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My Paparotti - Movie Poster
Original Title:

South Korea 2013

Drama, Comedy

Yoon Jong-chan

Han Seok-Kyu
Lee Je-hoon
Oh Dal-soo
Kang So-ra
Cho Jin-woong
Lee Jae-yong

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My Paparotti

My Paparotti - Film Screenshot 1

Story: Sang-jin (Han Seok-Kyu) is a music teacher at a high school in the coutryside. He is asked by his friend and school principal Deok-saeng (Oh Dal-soo) to take care of a new student. When Jang-ho (Lee Je-hoon) comes to school for the first time, student and teacher recognize each other instantly. They have run into each other before already and Sang-jin isn't willing to take the student serious as he is a gangster. However, Jang-ho, in his own way, puts some effort into trying to be taken serious by his teacher. But Sang-jin only sees a gangster who has been expelled from school several times and he isn't willing to put a lot of hard work into such a hopeless case. Until he actually hears Jang-ho sing. He reluctantly takes the student under his wings and Deok-saeng is already enrolling him in singing competitions since the school desperately needs to improve its reputation. The teacher realizes, though, that Jang-ho isn't ready for this, yet, particularly since he doesn't dedicate all of his focus to singing. He is also occupied with his work as a gangster. Even though Jang-ho may owe especially much to Chang-soo (Cho Jin-woong), since he took care of him when no one else did, he soon needs to find a way to break away from his gangster roots, if he really wants to become successful as an opera singer. But you can't just get out of a gangster organisation...

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My Paparotti - Film Screenshot 4

Review: The movie's title leaves no doubt about what to expect here. "My Paparotti" is a movie about an opera singer. And the movie also makes fun of Luciano Pavarotti's name being adapted to Korean syllables, as is typical for Korean language. You shouldn't expect any surprises here, though. In fact, you can predict every step of the way. The picture's small interesting special trait is that the upcoming star is part of a gang of thugs. The fact that the film is actually based on the life of singer Kim Ho-joong, who had his breakthrough in the tv show "Star King" in 2009, is also intriguing. The movie's heart is the relationship between teacher and student, though. It may develop according to a well-known formula, too, but the characters are drawn three-dimensional and the chemistry between the two leads is just about right so that there is nothing to find fault with in this regard.

My Paparotti - Film Screenshot 5

Han Seok-Kyu ("The Royal Tailor") plays a teacher who does only what's necessary at school and eventually becomes Jang-ho's patron, although more complex emotions like jealousy also play a major part in the relationship. The father-son-tie that develops gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling and even though the emotional scenes don't come with any surprises they still avoid coming across as cheesy. This is thanks to Han Seok-kyu's acting experience, but it is also the effort of Lee Je-hoon ("Architecture 101"), who delivers the most impressing performance of the cast. He looks like one of those typical heartthrobs for girls who have just hit puberty, but he proves his acting talent in the fine nuances of his character and his ability to convey emotions in a believable manner, without giving the audience the feeling as if watching a tv drama. This is an extremely important talent in a movie like this.

My Paparotti - Film Screenshot 6

In the singing scenes Lee Je-hoon proves that he knows about lip-sync and he convinces with his physical efforts. The one actually singing is Kang Yo-sep, by the way. If you are a music lover you will appreaciate the few sung pieces scattered across the movie, even if you aren't a fan of operas, which I am not either. It's a bit sad that one of the most important pieces being sung is of course "Nessun Dorma". It's a bit hackneyed these days, after all. But as already stated director Yoon Jong-chan ("I am Happy") doesn't even try to be especially innovative. He puts his focus more on three-dimensional individuals and it pays off. The supporting cast consists of Oh Dal-soo ("Master") and Kang So-ra ("4th Period Mystery"), whereas particularly latter one doesn't get the space a love interest would deserve. On the other hand it is a good choice not to squeeze a supposedly corny romance into the movie.

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There are some words of praise in order for the fact that there aren't different genres mixed together. The movie stays true to its tone, which is pretty cheerful, colored with a little bit of tragedy, yet manages to intersperse a few moments of a gangster flick without making them look out of place. This is a feat seldomly achieved. Moreover, we also get some more insight into Jang-ho's living environment this way. We also get to see the teacher's family every now and then. All of this adds to shaping the relationship between the teacher and his protégé more vividly. Yet, it needs to be pointed out that there is always a feeling of familiarity when it comes to the dynamics of the relationship. If you want more originality you should rather watch "Punch". Without the fantastic actors the film maybe even could have turned out a bit boring.

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Of course, there are a few obstacles that need to be overcome until the end, but ultimately we aren't denied a happy ending, naturally. The path leading there isn't inventive at all, but at times the story does leave the path for a few steps at least. The actual strength of "My Paparotti" is the change the two protagonists undergo and how they find each other and connect, developing a strong bond. The two main actors carry the movie on their shoulders just perfectly, while the transition between school, gangster milieu and opera stage setting offers some nice alternation. "My Paparotti" is one of those films, where you still have a certain feeling of familiarity, but which nonetheless manages to leave the viewer behind with a feeling of satisfaction. Therefore, it's not a surprise that the film was quite successful at the box office, too.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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