is brilliant. It’s so brilliant I am completely immersed. (Also, there’s an issue with finding English subtitles, but that’s another story.)

A Wife’s Credentials is a 16-episode drama shown on cable tv channel jTBC back in Feb-Apr of this year. It flew under the international K-drama fandom radar, save for some enthusiastic plugging by Softy and Thundie at Thundie’s Prattle and by X in his Vault. Its subdued impact is unsurprising, since it is not fluffy or fun-filled, and rather short on gratuitous fanservice. It is, however, deeply rewarding.

[Non-spoilery short review of Episodes 1-7 follows]

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