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Original Title:
Jakeob-ui jeongshik

South Korea 2005

Romance, Comedy

Oh Ki-hwan

Son Ye-jin
Song Il-guk
Yeong Hyeon
Jun Gyu Park
Yong-woo Park
Sun-yeong Ahn

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The Art of Seduction

Story: Han Ji-wan (Son Ye-jin) is good-looking and she's able to wrap any man around her finger. This might as well be the reason, why she is a successful clerk in a big bank. Always looking for a rich, good-looking man, she's never at a loss for any kind of trick. And as soon as she's fed up with her old boy-friend because there has already appeared a better man on the horizon, it's quite easy for her to split up with her current boyfriend in the most inventive kind of ways.
Seo Min-jun (Song Il-guk) could be Han Ji-wan's male twin. He is good-looking and successful, too. He is more than just popular with women, he is even a master of the art of seduction.
Of course Ji-wan and Min-jun seem to be interested in one another, but the two won't let themselves be seduced by each other that easily. They just know the opponent's tricks too well and so they always have to be one step ahead of each other. But who's going to win this "duel"?

Review: There we go again. The latest rom-com blockbuster from Korea. And indeed, "The Art of Seduction" proves to be exactly what you expect it to be, if not even less. Soft-hearted and meaningless entertainment without any depth. Even though the title had made us hope for something more profound. Unfortunately, the movie fails to handle the topic with the certain amount of severity, which it would have needed to create a kind of serious main threat with only some few additional funny elements inserted. Nope, we only get some gaily-colored romance as it has already been tried and tested so often. A real shame, especially as the director Oh-Ki-hwan proved with his previous movie "Last Present" that he can create more than we normally expect from Korean Rom-Coms these days. But this may be caused by the fact that this last work of his, completely resigns dramatics and only wants to satisfy the in fact already oversatiated Rom-Com-audience.

Anyway, we don't want to be unfair. When the viewer has gotten behind the movie's first 20 minutes, which are loaded with almost unbearable facial and body expressions of the actors accompanied by fitting overdone music, there are indeed some scenes that turn out quite well. But this doesn't actually change the fact that the movie focuses on its extravagance and its feel-good atmosphere. This also affects the actors. As mentioned before, their performances are at some points so exaggerative that it almost hurts.
Son Ye-jin ("The Classic") is only supposed to do one thing: look gorgeous. This, she manages to do really good, I grant, and most of the time she manages to look so cute, that we can absolutely understand why men are always at her feet, but seriously, could it be any more tacky and manipulative? Acting-wise her performance is anything but intoxicating, especially as we know that she can do better. And in addition, the viewer will only roll with his eyes when he sees her loyal innocent look for the hundredth time.
It's the same with the male leading role. Song Il-guk may convince with his appearance as a Playboy, but in terms of acting there is yawning void. The scenes in which he laughs, are the worst ever. There has never been a laugh this bad and unconvincing.

At least, the chemistry is right between those two main characters. Their game to try and seduce each other is quite amusing, too. But of course it is obvious who's going to win in the end. It's just strange that Min-jun ends up being pushed so far into defense that you can't see anything of his former self-confidence he had at the beginning. Now he's rather some kind of empty shell letting Ji-wan call the shots. Very irritating, especially as there doesn't seem to be any obvious reason for this change.
Moreover there are some scenes, which could as well have been from some kind of Hollywood-Romance, for instance the carriage-kidnapping, as there doesn't seem to be any cap at hand, or further scenes, which will only make the viewer groan out loud.

Needless to say that in this tawdry world we also get to see the typical text passages or drawings of vibrating cell phones over the protagonists' heads, which by now are really no fancy stylistic trick anymore, but rather make everything more messy and artificial, at least in this case. The protagonists have their inner monologs, which belie their facial expressions, and apart from that, the movie knows how to use the worst clichés of its genre. Not to mention some really awful fart-jokes.
In other respects, the movie also has some pretty good jokes. Some of which are actually so funny that you have to laugh out loud. Clearly one highlight: The scene in which the two protagonists carry on with their argument in an imaginary swordfight-sequence on a lake. The allusions to "Hero" are more than just obvious, but do not seem tacky at all, they are rather astonishingly well-done with a lot of attention to details! Needless to say that these insertions are already some kind of standard for Romance-Comedies, too, but nevertheless they are very nice to look at.

There is no real plot and sometimes we have the impression that the film does not make any progress at all, but at least, it never gets boring. The ending, fortunately, is not so bad, yet not very groundbreaking either. Bottom line: Average.
Son Ye-jin really does look good and may as well be the reason for some to watch this movie anyway, but her and almost everybody else's acting-performances are very much falling by the wayside. But this may as well be the script's fault, as it only creates very flat and caricature-like characters. Just barely does "The Art of Seduction" get a better rating than I first intended to award it with. Because even if I can't stand those kinds of movies anymore, I realize that this movie has everything a Rom-Com-Fan could be asking for: feel-good entertainment.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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