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Original Title:

South Korea 2003


Kwak Jae-young

Son Ye-jin
Cho In-Seong
Cho Seung-woo
Lee Ki-woo

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The Classic

Story: One day Ji-Hae (Son Ye-jin) is alone at home. Her mother is on a journey, and as she finds her mum's diaries in an old box she starts reading them. Fascinated by them she reads about the first true love of her mother Joo-Hee (Son Ye-jin) meeting young Joon-Ha (Cho Seung-woo) on a summer's day. They both spent a wonderful day together but afterwards, they don't see each other again.
One year later, Joon-Ha does his friend Tae-Soo (Lee Ki-woo) a favor in writing letters to a girl, which is a politician's daughter and with whom his parents want to set Tae-Soo up. At a meeting Joon-Ha is rather surprised about the fact that the girl was nobody else but Joo-Hee herself. As Joon-Ha and Joo-Hee still have feelings for each other there are bound to be some problems within this love-triangle. Meanwhile Ji-Hae discovers astounding parallels to her own life, as she feels attracted to Sang-Min (Jo In-seong), the boy-friend of her best friend…

Review: "The Classic" is not the kind of movie you would have expected or hoped for from Kwak Jae-young. Instead of a "My Sassy Girl" sequel he presents us with a "classic" love story indeed, which comes along with very little to no humor at all. Of course, it exhausts the full range of clichés that a typical love-story offers. But on the other hand, this is done with so much passion to detail that the movie doesn't seem tacky. But "The Classic" has to be seen as a classic indeed, thus you can forgive him some moments that may seem rather hackneyed in any other love-movie.

The way the story is told is very well chosen and helps the audience to understand the characters more easily. The story around Ji-Hae which takes place in our presence is more likely a framework for the plot and actually only gets a raw deal. From time to time this background story interrupts the flow of the story about Joo-Hee and Joon-Ha, which takes place at the end of the 60's, and gives the audience some time to breath. Throughout this approach the love-story almost has some epic character, the more so as it spans over some years. Moreover, in these small portions, the audience can assimilate to the story more easily.
The characters are all very well portrayed and you can immediately identify with Joo-Hee and Joon-Ha. The settings and the costumes are very impressive and moreover manage to capture the time around the 70's. In addition, there are even some Oldies playing in the background accompanying the events, thus making the illusion perfect.

Furthermore the actors deserve some commendation, especially Son Ye-jin who is brilliant in her double role as the daughter and the mother in the 60's/70's and perfectly manages to personate the very detailed differences in those two characters. It's due to her and Cho Seung-woo, playing Joon-Ha that the movie is so charming. The other actors are very convincing too. But with one exception - Jo In-seong. His performance of Sang-Min is very fixed and factitious. His character seems to lack any kind of depth, which is too bad because it makes the audience loose interest in the love-story of the present.

But there are other points of criticism. For instance, the fact that towards the end, the movie seems to have lost track of its own goal. At some point the movie only dribbles by and you only seem to admire the beautiful (nature) images. The movie's pace is not consequently the same and why the movie takes this sudden turn towards war drama is rather unclear. Basically, the end is not really satisfactory. Why did it turn out the way it did? And what about this half-cooked attempt at the end to bridge between the two love-stories? Somehow the end seems enforced, even though it was probably supposed to leave the audience with a smile.

"The Classic" is a love-story, which can awake nostalgic feelings and even almost appears epical. The movie manages to bind the audience with its characters and its wonderful images, but at the end it also enmeshes in its story. Nevertheless we are shown a well-done love-story which though being presented completely differently than "My Sassy Girl" and though it won't be able to achieve its rank, was created with almost the same eye for detail. If you're not completely reluctant to love-stories you will have a good time.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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