Posts Tagged ‘Kim Hee Ae’

*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.

Secret Love Affair ep15 - non-spoilery

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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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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Secret Love Affair is not crack. One can, and does, lay it aside. But when I come back to it, even with my expectations of an Ahn Pan Seok offering as high as they are, I’m impressed by how I continue to be impressed.

By this episode, the secret is not much of a secret anymore. But amazingly, everyone behaves in an adult fashion. Angsted, certainly, but adult. This would be the point in a lesser drama where there would be shouting and tears and melodramatic carrying on. And I half expected Ahn Pan Seok to succumb to this golden opportunity for cheap dramatic moments, but clearly he is classier than I expect.

Secret Love Affair Ep11

And right at the end of the drama, did you notice? Did you see? A trademark brilliant Ahn Pan Seok continuous shot when for more than five minutes, with the camera shooting straight on without stopping and without moving, two brilliant actresses act out a whole dramatic moment with no more than their heads for more than five minutes. FIVE MINUTES! The man is genius, and his actresses are goddesses.

Secret Love Affair Episode 11

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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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Episode Three was a WOW for me.

Falling in love with both feet first

I was blown away. I feel sucked into the drama of these people’s lives, even though I’m not sure what events actually filled one hour of air-time (actually, very little in terms of plot). But in trademark Ahn Pan Seok fashion, the tension has been ratched up a notch, without resort to cheap tricks. How does he do this? He gives us glimpses into people’s souls — what they do in the privacy of their rooms when no one is watching, what they confess to their confidantes when they are inebriated, how they react to set-backs; their disappointments, their unspoken yearnings and their brightest hope. Patiently and intelligently, the show is drawing us into inner lives, without being explicit or obvious.


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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?


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.


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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