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March 10, 2011

The Korean Film Blogathon: Crush and Blush

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Misseu Hongdangmoo
Lee Kyoung-mi - 2008
Premiere Entertainment Region 3 DVD

Crush and Blush defies description, hewing neither to conventional formulas regarding story or characters. The relationships between the main characters are so messy, so interconnected, that a soap opera writer coming up with the story might blush almost as brightly as this film's anti-heroine. Lee Kyoung-ki seems interested mostly in the way women, especially those who don't seem to fit it the crowd, navigate their way through life.

Mi-sook is a middle school teacher, demoted from teaching Russian, a language no longer in demand, to English, a language she barely can speak. She is also at the same school and Seo, her teacher from ten years previously and someone she's had a long time crush on. Mi-sook, the least popular student of her class, and now the least liked teacher at her school, is roommates with Yoo-ri, the most beloved of teachers. Yoo-ri may also be having an affair with Seo. Mi-sook enlists the help of Jong-hee, Seo's daughter, the most ostracized girl in her class, to plot against Yoo-ri by pretending to be Seo in a series of online conversations.

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Mi-sook also has a condition that causes her constantly reddish face to turn an even deeper shade, especially in anger. Attempts to address this condition fail. Mi-sook essentially turns her dermatologist into an unwilling psychiatrist, who in turn, is so fed up with his patient that he makes a point of not informing her when his office is relocating.

Even without the complications of pursuing a man with no interest in her, Mi-sook's like is full of contradictions. Rebelling against being a person no one notices, she gets attention for the wrong reasons. There is also the viewpoint that being "Number One" in anything is greedy, even though her goal is to have Seo choose her over his wife and Yoo-ri.

And yet, what Kong Hyo-jin is able to do is create an onscreen persona that by conventional standards is less than attractive, and still capable of dominating the screen and even eliciting empathy, even when whatever she's doing defies common sense. One of the subplots is about Mi-sook and Jong-hee performing Waiting for Godot for school, perhaps as a commentary on the pairs shared outsider status within the school, as well being a story about two people waiting for some sense of outside affirmation that never comes.

One of the benefits of this particular DVD edition of Crush and Blush, is that it comes with Ms. Lee's two previous short films. The second of the two, Feel Good Story, also has English subtitles. There is the suggestion of thematic continuity with Lee's first feature, with the story of two young women, office workers, who are rivals working on the same project, and friends due to unexpected circumstances. No word as yet on Ms. Lee's next film, but she has certainly gotten the attention of two of the more prominent Korean filmmakers around - Park Chan-wook produced this film and had a hand in the screenplay, and with Bong Joon-ho, makes a cameo appearance in the cast.

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To see other entries, this blogathon is hosted by New Korean Cinema and CineAWESOME!

Posted by peter at March 10, 2011 08:02 AM