Thursday, October 22, 2009

JAPAN AND KOREA: LAUGHTER IS THE BEST ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE

During my last blog I alluded to how for Japan and Korea, at least cinematically, World War II still runs deep in their respective psyches, whether it is issues of Japanese Colonialism or Japan ignoring what the world knows they did during those times.

Of course not every film from these countries are about these topics, but based on Asian Film Festivals around the United States and the world, the popularity of the theme is still strong.

So last night I was happy…nay…full of glee and laughter, a welcome change of pace for films from these respective countries, showing that we are all just looking to have some fun.

The “What? are you kidding me?” freakazoid Japanese jive ALF meets HELLO KITTY a-mews-ing feature NEKO RAMEN TAISHO (aka PUSSY SOUP) and the krazy and kooky Korean komedy MY GIRLFRIEND IS AN AGENT.

If you’ve seen these films, then you’ll get the play on Harry Chapin’s famous song.

The Cat’s in the Ramen Shop and the Silver Spoon,
Little kitten Taisho and the Harimao goon.
“When you coming home, dad?”
“Only to beat your butt”
But we’ll loose our noodles then, dad.
You know we’ll be good agents then.

Directed by Terra Shin, which is not an earthly limb bone but a director who has the upper leg on many of his Korean comedy contemporaries, MY GIRLFRIEND IS AN AGENT surprised me, not just with its smart comedy but the screenwriting.

It’s MR. AND MRS. SMITH, ala Mr. and Mrs. Kim, as two former lovebirds lose, then find, then lose, then find, then lose then find love amid their secret gents lives on opposing sides, yet on the same side, in which the thing is neither of them know it.

Fans of Korean films will probably fawn over actress Kim Ha-neul as the leggy Agent Ahn Su-ji and her Mr. Smith counterpart Kang Ji-hwan as the bumbling rookie agent Lee Jae-jun. Their on screen chemistry is as good as Na+ and Cl- (sodium chloride), which by the way means a solid chemical match that can lose its bond in water, as it did once during a rain scene in the film too.

However, I thought the best performance was the subtle humor and the excellent timing in line delivery by Jang Yeong-nam who played Lee’s boss, Chief Hong, leader of the Harimao Squad.

As a screenwriter, I was impressed with the subtle details that screenwriter Cheon Seong-il set up during various parts of the story. Whether it was the lobster hammer, the silver spoon or the pregnancy gag, each had payback later in the film, something that often falls short in poorly written screenplays from any country.

Notice as a further homage to MR. AND MRS. SMITH that one of the lead villains looks, has the hair and dresses like Angelina Jolie’s Lara Croft character.

Although there was actually an unexpected but pleasant inkling of fight scenes, with a few worthy martial arts skills weaved in for stylism, the fights were never meant to be the major set pieces of the film and the movie was still enjoyable without them.

PUSSY SOUP was as bizarre as it was a purr-fect end to the Night of the Roundtable pseudo-discussion of these films with Sir Phil Luque Laugh-a lot, showing one mo’ time that the new SDAFF Extreme movie series was worth the time and effort of the film programmers.

If you’ve heard of the cartoon, sing the paragraph below to the same cadence of the famous TV animated program, FELIX THE CAT.

Taisho the cat, the wonderful, wonderful, cat, whenever he gets in a fix he reaches into his ramen bowl of trix. Taisho the cat, the wonderful, the wonderful cat, you’ll watch the noodle contest, your eyes will freak, your mind will squint with “huh?”, watching Taisho fall in love with a…cat?

After Taisho gets ousted from his cushion TV job, where his father is a living feline legend, the kid kitten fails as a sushi chef, doctor and taxi driver.

Just as he is about take the rest of his nine-lives, an old, sage-looking human takes Taisho under his noodle wing and teaches him the way of ramen rolling and cooking.

A year later, Taisho becomes quite the celebrity, cute girls want his picture and a dredge of a late human teen misfits into Taisho life, his status as top ramen cat is challenged by a familiar nemesis who challenges him to an iron chef, ramen-making contest.

Does Taisho have the metal to win the gold or will he sink in the mercury polluted water like a lead balloon as his nemesis might steel the show, put-tin Taisho back out on the streets without a nickel, unless they can iron out their differences.

Did I honestly just write a paragraph using all those metals. Yikes, it either must be getting late, or the cat has got my tongue because I’m having to much fun or I’m losing my noodle. The SDAFF will do that to you.

Oh, one last thing. My wife Silvia will be back in the lobby doing free Qi readings and free Qi checkups for your good health and well being, this whole weekend Friday-Sunday (Oct. 23 – 25). Did I ever tell you that she used to be an actress in Taiwan in the early 1980s? Yep.

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