Wednesday, September 07, 2011


Yesterday morning, I tagged along to a screening of a movie that my co-workers worked on, called "투혼" (which is pronounced "too-hone" and means 'fighting spirit'). When I had asked what the movie was about, I was told, "it's a baseball movie." So I was thinking that it would be some sort of sports movie, with men in baseball uniforms running around and getting discouraged and then bucking up, despite their injuries, to win the big game.

I mean, that's generally what sports movies are like, right? No? Okay, I'm not a big fan of baseball, so I didn't really know what kind of drama that anybody could eke out of a baseball game (seriously, nine innings? That is just excessive). I just went to the screening because I had never been to a movie theater in Korea before and I wanted a break from work.

Turns out, it wasn't much of a break. I had to get up earlier than usual because we had to leave at 8:30. I don't usually wake up until 8:30 or 9:00 (I know, I know, poor me), so I dragged myself out of bed at the ungodly hour of 7:30 and had myself ready, full of breakfast, and waiting outside by 8:30.

One of my co-workers had one of the company cars, picked up another co-worker, and then picked me up (we all live within a couple blocks of each other). The ride to Seoul was uneventful, but annoying. I really don't get into cars very often here, as I usually take the subway into Seoul (into the city? I feel so 1950s when I say that), and I don't think I've ever been in a car during rush hour.

It took just about an hour and half to go about 30 kilometers (about 18 miles), which is as bad as LA's rush hour traffic. I never thought I'd have to contend with that kind of traffic again (I am really bad in traffic, due to the fact that I get carsick if I'm not driving). By the time we got to the theater in Gwangjin (광진), I was already tired and a little nauseous. Not the best state to watch a movie, but we were there for a screening, so what could we do?

The movie was, in a word, unexpected. It wasn't the typical sports movie at all. I don't know if that's good or bad, to most people, but I was taken aback. There were sports elements to the film, sure, but not as many scenes as one might expect. There were comedic elements, dramatic moments, and some hilariously fluctuating dialects.

The sports elements to this movie were straight-forward. The main character is a baseball player, and he plays for the Lotte Giants (the screening was at Lotte Cinema, see how it all ties together? Oh, Korean conglomerates). His wife suddenly turned up and hey, she's quite an important character, too. Who knew?

I give Kim Sun-Ah (김선아) a lot of credit. I first saw her in "My Name is Kim Sam-Soon" (or "My Lovely Kim Sam-Soon"), that juggernaut of a drama that made a star of its actors. She's been in a lot of movies and TV shows since, and I always find her believable. She was the only one of the main five or six characters in "Toohon" whose accent was believable.

The Lotte Giants are in Busan (부산), a port city at the very south end of Korea. Busanites (and most people in GyeongSang Province) are known for their dialect, which I compare to the American Southern drawl. It's distinct and different from the Seoul ("accent-less") dialect, which is the standard. I find the Busan dialect cute, though I sometimes have a hard time understanding it.

Even with my somewhat ineffectual grasp of Korean, I could tell immediately that the male lead didn't have a good command of the dialect. It bothered me intermittently through the movie, because when his accent slipped, I would momentarily forget the flow of the story and wonder, "why didn't he practice more?"

The dialects and the varying skill of the actors was a con for me. I didn't like that I would keep thinking about it.

The story, too, didn't flow quite smoothly. I kept thinking that I was seeing an edit that would be changed and addressed, I didn't think that I was watching a final film.

Still, the movie was enjoyable fun. I cried when the kids cried (seriously, they were just squeezing their little eyes out to get maximum tears, and I'm a sympathetic crier), I laughed a couple times, and it was nice that I understood the movie without English subtitles- it really was an easy story to follow and nobody had a good vocabulary.

Despite my obnoxiousness about his accent, I do like the male lead. I had watched a few episodes of "Terroir" (a Korean drama) a couple years ago, and he had made a favorable impression. I think his character was a rather cold, calculating restauranteur with discerning taste in wine and women.
So my first Korean movie experience? Very good. The audience was well-behaved (no excessive noise, no crunching or slurping- though this was a cast and crew screening, so they were probably better behaved than usual), the theater was very clean, there were purse hooks on every seat, and nobody kicked the back of my (plush) chair.

I'm sure I will watch another movie while I'm here, and probably at a newer theater. The Lotte Cinema that we were at is one of the older ones, and it was still very nice. The newer CGV that's over here near my workplace is likely to be even better.

One last thing:

It's Chuseok (추석) this weekend, the Korean Thanksgiving, which means that we get a four-day weekend. The CEO came around today and gave everyone an envelope with their name on it. I opened mine and it contained a crisp 50,000 won note (about $50). Turns out, the company gives their employees the money as transportation allowance for the holiday, since most people go to their hometowns to visit family. As most people take the bus (long-distance buses, called limousine buses here) or trains (the KTX is really fast, but there are "regular" trains, too), transportation would rarely cost over 50,000 won.

What a nice gesture. I wish American companies gave $500 for transportation costs for Christmas break, since most people fly home for the holidays.

I'm finally going to see my grandfather (maternal; my paternal grandfather's passed) during Chuseok, since he's at my uncle's house. Hooray for family ... we'll see, I've never spent a major Korean holiday with my Korean family before.


william,  September 7, 2011 at 4:43 AM  

i think kim sun-ah is a daegu native, and the daegu dialect is close to the busan dialect (both in gyeongsang province).

also, i will not be able to go to a movie in the states ever again. the crowds in korean theaters (in general) are so much better behaved. and the US should really get on the assigned seating already.

happy chuseok!

jeanny September 8, 2011 at 6:19 AM  

Happy Chuseok! Can't wait for this weekend. It's 10:20 p.m. and I'm still at work.

There are a few theaters in LA that do assigned seating (mostly at the Arclight Cinemas), but they are freakishly expensive. American moviegoers don't know what they're missing!