Review: ‘Ke-Yeoja, Ke-Namja’

Poignant, colorful and frequently hilarious, this romantic comedy of errors would be instant boffo B.O. in theU.S. if its mixed-up lovers spoke English. As it is, you can't get much more universal than this playfully convoluted tale of Kuppies (Korean urban professionals) who move into the same building, are instantly repelled, then hate each other more once they get involved.

Poignant, colorful and frequently hilarious, this romantic comedy of errors would be instant boffo B.O. in theU.S. if its mixed-up lovers spoke English. As it is, you can’t get much more universal than this playfully convoluted tale of Kuppies (Korean urban professionals) who move into the same building, are instantly repelled, then hate each other more once they get involved.

In fact, a smart Hollywood producer could lift the Ben Hecht-like byplay of “That Woman, That Man” intact, with only the political references changed: The characters sing along with Puccini, hang trendy Matisse prints, fight over a Michael Bolton CD (talk about a loser’s game) and kiss with Audrey Hepburn on the vidscreen, all while scrambling for position in their careers and beds.

“That Man” Chang (Kang Soo-Yeon) is a self-centered TV journalist (he’s in charge of editing obituaries on people who never die); “That Woman” Eun (Lee Kyeong-Young) is a maternity nurse without much interest in babies. When they “meet cute” in the apartment elevator, each is preoccupied with dumping a longtime b.f./g.f., and they don’t connect for some time. When they finally do, more than sparks fly, as their temperaments are strictly chalk and kim-chi.

What raises the comic eventualities above the average TV pic is the ironic unpredictability of the script, which doesn’t have a lot of sentimental attachment to which way the romance goes. Instead, with the aid of constantly percolating thesping and snappy editing, it concentrates on the habituated foibles and petty resentments that keep these attractive urbanites apart and make them who they are.

Along the way, light-handed helmer Kim Ui-Seok (“Marriage Story”) and clever lenser Koo Chung-Mo have immense fun with elaborate set-pieces showing the Seoul “Man” and “Woman” in side-by-side rooms, lost in their own high-rise worlds, banging on the walls or longing to be somewhere else.

Ke-Yeoja, Ke-Namja

(SOUTH KOREAN)

Production

An Ik-Young production. (Intl. sales: Korean Motion Picture Promotion Corp., Seoul). Produced by Park Sang-In. Directed by Kim Ui-Seok. Written by Park Heon-Su.

Crew

Camera (color), Koo Chung-Mo; editor, Park Sun-Deok; music, O15B; production design, Cho Yung-Sam, Yu Jin-Sang; sound, Lee Byeong-Ha. Reviewed at Vancouver Intl. Film Festival, Oct. 11, 1993. Running time: 115 MIN.

With

With: Kang Soo-Yeon, Lee Kyeong-Young, Ha Yu-Mi, Kim Sung-Su.
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