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Original Title:
Oisi maen

South Korea, Japan 2008


Kim Jeong-joong

Lee Min-ki
Chizuru Ikewaki
Jeong Yu-mi
Park Cheol-min
Park Seong-taek
Jo Hee-bong

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Oishii Man

Story: Not so long ago singer Hyeon-seok (Lee Min-ki) was a rising star but then an ear disease caused him to have problems differing tones from one another. In everyday life he can get along with this disease well enough but his career as a musician seems to be over. He jobs as a teacher for housewives who want to learn singing and meets Jae-yeong (Jeong Yu-mi) there, who once was a fan of his. Hyeon-seok thinks that she is interesting but his depression which pulls him down in a very deep abyss doesn't let him have his peace. Therefore, he ends up in the snow-covered place Monbetsu on the Japanese isle Hokkaido. There he wants to find his peace and answers within himself. He meets the girl Megumi (Chizuru Ikewaki) who along with her grandmother owns a guesthouse. That's where he stays the following days and he also gets to know Megumi a little bit more. Despite the language barrier she almost becomes something like a good friend to him, even though there is always a certain distance remaining between the two. Hyeon-seok's answer he is looking for seems to be hidden somewhere in the snowy village...

Review: What makes this Korean-Japanese co-production with the title "Oishii Man" - the first word being Japanese and meaning "delicious" - so appealing is the lack of a typical love story and the setting being covered in snow and ice. The drama also often seems like an art-house flick, but at a closer look it actually isn't. Nevertheless, it plays with metaphors, some of them are used a bit too obviously, and tries to win over the viewer with subtle drama. However, at certain times this drama actually proves to be not that subtle at all and so the biggest criticism to be exercised at the movie is that it tries to be more meaningful than it is in fact. This forced profoundness wouldn't have been necessary anyway since there is still a movie that creates just the right mood in the viewer when everything is said and done.

The greatest asset of the film are its pictures. The landscape shots in Japan are gorgeous, the snow isolates the protagonists from the outside world and makes them listen to their inner self. The audience itself starts to be more contemplative as well and often simply enjoys the cold land and its white blanket. There is also something warm and fuzzy about Megumi's guesthouse, be it the illuminated hammock swing or the warm furnishings. The tranquility that lies over everything makes you feel the peace of mind that Hyeon-seok is slowly finding. It is just this tranquility the man was searching for after all. His ear disease demands it as much as does his soul.

Lee Min-ki ("Quick", "A Good Day to Have an Affair") plays the man who secludes himself in his own shell and has lost his way in life. He is mostly characterized by the same coldness as the place at which he is looking for catharsis. His inner emptiness is also conveyed by the snow-covered plains. Ice is surrounding him but like the icebreaker on which he makes a little boat trip there is also someone who slowly makes cuts into his ice and breaks it. It's the girl Megumi, fantastically played by Chizuru Ikewaki, who radiates an incredible warmth. She has her own reasons why she stays in the village, although there is actually no one of her age she could talk to. Sadly, we don't get to know much of those reasons.

Megumi is a fascinating character because she seems extremely natural. Sie isn't really a girl anymore, she is a chain smoker, plays slide guitar, can't cook, but is tremendously loveable in her own way. You can just instantly feel the warmth of her heart. Even though there is never a true romantic relationship developing between her and Hyeon-seok what does evolve between them is nice to look at. The language barrier also does its share that something special is created between them. Thus it's unfortunate that the film doesn't take some more time centering around the two individuals and instead constantly jumps back to Korea and sketches out the rather unspectacular relationship to Jae-yeong. For the same reason the ending also isn't on the same niveau as the rest of the film.

"Oishii Man" often jumps around between different time levels. At some points you even get the feeling that the movie is taking place on two seperate time levels parallely. However, at least you won't lose track of what's going on. Some scenes in Korea, e.g. the one when Hyeon-seok is in a recording studio and can't hit the right notes, also add to the overall quality. Others could have been removed, though. And this even though the film is already rather short with its running time of merely 93 minutes. The drama itself proves to be appealingly subtle, the methaphors on the other hand aren't, the ending somewhat fits but is unsatisfying since the filmmakers apparently didn't know when to bring things to an end. But at the bottom line "Oishii Man" works out because of a wonderful actress and dreamy snowwhite landscapes that create a fantastic atmosphere and therefore will make you remember the movie's positive aspects above all else.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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