Moms by Ma Yeong-shin

MomsToday I needed to write a paragraph on a book I’d recently read and it reminded me how long it’s been since I last updated this blog.

I thought I would use what I wrote here. I’ve bought many graphic novels in the last year, and been gifted a few. Moms by Ma Yeong-shin is one of them, and one of the few I’ve managed to get around to reading. 

Everyone who knows me well knows that I watch Korean dramas and listen to Korean pop music. I also like Korean films, not so much the commercial blockbusters, but the low-budget indie type by directors like Hong Sang-soo.

I’ve also been exploring Korean graphic novels. Hong Yeon-sik’s Uncomfortably Happily and Umma’s Table are two that have the feel of the K-dramas that I like best, the ones that aren’t about beautiful young women falling in love with even more beautiful young men, but about human connections and people trying live their best lives. Ma Yeong-shin’s Moms, on the other hand, is like a gritty, rather grim Hong Sang-soo film.Read More »

Right Now, Wrong Then

Right_Now,_Wrong_Then_(poster)Director: Hong Sang-soo
Released in 2015.

Not sure how I feel about this one. I like the style, the slice-of-life approach; the long, rambling, seemingly pointless conversations; and the awkwardness of the characters, each one blindsided by mundane circumstances. However, the main characters made me impatient and peevish. The female MC is slender and pale, with long silky hair in a messy updo. She has a soft, weak, almost childlike voice. She’s beautiful or is supposed to be. Personally, I find her looks bland, but this is a Korean film and I’m told the Koreans value skinny women with tiny faces and white skin.

This woman, Hee-jeong (Kim Min-hee), used to be a fashion model, but she has quit and is now living in her hometown, with her mother, and dabbling in painting. The male MC (Jung Jae-young) is a famous art house director, in town for a screening of one of his films and a Q&A session. The film comprises two parts in which the same events unfold with slightly different details and outcomes. Predictably, the director, Ham Chun-soo, is smitten by Hee-jeong in both versions. In the first version he’s rather slimy and sleazy; in the second, he’s foolish and sentimental. He’s thinking with his dick either way and I find him slightly despicable when he cries and tells her he’s in love and will never see her again because he’s married with two children. Still, it’s preferable to when he doesn’t mention his wife and is outed by Hee-jeong’s friends at a party. Whatever. He keeps telling Hee-jeong she’s beautiful, as if he’s saying something remarkable. But then again, she seems to fall for it.

Both man and woman are revealed to be entirely, tediously ordinary and this is probably why I am drawn to them. They are like people I know; people I work with; they might be me. Their behaviour makes me cringe, but I can empathise and sympathise. How surprising and gratifying to see real life in a film. How boring and, at the same time, riveting. No matter how annoyed I am by the silly actions of the characters, I can’t tear my eyes away because it’s like eavesdropping or reading personal letters secretly. I guess I like this film even if I dislike the characters in it.