Art Museum By The Zoo (1999)
Director: Lee Jeong-Hyang
Producer: Lee Chun-Yeon
Cast: Ahn Seong-Ki, Shim Eun-Ha, Lee Seong-Jae, Song Seon-Mi
Running Time: 109 min.
I think the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had while watching any Korean films are the times when I’m confronted with a genre that I don’t particularly like and manage to come out really enjoying the film. I never liked the romantic comedy in Hollywood films as of late. At least the older romantic comedies from the 30s and 40s actually had good acting and a unique approach to a genre heavily reliant on scripted events. I’ve seen all of this and more in films like Art Museum By the Zoo.
At its core, Art Museum By the Zoo is a very simplistic film, following a very telegraphed script in a manner that is hard not to guess where it ends up. The plot is nothing special, with a man, Chul-su (played by Lee Sung-jae) coming back from the army only to find his girlfriend, Da-hye (Song Seon-mi) moved away and a slightly annoying girl, Chun-hi (Shim Eun-ha) moved into her apartment. Because he is only back from the army for a few days, Chul-su tries desperately to reconnect with his old girlfriend, but soon finds himself appreciating the company of Chun-hi more and more. Chun-hi, a wedding photographer/script writer, is at first annoyed with Chul-su, but soon “learns to love him”, finally allowing him access to her personal life through his assistance with her latest script.
As the film progresses, we see the main characters struggle over writing a script for the movie within a movie sequences, blatant misunderstandings of intentions and language, and a subtle warming up to each other. Events happen that seemingly come out of nowhere in order to keep the plot moving. The film does not make a big deal out of said events, as it knows the limits of its audience’s attention. What we are left with is a very upbeat film that offers moments of insight into a romance constructed in front of us. The film doesn’t hide its blatant chick-flickness, but it doesn’t relish in it either. Somehow, be it through the talented main actress (Shim Eun-ha, from Tell Me Something and Christmas in August), or the somewhat irrational humor, the movie works on a different level. It remains fun without being overly sappy.
Overall, I enjoyed the film, and find myself liking romantic comedies more and more, albeit only if it brings something unique to the genre. The overly stylized Hollywood movies that destroy reality and then relish in the destruction (films like, oh How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days) are not my taste.
Mlindber’s Rating: 7/10