My Week in Dramas and Films: 1 July 2023
Gaus Electronics (2022) Old Boy (2003) Hidden Love (2023)
I’m burnt out from work and other things so I’m just lounging around taking it easy. In the past couple of weeks I’ve been watching this and that but for some reason not that many currently airing Kdramas appeal to me right now and I’m avoiding rom coms in particular. Especially the ones featuring popular attractive actors.
In reaction to how I’ve been feeling about K dramas of late, I’ve been turning my attention to older material so the much lauded Gaus Electronics (2022) was next on my watch list. Frankly if I hadn’t applied the 4-episode rule with some rigidity in this instance, I would have junked it after the first episode. True, I’m not a big slapstick person although I’ve been won over before but that first episode left me reeling… and wondering what the heck it was that I had subjected myself to. It was raucous, chaotic and not in a good way. But somewhere between the third and the fourth episode, I saw past the topsy turvy lunacy and managed to enjoy the satirical elements coupled with some genuine human connections that are made in the madhouse that is Gaus Electronics Team 3. I was eager to see Kwak Dong-yeon again after his stint in Vincenzo. He’s a genuinely talented lad with deeply soulful eyes and knows how to use them to good effect. Here he’s being paired off with Go Sung-hee’s Cha Na-rae who hates his very existence. The duo spend much of the first five or six episodes bickering needlessly often over the most ridiculous things the way siblings do. Cha Na-rae is particularly combative because of her intense dislike of Sang-sik. But once they lock lips, it’s a case of trying to hide it from the rest of their colleagues. Initially too Sang-sik is fixated with the belle from HR, Hae-young, who is a self-confessed unabashed polyamorist with no filter. He’s been friendzoned on numerous occasions but he’s too much of a literalist. And he’s rather too starry-eyed. He’s not as dumb as it appears either. It’s just that his idealism and innate honesty makes him blind to subtext. Still the logic holds that once the sparks are lit, the two have tough time holding back. All that pent up UST just goes ballistic right up to the office conference room with amusing consequences.
What’s surprised me most about this drama is how much romance features in it. I was labouring under the impression that this was more a workplace comedy but apparently not. Newbie Ma-tan played by Bae Hyun-sung (“Hong-do” from Hospital Playlist) seems also to have his own budding romance with colleague ass-kicking Kang-mi. It was immediately obvious from his hairstyle that this was based off a webtoon. Ma-tan is the successor of Power Inc. a rival company who wants to earn his street creds before he takes over from Dad. The funniest things about him (aside from the fact that he’s desperately trying to keep his identity under wraps) is that he has lived in a bubble and now he has to “rough it out” with the plebs. And then there’s the other romance. The one that we’re not privy to in its details.
The show deserves its own review because as it turns out, it is one of the better rom coms I’ve seen in awhile. Watch this space. More to come later.
For years I’ve been hearing about Old Boy (2003) and how much of a cult classic of K cinema it is. It ranks highly on IMDB presumably among English-speaking audiences mostly. Unfortunately for me, I’m one of those that don’t see the film in that light. I hardly think it would have made a difference even if I had watched it 20 years ago when it first came out because in my view it’s a highly exploitative film whenever it was made. It’s deliberately malicious — I imagine that’s the point because it is a horrifying revenge story with nasty (though ultimately unsatisfying) reveals. The violence (though gratuitous) doesn’t bother me as much as how women are depicted in this story and I have a hard time seeing artistic merit in that. I can’t do pornography in whatever way it’s packaged. I get the point of the exercise but I don’t get the hype. The first act has promise. The cinematography is great. But at the end of the day it’s an interesting premise with a plot that has the wobbliest of legs. It’s all shock for shock’s sake. A nihilistic angry pubescent wish fulfilment fantasy.
Something completely different is Hidden Love. I’ve only watched a few episodes and so far it comes across as harmless slice-of-life coming of age fluff about a teenage girl (Zhao Lusi) crushing on her brother’s best mate played by Chen Zheyuan which is the main reason why I’m stepping out into cute territory. It’s not a bad watch so far and Chen Zheyuan’s character is very likeable. He’s smart, observant and considerate which is all calculated to send Sang Zhi’s young heart racing. He treats her a tad better than her combative brother which is probably why she shoots him adoring looks when she thinks he’s looking the other way. Moreover he stacks up more favourably against the silly boys at school and her older brother. Against them he appears far more mature. And he is. He has to be. Because for reasons still unknown to me he has to work much harder to support himself through school.
From where I’m looking the story is told largely from the perspective of an adolescent female who is infatuated with a charming good-looking family friend. It’s relatable. Many of us have been there before. Therefore everything Jiaxu does out of kindness and strongly held principles holds a significance for her that doesn’t occur when she’s interacting with other guys. He is careful not to cross lines or behave improperly. But it doesn’t prevent her from reading greater meaning into them as a result of her crush. And being understandably shyer around him. He, on his part, treats her like an older brother. All their interactions are in public places where others about. He lectures her when she misbehaves. Nags at her to observe all kinds of safety protocol. He’s a gentler version of her own brother and she’s less inclined to squabble with him. In Episode 3 the show too is careful to demonstrate that what Jiaxu does for her he does for everyone else. He doesn’t distinguish her as she might have wished. Of course the chemistry between the leads is very good and Chen Zheyuan has that twinkle in his eye that inevitably comes to the fore when he’s in a mischievous frame of mind.