Seen in Jeonju

Foolish Game (2004)

3rd May 2011

foolish gameThis past Sunday, I made a discovery. After almost twelve years of watching Gag Concert every Sunday night, I suddenly realized that I was tired of it. The show started back in 1999 and I loved it at the time, although over the years it has had high and low points. Maybe it is this current batch of comedians and it will improve in a few months again when they move on but, right now, I don’t want to see it. Instead, I wandered into my DVD room to pick a movie to watch.  There are many that I have not seen yet and, after browsing around, I pulled Plastic Tree off the shelf. I had been meaning to watch that for a while…since 2003 actually. But as I started to go, the bright green spine of another DVD case filed nearby Plastic Tree caught my eye.  It belonged to Foolish Game which I also had not seen. The color looked so bright and enticing, especially compared with the dull, light tan of the cover of Plastic Tree. Poor Plastic Tree wound up back on the shelf and I walked out of the room with Foolish Game

Dropping the disc into the DVD player, I settled down to watch the film. I was quickly introduced to Hyeon-tae and his friends, Jae-cheol and Gu-bon, and their respective girlfriends, Mi-yeong and Hye-ryeon. Although the only unattached member of the group, Hyeon-tae does not seem or feel like a fifth wheel and he gets along with everyone. The role of odd-man out, or in this case–the odd-woman out, goes to Hye-ryeon who is far less gregarious and seems a little uncomfortable in group situations. But she must go along with the others as her boyfriend, Gu-bon, is the heart of the group and the glue that holds them together.

Even though he is not part of a couple, Hyeon-tae does not lack female companionship. He is something of a ladies man, able to pick up a date at the drop of a hat. So he is a little surprised that there is one woman he meets who shows absolutely no interest in him. Her name is Hee-jae and they first meet face-to-face when she double parks behind him in a parking lot. Unable to move his car, Hyeon-tae calls the number on the windshield for her to come and move it. That brief encounter with the distant woman is not enough for him and Hyeon-tae soon finds himself calling her again for a date. Oddly, we see Hee-jae dragging her key across the surface of her own car leaving a long white scratch in the black paint…

The mystery of Hee-jae deepens. She quickly cuts short her first date with Hyeon-tae. Promising to meet him at a movie theater, she keeps her word but goes there two hours earlier and watches the movie alone–meeting him outside the theater after the show, leaving Hyeon-tae out the price of two movie tickets. I was really wondering why Hyeon-tae kept trying to meet her– even I was losing interest in her. But then she does something interesting.  Heading to her apartment complex after one of her abbreviated dates with Hyeon-tae, Hee-jae goes to collect her mail. She pulls it out of her mailbox when the voice of the apartment security guard behind her asks, “Excuse me, Miss. Which apartment do you live in?”  The sound of his voice terrifies Hee-jae who takes off running before he can finish his sentence. He gives chase, but she hides outside, panting for breath and clutching the mail to her chest. We now suspect that perhaps her strange behavior with Hyeon-tae is not so much out of disinterest, but because she is hiding something.

During the floundering start to Hyeon-tae’s romance, his friends lives continue. They go to work, study at language academies, drink and talk about their common passion– mountain climbing. Hye-ryeon does not join in on these conversations but sits patiently through them. Jae-cheol also joins in less and his body language is making it clear that his affections are changing from his girlfriend to Hye-ryeon. The five friends finally pick a time where they can all meet and go to Chiri Mountain for a few days. Hyeon-tae invites Hee-jae who, although she has no plans, lies and says that she is busy and will not attend. But that trip to Chiri Mountain changes everything. Tragedy strikes and one of the group is killed.  Not only is the entire group dynamic turned upside down, but there seems like there could be a connection between what happened and Hee-jae.

Sometimes when I watch romances, I think to myself that it was too long. However, that was not the case here. In fact, I think with a little better writing and by filling in the many time gaps—especially near the end of the film– this plot could well be turned into a 14-week tv drama. The three gratuitous sex scenes would have to be cut out, but that would not be a loss. These were among the least passionate sex scenes I have ever watched. There is just no chemistry between the participants–and I think I have to blame actor Lee Dong-gyu for this because he was the common thread in all of those scenes. The director is also to blame as his use of a static camera gave these scenes the feeling of being shot by a security camera.

Outside of their poorly done sex scenes, the acting was rather good–much better than a standard tv romance. The dialog also was realistic and the interaction between the friends was believable. However, when it was released in theaters, this movie failed and it has fallen into the category of forgotten films like the movie I reviewed last week. I think the reason for this, besides the lack of well-known actors, is because the movie does not go far enough in any one direction to attract a certain kind of moviegoer.  The budding romance between the two leads is not cute enough to pull in anyone interested in romantic-comedies. The rating of ‘ages 18+’ assigned to this film because of brief nudity (non-frontal) and sex eliminated quite a few potential viewers unnecessarily. The attempt at art that the director tossed into the film–namely the approximately one minute where the contrast on the film is turned up making everything either bright white or black– was interesting but poorly thought out and nowhere near enough to make this movie interesting to those who like experimental movies like are scene at film festivals.  In short, the movie falls through the cracks, which is a shame– a little tweaking one way or the other in the editing process would have made this film more memorable.

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