NYAFF 09 Review: CRUSH AND BLUSH

Contributor; Queens, New York (@jaceycockrobin)
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NYAFF 09 Review: CRUSH AND BLUSH

Crush and Blush is the story of Yang Mi-sook, a deluded English teacher stalking her married co-worker. When she learns the object of her desire is having an affair with her rival, she teams up with the man's daughter to break up the affair and save the marriage. Her motives are selfish, of course. Along the way, Yang Mi-sook and the man's daughter become fast friends. They are social outcasts united by a common goal and a need for human interaction. They find that interaction in each other, and all seems to be going according to plan until Mi-Sook sleeps with the girl's father, exposing her true agenda.

I won't lie, this movie wasn't for me. From the feminine histrionics on display in the film's opening to the almost 15 minutes of caterwauling during the climax, it was a tough one to sit through. Which is odd, because the film has talented people behind it. It was produced and co-written by Chan-Wook Park, and has won numerous awards

It appears I am in the minority on this one. Of all the things that culturally divide the East and West, I think humor is the hardest to translate. Sex and violence is universal (and Asian films have plenty of that,) but humor is more subjective. Especially subtle humor. There are some broader moments in this film I found quite funny, one involving The Kama Sutra and nose blowing, but overall the comedy was lost on me. I've heard this film compared to the work of Wes Anderson, but I don't see it. Maybe it is a matter of taste. I had a hard time with another of Chan-Wook Park's forays into comedy, I'm a Cyborg, But That's Okay. Maybe I just haven't seen enough Korean comedies.

But this isn't Chan-Wook Park's film. First time director Kyoung-mi Lee shows considerable talent behind the camera, despite how I felt about the film as a whole. And he does seem to work well with actors. Actress Hyo-jin Kong steals the show, and won best actress at both the Korean Film Awards and the Director's Cut Awards for her efforts. From what I've read, this is an atypical Korean comedy, and is something of a breakout hit, so someone is responding to it. I'd rather watch this than a My Wife Is A Gangster style comedy any day.

On an interesting side note, Chan-Wook Park makes a cameo in the film, though not as dermatologist Chan-Wook Park, which I found quite confusing at first. I thought I knew what Chan-Wook Park looked like, and didn't want to be accused of not being able to tell Korean people apart. I was relieved when the director actually showed up later in the film.

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Joshua Chaplinsky is the Managing Editor for LitReactor.com. He has also written for ChuckPalahniuk.net.
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More about Crush and Blush

sitenoiseJune 21, 2009 12:04 AM

Nice review. I admire your restraint and fairness.

I really like this film, and just for context broad physical comedy is one of my least favorite film genres. Crush and Blush plays on the surface like a goofball comedy but it is smarter than that (It won best Screenplay at the Blue Dragon Film Awards). That's what I like about it. It has an edge and plays on expectations, especially the way the adult situations and material are handled in the presence of the child--that mock courtroom scene, for example. A few times in this film I found myself thinking "Oh no ... don't go there", and then it would and I would applaud the way it was done. As you state, "Hyo-jin Kong steals the show." I was super impressed with her comic timing. More superficially, Hyo-jin Kong is a tiny woman, and often in this film she appears almost Shrek-like without the use of padding. I look forward to more from her. All in all I think this is a nice, bright comedy for adults.

Joshua ChaplinskyJune 24, 2009 8:11 PM

Thanks. I'm tough, but fair.