In Korean with English and Chinese Subtitles
Director: Chang Yoon-hyun
Starring: Song Hye-gyo, Yoo Ji-tae
RunTime: 2 hrs 21 mins
Released By: Shaw & Festive Films
Official Website: www.festivefilms.com/hwangjinyi
Opening Day: 27 September 2007
Hwang Jin Yi, a famous 16th century Gisaeng, is the most legendary
courtesan of the Joseon Dynasty. She was noted for her exceptional
beauty, charming quick-wit and extraordinary intellect.
movie sheds new light on the life of Hwang Jin Yi, who made
her art blossom even when her love was put to test. It also
depicts the tragic life of Hwang who faces hardship due to
her social status…
I thought I was going to enjoy this. After all, it’s
got the elements of a historical epic movie which I’m
known to be a sucker for: a female protagonist who overcomes
all odds and courageously lives her life, a love who isn’t
your typical Prince Charming but an outlaw who steals from
the rich to give to the poor, a 16th century Korea backdrop
which guarantees big sets and majestic pieces, and most importantly,
Song Hye-Kyo (TV’s Autumn in the Heart, Full House)
as a real-life legendary courtesan.
by the end of the movie’s 141 minutes, I was left weary
Chang Yoon-Hyun helms this drama about Hwang Jin Yi, an aristocrat
who became a courtesan to preserve her pride and honor, only
to face hardships and challenges which she must overcome.
Along the way, she picks up the find art of being a ‘gisaeng’
(that’s a Korean term for ‘geisha’ for you),
and finds her true love in a wanted bandit played by Yoo Ji-Tae
(Running Wild, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance).
urge to compare Song and Zhang Ziyi’s Sayuri in Memoirs
of a Geisha (2005) is inevitable. While we remembering guffawing
at Zhang’s English in Rob Marshall’s movie two
years ago, this movie had us checking our watch repeatedly
every time Song tries her best to look intense with emotions.
The pretty actress is nice to look at, but her portrayal of
the long-suffering courtesan seems somewhat disengaging. The
result is a dreary viewing experience that may disinterest
the most ardent Korean movie fan.
angst and broody performance is underrated, but will probably
not make the pacing of the movie any faster. The love between
the leads neither sparkles nor touches, which is a pity because
we do sense the efforts put in by the actors to bring out
the best in their characters.
sceneries and set designs may be breathtaking to look at,
but there is only so much of villages, bandit camps, ship
docks and ‘gisaeng’ courtrooms you will be interested
in. The intricate costume, make up and hair designs are beautiful
to look at too, but a viewer’s attention span can only
last that long.
the movie fails to make us feel the ‘epic-ness’
of Hwang Jin Yi’s dramatic life story. What we get instead
is a predictable episode-by-episode production which tells
a conventionally humdrum tale of a woman who overcomes all
odds and courageously lives her life. The sad thing is: we
have seen that done in more interesting and engaging ways
the commendable production values, the movie is bogged down
by sluggish storytelling)
Review by John Li