The Ending Sucks. Gotta Change It: My Sassy Girl (2001)

It should, as always, be no surprise that a Korean film will make it into my viewing rotation, especially considering that women are to factor specifically into the films I focus on for this month.  My Sassy Girl was one of those films I had been seeking out for sometime once I began to do heavy research within South Korean cinema, and thanks to its eventual discovery via a Taiwanese distributor on Amazon I have my copy.  I will admit that it is not a film, despite its title, that absolutely and always concerns itself with the a woman, as the title might suggest, with that being said, it will not be the farthest stretch I make regarding the films I plan to incorporate this month.  I will say though, despite it being a film that focuses more heavily on its male protagonist, the manner with which the character the title refers to within the space of the narrative certainly argues for its inclusion on my list of films for this month.  Like so many South Korean films made since the mid-to-late nineties, it is both simple to define My Sassy Girl as a romantic comedy, yet the refusal to adhere to genre normalcy and linear narration, means that it is also obvious that the film makes sure to avert and revert viewers narrative expectations, even managing to simultaneously create homage to an satire other genres prevalent within the traditional South Korean filmic history.  Furthermore, for being a decidedly comedic film, My Sassy Girl, manages to have enough twists and plot redirections to make Chan-wook Park proud.  Divided into two halves and an overtime segment, I will admit that I was quite uncertain as to how the film would unfold, yet when the pacing picks up in the second half I found myself decidedly enamored with the film and even being forced to pause moments before the heartfelt closing, I found myself welling up a bit at is rewardingly romantic reveal.  I was never quite certain as to how such a decidedly comedic film kept finding itself on the list of greatest South Korean films of all-time, yet after a much desired viewing of this masterpiece by Jae-young Kwak makes me want to revisit it soon, not to mention check out a handful of his other works.

My Sassy Girl centers on Gyun-woo (Chae Tae-hyun) a somewhat reclusive man who admits to his parents being a bit dismissive of him since they had actually hoped to have a girl child instead, despite having a decent job, he moves through life a bit haphazardly, until he finds himself saving a drunken girl from falling in front of the oncoming subway, leading to his being forced to take care of her as she vomits on passengers, only to pass out of the floor of the subway train.  The Girl (Jun Ji-hyun) is never given a proper name, but, instead; formulates into an object of affection for Gyun-woo who sees his life beginning to become greatly affected by the presence of this new, decidedly, unruly girl, who fancies herself a romantic and a playwright, constantly forcing Gyun-woo to read her scripts, despite his rather flippant attitude towards their existence.  It is not until a rather unusual run-in with a AWOL soldier that Gyun-woo comes to realize the how much he actually cares for The Girl, leading to him pouring out his  every action in a hope to attain her affections, however, it is made quite clear that The Girl has her own past, and, as such, expects Gyun-woo to navigate through a series of tests before assuring their unity, ranging from expecting him to bring her a rose during class, in one of the films sweeter moments, to wearing her high heels when her feet become sore.  When Gyun-woo attempts to make friendly with The Girls father, he is repeatedly shot down, not due to his refusal, but the fact that the father passes out drunk far before any conversation can occur.  After a decided break-up at the train station where they met, the two decide to plant a time capsule, under a tree, and agree to meet up in two years.  Gyun-woo holds true to his promise, although when he arrives, The Girl is nowhere to be found.  Yet when he opens the capsule he discovers a frog, which is somewhat inexplicable, as well as a letter explaining that The Girl had lost her boyfriend the day before they met and had still been learning to live without his presence, even when they dated.  Defeated, but understanding, Gyun-woo leaves the tree and the narrative then focuses on The Girl as she talks to an old man at what she assumes to be the tree, only to be told that it is, in fact, a similar tree that had replaced the old one that died after being struck by lightning.  This causes The Girl to realize that she could find happiness with Gyun-woo, although at this point in the narrative fate serves as the final decider in their unity.

I know I am including this film within a month dedicated to women and, ideally, it should focus on the element in some way, but I cannot help but ignore the sweet philosophic poetics present within the film.  I will say, however, that the film makes it expressly clear that gender is a thing of fluidity.  In fact, both characters seem expressly focused on noting how against the gender norm they are making their entire relationship a disregarding of any established gender norms based on sexual identity.  In this way, the film does engage within issues of womanhood, thus allowing it to be a perfect narrative within this month of women oriented films.  With that being acknowledged, I really want to talk about the clear Buddhist, all is one, mentality existing within the film, particularly as it relates to human interaction.  The narrative suggests that those who are intended to be together will interact, even if it is initially under the worst of circumstances, as is the case in My Sassy Girl, when Gyun-woo meets The Girl while she is drunk and in the throes of despair, yet he cannot shake off his preoccupation with her.  It is essentially a film about discovering one's soulmate, and longing for that connection, although it is set up in a non-Western terminology so it is not necessarily two souls meeting, but a moment of interconnectedness realized on a human level, although in regards to the philosophy of Buddhism this direct relationship that is always existing, is, in fact, simply something one must awaken to with time and learning.  It is then no coincidence that the other individuals they run into also seem to inexplicably tie to their forming relationship, whether it be a distraught soldier or a security guard who is particularly hungry for some radishes.  The most brilliant moment comes, however, when the narrative reminds viewers that a persons connections are often a lot closer than they had ever possibly imagined.

Key Scene:  As much as I want to go for the closing moments, I was a sucker for the rose and piano scene in all its sentimental simplicity.

I would say buy this film, but it is hard to come by and not necessarily region free depending on the device you view it with, until then just repeatedly search it on Amazon, until distribution companies take notice.

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