So let me tell you something about me that might be a little surprising. I love Korean culture, but I hate Korean dramas. I have tried so hard to get into them, and the number of dramas I have actually finished I can still only count on one hand (Boys Over Flowers, Dream High, and Master's Sun, if you're curious).
I am, however, obsessed with Korean movies. My favorite actor is Hwang Jung-min, an A-lister of sorts that starred in popular Korean movies like "New World", "Dancing Queen", and "Fist of Legend". He can play anything from a violent gangster to a loving father with equal amounts of conviction. My all-time favorite Korean movie is the period drama "Masquerade" starring Lee Byung-hun. The costumes are beautiful, the cinematography is incredible, and all of the actors - from Shim Eun-kyung's young court attendant to Ryu Seung-ryong as the royal counselor - played their roles with such full immersion that you kind of forgot who they actually were in real life.
Needless to say, whenever a Korean movie is able to come to America, I am overwhelmed with excitement. I'm always the one who keeps up with the AMC website to see which one is coming out next, and I make sure to tell all of my friends. (It's really rare for me to attend one of these screenings without at least 7 - 10 other people. They know how much I love them!)
The latest Korean movie to come to my hometown of San Diego is a film called "C'est Si Bon", a romantic and musical 'dramedy' about a real place - a music venue in Seoul that emerged in the 1970s and paved the way for some of the most influential musicians in Korea's modern-day music history - namely the three main characters of the movie, Oh Geun-tae, Yoon Hyung-joo, and Song Chang-sik.
So, I know I said before that I don't really watch a lot of dramas, but it was incredible to see how many of these actors I recognized from different Korean TV shows! The main character, Oh Geun-tae, was in "Reply 1994", and the owner of C'est Si Bon is played by Kwon Hae-hyo, who a lot of drama fans might recognize from "Angel Eyes" or "Dream High 2". I loved being able to see the more serious 'dramatic artist' sides of all of these actors, especially considering the challenges of portraying real people in a very real setting with roles that required being able to sing and play instruments well enough to pass off as some of Korea's greats. (Everyone who plays a singer in this movie really can sing! There isn't any of that Zac Efron in "High School Musical" stuff!)
Perhaps the actor I was most surprised to see in this movie is Kang Ha-neul, who I didn't even know had a singing background! (Check out THAT transformation!) If you're a drama watcher, you might remember him as one of Lee Minho's best friends in "Heirs" or Minho's biggest track rival in "To The Beautiful You". Apparently, way before dramas, he was a classically trained actor in musical theater. Yes, he sings! And yes, he does an amazing job at capturing the light-hearted and bohemian spirit of a young Yoon Hyung-joo. (Check him out in the above YouTube, where he and his ukulele serenaded crowds in Hongdae with songs from the actual movie!)
Also, if you are like me and get a little too into OSTs, I highly recommend hunting down the soundtrack for "C'est Si Bon". Not only do you get to relive all the fun scenes from this movie, but you learn a lot about the local music history and the staple songs that influenced the music coming out of South Korea today. (I especially love the trio's rendition of "When The Saints Go Marching In".)
If you want to see if "C'est Si Bon" or any other interesting Asian films are playing in your hometown, check out a full list of titles and locations on the official AMC Asian-Pacific Cinema site or contact your local AMC Theater for more details. (You might just be the one that convince them to bring Asian films in YOUR neighborhood!)