[K-FILM REVIEWS] 사랑을 놓치다 (Lost in Love)

Cinema Service/Art Service - 2006/04/06
사랑을 놓치다 (Lost in Love)
2006 - 2DVD
Director: 추창민 (Chu Chang-Min)
Cast: 설경구 (Seol Kyung-Gu), 송윤아 (Song Yoon-Ah), 이기우 (Lee Gi-Woo), 이휘향 (Lee Hwi-Hyang), 장항선 (Jang Hang-Seon), 김승욱 (Kim Seung-Wook), 황석정 (Hwang Seok-Jung), 최재환 (Choi Jae-Hwan)
OAR 2.35:1/16:9, DD5.1/DD2.0, Region 3, NTSC DVD-9, English/Korean Subtitles

'How can the director of 마파도 (Mapado: Island of Fortunes) direct a melodrama?' must have been a question on many people's mind, but looking at Chu Chang-Min's career, one would feel more surprised someone like him ended up directing the 2005 comedy, which made a star out of Kim Soo-Mi and Lee Moon-Shik. A long time film aficionado, Chu even went to Kuwait in the early 90s, as part of a foreign construction program started in Korea. He debuted in Chungmuro as assistant director, working for Kim Sung-Soo in 태양은 없다 (Our Sunny Days) and the glorious little comedy 행복한 장의사 (The Happy Funeral Director), after which Chu started working on a short film. Then in 2003 he brought the script he had been writing for years to the attention of Cinema Service PD Lee Min-Ho, who accepted his offer, and here started the long journey of 사랑을 놓치다 (Lost in Love).

With the company in turmoil because of many films not performing as expected, and all the focus put on 실미도 (Silmido), the film fell into the backburner. Chu ended up working on Mapado even though people around him felt he wasn't fit for a comedy, but the success of the film (over 3 Million tickets) surprised everyone. You could say Chu made Mapado to get the chance to direct Lost in Love, as the focus of the film wasn't really its commercial appeal—they decided on a simple modus operandi in pre-production: if big stars came in they'd go the regular way, otherwise they'd opt for a low-budget, independent-like film. Be it because she wanted to prove herself as an actress, Song Yoon-Ah had been interested in this project ever since its first steps in 2003, and waited 3 years to star in this, which also intrigued top star Seol Kyung-Gu. The two reunite after the success of the comedy 광복절 특사 (Jail Breakers), and their chemistry couldn't be better, one of the many reasons why this film manages to charm despite the ordinary story. There's nothing particularly 'exciting' happening here, as it's a simple story of two people slowly warming up to each other after following their own personal roads for years. But Chu's idea of focusing on 사람냄새 ('down-to-earth' smell) instead of plot devices, and let the actors work their own magic paid handsomely.

Perhaps because it doesn't feature any of the emotional histrionics you find in melodramas targeted at a younger audience, the film failed at the box office. But it's exactly this 'mature' feeling which makes it enjoyable. There's no sense of urgency here, if not to wrap up things a little. But like in Noh Hee-Kyung's 굿바이 솔로 (Goodbye Solo), those are barely the final words of a chapter, not of the entire book. Along with nice music and the top notch acting by Seol and Song (at her most natural), what's even more evident here is the subtle hand of Director Chu, who showed the same warmth in his previous film, despite its comedy trappings. Just like Park Heung-Shik of 나도 아내가 있었으면 좋겠다 (I Wish I Had a Wife) and 사랑해 말순씨 (Bravo, My Life), Chu has a talent for letting his actors guide the film in a very honest, natural way. And that makes his works raise above the rest. Quite an underrated film, and Chu shows a lot of promise.

A good transfter, but a little soft and lacking in detail.
Don't expect too much surround activity here, but the soundtrack and dialogue is used effectively.
Sort of annoying, in a way. I know I always say I prefer subtitles that stay literal and try to stick to the source, but there's always a limit to that. Korean is an extremely colloquial language, especially compared to English. Just because every other line uttered by Seol Kyung-Gu features an 임마, 새끼 and the like (which in a certain context can also be used as insults, but not in this case), there's no need to add 'bastard' this and 'asshole' that. And the reason is context is everything with subtitles. You don't just add swear words talking casually with a friend in English, do you? And those 'swear words' in Korean are not really swear words until the context highlights them as such. That, in short, is the biggest reason why those little mistakes stick out. They end up making the dialogue look a little too heavy handed for a film like this. Also, some of the translation, especially concerning the few jokes thrown around in the film, is quite lame.
Disc 1
- Audio commentary with Director Chu Chang-Min and PD Lee Min-Ho [This is a nice listen, with plenty of information about the film, which is not all scene specific. We learn, for example, that at first the plan was not to end on a happy note, and that's only one of the many changes the script went through. Both are quite active, and frequently add interesting anecdotes]
Disc 2 [~96 Minutes]
- Making of Documentary [31.00. Usual mix of interviews and behind the scenes footage. Quite well made and enjoyable, especially when they try to 'guide' the dog]
- Interview with Song Yoon-Ah & Seol Kyung-Gu [12:40. Both follow a similar setup, introducing the reasons for starring in the film, describing the character and their feelings about the film. Very good]
- Director Interview [10:00. Very interesting and straight to the point, covering most of the important issues of the film, and focusing on the autobiographical elements of the story, and explaining why the woman in the film ends up being a sort of male fantasy—because the story comes from a man's perspective]
- Deleted Scenes [18:00. There's even longer cuts of existing scenes, but some decent stuff in here which could have been used, especially scenes between the two dealing with their relationship post-sex, and a fight between Sang-Shik and Woo-Jae. As the director said in the commentary, they didn't want to go longer than 2 hours, so that's why most of these scenes are here]
- Supporting Cast [12:08. This is an interesting clip where we get to see the extras... one of them being Seol Kyung-Gu himself, who passes in front of the camera during the scene when Lee Hwi-Hyang and Song Yoon-Ah ride on a scooter. In the final film we only see the middle half of his body, so we couldn't possibly recognize him. Rest of the clip deals with supporting characters and cameos, and other NGs from the shoot. It's quite fun, actually)
- Poster Shoot [5:08. Includes Teaser and Final Poster]
- Promotion [Features a Music Video (3:13, by Kim Young-Woo. A pretty decent ballad, and a nice Music Video), a Teaser Trailer (1:41. This is pretty nice. It must have been released quite early in the shoot, as we get a few images from the films, and other shots of lovers in b&w—some of them are familiar actors from TV), a Theatrical Trailer (2:24, Very good as well, pushing the right buttons without spoiling too much) and a TV Spot (0:32. Pretty decent)]
It's a shame this film ended up being ignored for the most part, as it's a quality melodrama with two strong central performances. If anything this film doesn't bring anything particularly new to the table, as its charms lie in the chemistry between the leads and the subtlety of the story. Nicely paced (slow, as most of these films end up being), with a top notch soundtrack and pretty good direction by Chu Chang-Min, who hit two in a row after 마파도 (Mapado: Island of Fortunes). DVD could have been a little better in terms of presentation, but extra features are quite good. Definitely worth a look.

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