NYAFF 09 Review: CRUSH AND BLUSH

[Our thanks to Joshua Chaplinsky for the following review.]

Crush and Blush is the story of Yang Mi-sook, a deluded English teacher stalking her married co-worker. When she learns the object of her desire is having an affair with her rival, she teams up with the man’s daughter to break up the affair and save the marriage. Her motives are selfish, of course. Along the way, Yang Mi-sook and the man’s daughter become fast friends. They are social outcasts united by a common goal and a need for human interaction. They find that interaction in each other, and all seems to be going according to plan until Mi-Sook sleeps with the girl’s father, exposing her true agenda.

I won’t lie, this movie wasn’t for me. From the feminine histrionics on display in the film’s opening to the almost 15 minutes of caterwauling during the climax, it was a tough one to sit through. Which is odd, because the film has talented people behind it. It was produced and co-written by Chan-Wook Park, and has won numerous awards

It appears I am in the minority on this one. Of all the things that culturally divide the East and West, I think humor is the hardest to translate. Sex and violence is universal (and Asian films have plenty of that,) but humor is more subjective. Especially subtle humor. There are some broader moments in this film I found quite funny, one involving The Kama Sutra and nose blowing, but overall the comedy was lost on me. I’ve heard this film compared to the work of Wes Anderson, but I don’t see it. Maybe it is a matter of taste. I had a hard time with another of Chan-Wook Park’s forays into comedy, I’m a Cyborg, But That’s Okay. Maybe I just haven’t seen enough Korean comedies.

But this isn’t Chan-Wook Park’s film. First time director Kyoung-mi Lee shows considerable talent behind the camera, despite how I felt about the film as a whole. And he does seem to work well with actors. Actress Hyo-jin Kong steals the show, and won best actress at both the Korean Film Awards and the Director’s Cut Awards for her efforts. From what I’ve read, this is an atypical Korean comedy, and is something of a breakout hit, so someone is responding to it. I’d rather watch this than a My Wife Is A Gangster style comedy any day.

On an interesting side note, Chan-Wook Park makes a cameo in the film, though not as dermatologist Chan-Wook Park, which I found quite confusing at first. I thought I knew what Chan-Wook Park looked like, and didn’t want to be accused of not being able to tell Korean people apart. I was relieved when the director actually showed up later in the film.

Review by Joshua Chaplinsky.

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