Twelve (week)days to Christmas

I chanced upon this picture on Thundie's site and all of a sudden I start to miss Kang Dongwon a lot.  Before long I was frantically searching for his past projects to make up for the years of unfaithful neglect.  The fact that he only does movies and I only watch dramas is definitely a contributing factor.  (It wasn't because I was chasing after new shiny things… I promise ^_^')  So yes, he's been in a whopping three dramas in his entire career and out of those three, I already saw (and disliked) two.  That leaves me with Magic to hunt down.  It may seem fishy that I claim to be a fan and yet I didn't even bother with his last drama.  In my defense, subtitles have been unavailable for the past 7 years and they've only been released earlier this year.  I swear I went on the same KDW hunt back in 2005 with little success.  So now I'm downloading Magic, and just in case that one sucks too, I'm also arming myself with a handful of his movies post-Duelist.

Which brings me to the subject of this post.  Since I'm watching all of his stuff right now anyway, I might as well write about them during the next couple of weeks.  I'm thinking one post per day for the next 12 weekdays… all Kang Dongwon-centric 😀

Ahem… so without further ado, I present you the first one, for the movie M in 2007.

Have you ever had a first love?  Chances are you also grew up and lost it somewhere along the way.  M is about a man's first love and its haunting effects on him.  So you're thinking, "first love, lost love, why does this sound like the last kdrama I watched?  And the one before it?"  And you're right.  M isn't innovative in plot.  But it offers a different way of presenting the material.  M isn't for the thinker.  It's for the feelers.  By taking this approach, it evokes an eerily sympathetic feeling in the viewers which may have been lost in traditional storytelling.  M is a montage of memories, dreams and imaginations.  Individual pieces make little sense but together they string into a coherent, if somewhat hazy, story.  Minwoo is a writer who suffers from insomnia and hallucinations.  He's successful, he's married to a loving wife, but something's making him lose his sleep at night.  So we follow him in his dreams and hallucinations and try to figure this puzzle of the mind.   Through a series of confusing events, it is told that Minwoo has a lost love and is now hallucinating her images because he ultimately cannot let go.  He "sees" her again, says his goodbye, and finally closes the door on that chapter of his life.  Likewise, it is also told that the girl is actually dead, but cannot let go, so she follows him around for a chance to properly bid farewell.
M isn't filmed in a dreamy manner.  It's mostly choppy and dark.  And if I didn't know better, I'd think it is a horror flick.  More often than not, the characters are seen navigating dark spaces as if they're in a maze.  Beside the alleys they run through, even Minwoo's own home and the open streets feel disoriented.  A single scene often contains several images merging in and out of each other to further the blur between reality and fantasy.  Believe me when I say 3/4 of this movie is abstract.  If you're at all ADD like I am, you'll  probably have fallen asleep out of sheer incomprehension.  But of course I'm on a KDW mission here, so I stuck through, and am glad I did.  You know how your dream makes perfect sense while you are in it, but once you wake up, none of the events quite flow correctly?  Or when you have that deja-vu "I've seen this before" feeling but it's buried so deep within the recess of your memory you can't quite put a finger on it?  Or how there are certain images you can't recall whether they're memories from real life or in one of your dreams?  They're trapped in a state-of-mind that's unfamiliar to themselves.  Both Minwoo and Mimi – that is if you believe Mimi existed as a ghost and not as a ghost-of-mind >_<.  So the sense of darkness and fear are palpable.

A little overkill to just tell the story of someone's first love?  Maybe.  But hey, it's fun to get a new perspective on things once in a while.  There's something oddly romantic about the idea of a man missing his lost love so much his feelings manifest in her images (Of course the movie also plays coy with us by introducing the possibility that she's a ghost and he might not be seeing things).  It's not always dark and somber either.  Once you get toward the end, Minwoo's memory starts becoming clearer and there's a very cute sequence of his past romance with Mimi.  Lee Yeonhee is surprisingly adorable in this role (I think her skill fluctuates by osmosis where it goes up in company of talented actors and depletes in company of bad ones).  My final take is that it's definitely not for the average viewer.  You have to either be artsy or in the mood for artsy film… or if you're like me and can't say no to this face:

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