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Original Title:
Horobicheu-reul wihayeo

South Korea 2006


Kwon Hyeong-jin

Uhm Jung-hwa
Sin Ee-jae
Park Yong-woo
Yoon Ye-ri
Choi Seon-ja
Yang Kkot-nim
Jeong In-gi
Park Yeong-seo
Ko Tae-ho
Kim Hee-jeong
Hwang Hyo-eun
Jo Seok-hyeon

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For Horowitz

aka My Piano

Story: Unsuccessful female pianist Kim Ji-su (Uhm Jung-hwa) opens a piano studio. In contrast to her female friends her parents didn't have the money to send her abroad for her piano studies. However, Ji-su hasn't yet lost hope to become as famous as her idol Vladimir Horowitz one day. Still, first the unmarried, over 30-year old piano teacher has to lure some students into her studio in order to pay her rent. But one day, the orphan Kyung-min (Sin Ee-jae) makes her life a living hell, since he doesn't only rip off the flyers of the walls in the neighborhood, but also puts Ji-su's patience to a test when it comes to other things. Nevertheless, one day Ji-su discovers that behind Kyung-min's withdrawn personality there is actually hiding a genius pianist. Ji-su takes him under her wings, because she hopes making it big with his help someday. But Kyung-min, who hasn't spoken a single word since a traumatic experience he had had in his past, has his own idea of how things should go. Ji-su eventually is almost giving up in him, but then she starts to realize that she slowly develops maternal feelings for him...

Review: "For Horowitz" is a well-made drama, which isn't too predictable and manages to win over the audience with its well elaborated characters. Especially Uhm Jung-hwa and her complex portrayal of the piano teacher deserve some laudation, because her depiction of a character with apparent good as well as bad character traits is the main reason why the movie can arouse our interest in the maybe not that inventive, yet appealing plot. What's making the movie stand out from other dramas is the fact that it's all about music, naturally. Piano music to be precisely, and that's actually something the director uses to the film's full advantage. For music- and classic-lovers "For Horowitz" will therefore have a special appeal. Anyway, the many talented pianists, more than anyone else child actor Sin Ee-jae, of course, can not only astonish music enthusiasts, but the ordinary audience as well. Apart from that there is of course also a good amount of drama and tears, which luckily are presented in a comparatively modest manner.

"For Horowitz" is a movie about a woman, who never managed to do something outstanding in her life. Her dream was to study abroad, but even for just financing her studies at a musical academy her family had to make quite some sacrifices. The drama also takes its time to introduce us to Ji-su's family a little bit, even though that's also were it would have been nice to see some more. At least, there are some small details like Ji-su's brother, who because of his sister had to give up on studying himself, which make Ji-su's character so easily comprehensible. It could have easily happened that the viewer develops some antipathy towards Ji-su, since she doesn't simply take Kyung-min under her wings and teaches him out of benevolence, but hopes to make it big herself thanks to him. However, thanks to the framework the movie creates the motives of Ji-su are always believable and comprehensible, so that we can find an understanding for her decisions, even if we can't indorse them.

A big applause goes to Uhm Jung-hwa ("Princess Aurora", "Singles"), who knows how to bring a complex character to the screen without falling into any cliche-loaden category. She isn't simply the reserved piano teacher, who is moving in certain circles, but because of her background of being the child of a rather poor family, she managed to keep a certain kind of naturalness, which is very refreshing. Nevertheless, of course things take its inevitable course and Ji-su starts to develop maternal feelings for little Kyung-min as times goes by. Still, someday she has to realize that she can't provide piano genius Kyung-min with the appropriate education he deserves, since she isn't that talented herself. Ji-su chases after her dream of playing as well as Vladimir Horowitz one day, even though she has to admit to herself that she just hasn't got what it takes. Some of her friends who had the opportunity to study abroad and therefore believe that they have done better in life than Ji-su, even if they more or less just sell themselves or have grabbed a rich husband, show once more the gap that lies between Ji-su and her "friends".

As a little side story, which also brings a bit more of humor into the movie, we get a pizza baker played by Park Young-woo ("Beautiful Sunday", "My Scary Girl"), who head over heels falls in love with Ji-su, yet isn't noticed by his beloved at all. His nervous laughter is so over the top, that it almost seems believable and his honest approaches towards Ji-su make him earn our sympathies in a jiffy.
Things get more tear-filled when it comes to the story of Kyung-min, however, not as strong as you might expect. A tragic event in Kyung-min's past has changed the little boy, so that only after meeting Ji-su he slowly starts to speak again. Fortunately, the movie doesn't try to go for some cheap tears by letting any of the characters die, which gets it some points of appraisal. Still, there are some dramatic moments at the end, which may make you grab your handkerchief.

The ending of "For Horowitz" can maybe arouse some mixed feelings, even if simply because of the fact that it feels like an anticlimax. There is a little extra for all german viewers, though, when the grown-up Kyung-min, since the film makes a cut to the future, speaks some words in German! Apart from that the movie transcends any language barrier thanks to its music, which has its climax in a wonderful scene in which Kyung-min explains us how he perceives the world in tunes and music. Therefore, it shouldn't be a surprise that the true strength of "For Horowitz" lies in its music. However, also in a technical respect first-time director Kwon Hyeong-jin delivers good work as his pictures also speak an appealing language. Especially the sunny and bright pictures are likeable and sometimes make the piano teacher appear ridiculously adorable.
"For Horowitz" scores with its characters and its piano music theme, which makes it positively stand out from the rest of tear-jerking dramas - and that's worth a recommendation.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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