SOMETHING TO CALM KOREAN TENSIONS
Can't we make love, not war?
Some Song Il-guk diplomacy?
Sunday, November 21, 2010
POSTSCRIPT TO POSTSCRIPT
The North Koreans are moving right along, it seems, enriching uranium, if not their population's diet.
"Hecker said his first glimpse of the North's new centrifuges was "stunning."...The facilities appeared to be primarily for civilian nuclear power, not for , Hecker said. He saw no evidence of continued plutonium production at Yongbyon. But, he said, the uranium enrichment facilities "could be readily converted to produce highly enriched uranium bomb fuel."
All this Korean drama ...and I don't mean Hallyu, (which doesn't include stunning nudes or nukes)...just north of the DMZ. Maybe everyone involved would do well to settle in and watch Lobbyist. The script is all written.
Saturday, November 20, 2010
POSTSCRIPT TO PREVIOUS POST
Apparently the South Korean "nude" project has revived like Harry/Haili, according to interesting news I uncovered just now in China Daily (almost as strange to read as the subtitles in Lobbyist). Was it just coincidence that I watched this drama now? Perhaps Song Il-guk could become president of South Korea. Life seems to be imitating art. So intriguing.
NAKED NUDE AMBITIONS****
If literal clarity was what I was seeking, I would have done well to spend more for my DVD set of the Lobbyist, K-D with Song Il-guk. My cheap acquisition's video quality was just fine, but the subtitles decayed exponentially after episode 12 of 24. (And the half-life of Korean drama is really long.) Capitalization, spelling, and word order seemed to reflect the increasing boredom of the translator, whom I suspect was Chinese. I don't know if Korean shares the Chinese language's lack of distinction in third-person pronouns, but it was a challenge sometimes to determine precisely who, or what, the dialogue was about. Song-il guk? His mother? A sheep? A nuclear submarine? But one perfects one's skill at figuring things out from context, taking a Taoist approach to cognition, and I was grateful to pause the DVD from time to time to decrypt the meaning (and sometimes just to gaze at Song Il-guk's eyes). It did prove the observation that you can understand words in a sentence if the first and last letter of the words are accurate, but watching whole sentences turned into a word scrabble from time to time.
I have made a living correcting bad grammar, spelling and punctuation, and typos are as entertaining as irritating. But I rarely come across such delightful twists as a reference to someone having a "bad tempter." Later, he was called "the madness temper guy." The character was a bit of a devil. He was way too "forcefuk."
In Lobbyist, Song Il-guk's wacky devoted sidekick (there's always one or two) in a nuclear submarine project formerly was a hotel doorman and black market racketeer. When he first met Harry/Haili (SIG's character) he suggested that if he wanted to impress his long lost childhood sweetheart, he could procure for his gift-giving what every girl likes: "bracelet, watch, cothes, shoes, handbag, case, golf cue, abd bear gall bladder (all sic)." (Forget the knockoff LV bag, bear bile always works for me!) Never mind that this girl was into submarines and revenge.
This guy, a little dorky, but one of the drama's most endearing characters, with spiky gelled hair and retro '50s eyeglasses, moves on to "Guba" cigars and Russian "eggbeters" (helicopters) before the really big acquisition...plans for a nuclear submarine featuring French technology and German engineering, a sure winner in any domestic arms build-up.
Lobbyist features the usual plot points involving orphans, love triangles, manipulative parents, naked ambition, (but never naked sex), revenge, politics, and weaponry, in this case not my personal preference, swords, arrows and martial arts skills, but guns, helicopters, tanks and submarines. (Although SIG does get to show off some nice kicking. And he's pretty cute when he's tinkering with a tank.) The political plot is driven by South Korea's longing for a nuclear fleet which Harry will help to acquire.
Until the American ambassador/CIA rep puts a stop to the plan. "Only conventional subs for you," he sternly warns the South Korean minister of the navy.
"But," the minister sputters petulantly, "China has nude!" Earlier he had lamented to Harry the lobbyist (or as sometimes translated, "persuasive talker"), "I don't have the ability to help in nude project." But South Korea can't argue with America. No nude! We mean it. (Nude:sic.)
The story comes to a not-nude climax (in episode 24) at a New Year's kick-off party for the submarine program on the deck of a dry-docked WWII-era destroyer. Save-the-date cards had been distributed much earlier by the conventional sub side. A peculiar element of this scene is when the bad guy sings The First Noel in Korean, very poorly, reminding us of Song Il-guk's earlier and utterly charming impromptu performance of I'm in the Mood for Love ...if it should lain we'll let it***...at a book signing party for the President's son who was a naive proponent of nuclear forces for South Korea in addition to being an accomplished cocktail pianist. These talented persuasive talkers and government officials! And Song Il-guk can tango too! What a guy! If Ronald Reagan can be US president, maybe SIG can be Korea president? Anyway, I've been to events like that kick-off party and book-signing.
But never like this: after searching all over the ship, Harry/Haili/SIG comes finally to the aid of his competitor (Maria/Malia, the love interest) who was representing the conventional sub promoter, albeit being horribly exploited by her boss, who is now holding a gun to her head, in a stand-off with Saturday night specials...the bad guy is killed, the exploited girl is saved, and it's not clear what happens to Harry. I suppose this is a metaphor for nuclear MADness, what happens when you have "a bad tempter."
But despite profusely bleeding wounds to the gut and drooping off into deadly unconsciousness, Harry is miraculously resurrected to join Maria who has given up her international arms ambitions to teach English to children in Kazakhstan, where she and Harry were really happy together before. Harry suddenly appears radiantly in the middle of her class in a meadow where sheep are grazing, not the first K-D where Song Il-guk makes a sort of Messianic return. (Though he failed to fulfill his promise to the Korean defense minister to "succeed in nude career with my own hands."*****) We see Maria is wearing the crystal pendant** he gave her when they were ten years old.
Lobbyist predicts The Divine Hero/A Man Called God. Only in Emperor in the Sea (Haesin) was it obvious that SIG would not survive the dozens of arrows piercing his body, like Saint Sebastian. (Here is a You-tube clip which accompanies Yeom Moon's death scene in Haesin with the U.S. Navy Hymn.)
Having finished the contemporary Lobbyist, I now look forward to Muhyul, a sa geuk follow-on to Jumong. I found it to watch on-line, with better subtitles. In Muhyul, Song Il-guk (of tremendous Jumong fame) plays Jumong's grandson, demonstrating one interpretation of immortality. I'm thinking SIG is in fact immortal one way or another. These dramas are accumulating like Gospel stories, and I fully expect him to be cast as Jesus one day. If you looked at that Haesin clip, you will agree, he could do it really well.
A curious side note to Lobbyist is its sponsorship by the Swarovski Crystal company. There is not a scene in which some elaborate crystal construction is not set on a desk or side table, dangling from a cell phone or ears, to say nothing of a franchise shop being a cover for one of the international arms dealers. Swarovski appears even in a terrorist camp in Kazakhstan, in particular an amber quail egg of a pendant which first is seen around the neck of ten-year-old Harry when he and his girl first develop their curious shared passion for submarines. The pendant gets passed back and forth between them from episode one to 24, a symbol of their lasting affection, but really, incredible product placement for Swarovski.
***THE LAIN IN SPAIN
Actually, don't you think this scans better than "rain?"
Let sleeping lains lie?
****This title is gonna get me a LOT of hits!
*****And this is making me think of scripting a drama of my own, working title, Cloning Vincent and SIG, a three-some love triangle with Zhao Wen Zhou and Song Il-guk...and me. Filmed in Hawaii, Wudang, a Buddhist Temple in Korea and, why not, Kazakhstan.
Saturday, November 13, 2010
MASKED AND ANONYMOUS
Here's a funny story. A Chinese person tries to seek asylum in Canada wearing a Hollywood-designed mask to get through airport security.
Masking turns up not infrequently in Chinese and Korean dramas to assist a hero in his efforts. In The Divine Hero, Song Il-guk used a Mission Impossible-style mask to disguise himself as his enemy to fool someone. (His real visage is much more attractive than the mask.) And historical swordsmen are always covering their faces with bandanas. Perhaps the practical use of masks is cultural; the masking in Chinese opera is elaborate and deeply significant, clearly identifying characters and their motives. I always felt truly transformed with my Halloween masks as a child; when I apply makeup it is to elevate myself to something I am not quite. (Even though makeup artists will insist makeup is to ENHANCE your natural beauty, there is a transformative element going on.)
Still, I would like to know just what mask this Chinese refugee was using. Whose identity was he borrowing?
Makeup (Mask) Styles of Peking Opera
Thursday, November 11, 2010
I interrupt myself in the first few moments of hour six (of 24) of The Lobbyist, a contemporary Korean drama about international arms trafficking, and a kind of precursor to The Divine Hero, also staring the divine Song Il-guk. The only reason I'm watching this. So hot! With a simmering plot. Still, I pause to share some subtitled dialog which just made me choke.
A little arranging of a marriage for a clearly wrong (at least in episode six, who knows?) union of two attractive young Koreans who have no prior interest in each other is going on over a dinner table where the powerful parents are plotting the future.
Dad of the squirming groom-to-be (not SIG's character but hardly unattractive) says, "He has a goof future." (SIG=Song Il-guk. It would be confusing to indicate "sic" as I quote these subtitles.)
The FoG continues, "...but your doughter (so malleable? so rich?) is more excellent."
"To be honest, Meilan (the yeasty doughter) is not bad too," the father of the bride agrees.
At which point, the prim, proper and wistful mother of the apparently willing bride chimes in to point out, "Mr. Jiang, your son is hot."
If I had a daughter, and had a chance to marry her off to Song Il-guk...what else could I blurt out?
Saturday, November 06, 2010
I am intrigued by a scene in my current K-D indulgence. The female protagonist, escaping an arranged marriage, has gone to the temple to pay respect to her dead parents. Her "wanted poster" identifies her as someone in mourning clothes. Coming down from the mountain, she is inadvertently close to a sword fight and her white hanbok gets splattered with blood. Her sword-fighting paramour, one third of the requisite love triangle, is very clever. He searches the body he has dispatched for a piece of charcoal. In the next scene we see that the sleeve and skirt of her dress is not blood-splattered, but sports an elegant plum-blossom design. Her savior has drawn in branches, no more mourning dress, but now tres chic.
Actually this technique, connecting splatters, is one taught by my Chinese painting teacher. I don't think I would have fully appreciated this scene without taking the painting class. How everything fits together! You just have to be open to the connections.