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(Movie Review) Being a bit of both proves difficult in 'Oishi man'

All Headlines 10:29 February 11, 2009

By Shin Hae-in
(ATTN: photos available)

SEOUL, Feb. 11 (Yonhap) -- The confused main character in the movie "Oishi Man" finds himself in love with both a Korean and a Japanese woman, drowns his sorrows in soju and sake, and is desperate to find hope in either country.

Touching the hearts of two different nations, however, proves to be as difficult on film as it is in real life.

Making its debut at the Pusan International Film Festival last year, "Oishi Man" is based on an original story written by South Korean singer Kim C and features renowned acting talent from both sides of the East Sea.

Even before it hits local cinemas, the film has been stirring excitement for the country's low-budget industry. The movie was among the most anticipated releases of the year, especially for fans of Chizuru Ikewaki, who earned popularity here with Japanese hit "Josee, the Tiger and the Fish."

"Oishi," which means "delicious" in Japanese, is meant to describe the main character of the movie: he is polite enough to accept any food -- or drinks -- offered to him and say "thank you" no matter the taste.

But although "Oishi man" should be applauded for its attempt to invite the audiences of both countries, it is difficult to translate the aim of the movie, just like the characters who depend on the small number of English words they know to connect with each other.

Hyeon-seok (Lee Min-gi) is a 20-something singer who develops a problem with his hearing known as Meniere's syndrome and is forced to stop recording, the one thing that gave meaning to his life.

Leaving behind a drunken one-night stand with Jae-young (Jeong Yu-mi), a divorcee and his fan, in Seoul, the confused singer travels to a small Japanese village in Hokkaido where he meets a cheerful girl named Megumi (Chizuru Ikewaki). A petit girl who annoys him at first, Megumi slowly takes a place in his heart.

As per director Kim Jeong-jung's explanation, "Oishi man" is a romance that tries to be a little more than just a simple love story. Each corner of this cross-cultural love triangle is facing their own crisis but somehow remain hopeful throughout the movie.

But Kim's effort to connect with audiences largely misfires; the familiar themes of love and struggle are expressed neither poignantly or honestly enough to stand out against the masses of coming-of-age films.

It wasn't for a lack of trying.

"I am thankful to everyone," director Kim told audiences at the movie's preview Tuesday. "The actors and actresses were often forced to get it right the first time as we couldn't afford to take a second shot."

Japanese actress Ikewaki, who visited Korea for the first time to promote the film, said she could connect with actor Lee more deeply because she "could not understand him."

"We spoke different languages and had to depend on our English, or lack thereof," she said with a laugh. "But this actually helped us to speak from our hearts. It was a great pleasure to appear in the movie."

About 80 percent of the movie was filmed in the snowy region of Monbetsu, in Hokkaido, Japan.

"Oishi man" will hit the local cinemas Feb. 19.


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