This film was shown for the visit of director Jeon Gye Soo, the 5th director of the Korean Cultural Centre’s ‘Year of the 12 Directors’ programme.
For the record, Director Jeon Gye-Soo would like to point out that Love Fiction is strictly non autobiographical, though 2-3 episodes were taken from his life, but unfortunately not the armpit incident! In this movie, Mr. Jeon has managed to successfully combine two very different plot lines into one film; the “love” story of the author and the detective story line of the ongoing novel. The fictional plot of the novel allows the director to geek out, pulling strong homages to old skool, film noir, detective movies, combined with some dark comic book styles a la Sin City with the quirky angles and sombre colour palette. We loved the “dubbed” audio effect to illustrate this “other dimension” happening within the main movie plot line, which gave it a retro charm. The costumes, hilariously intense acting and over dramatised reaction shots of the novel scenes also reminded us of mangas such as Lupin and Hayao Miyazaki’s Castle of Caliostro. All these little references to iconic images reminds us of fellow film fan enthusiast/director Quentin Tarantino and really emphasises Mr. Jeon’s film geekiness. We also noticed a lot of pop culture references such as the imaginary friend, whom at one point rocks up in a iconic Grampa Munster Vampire costume.
Jeon is still a fairly new director with only 3 feature films under his belt, so information was scarce when we tried to do some pre-interview research but one very prominent fact was that Mr. Jeon Gye Soo was a musical fan and you can very much see all these musical elements in his film. The inclusion of a band allowed for a lot of storytelling through song and gave way to a wonderfully refreshing music video to be incorporated into the film. As Jeon is such a new director, he’s still developing his style and trying out all the different genres and he’s yet to develop a confirmed signature style. For his next project he’s tackling a film of the mystery/thriller genre and we’re hoping, with his love for musicals and the theatre, his signature stamp would be this musical element. It will definitely result in a very different kind of mystery/thriller!
Love Fiction was inspired by Alain de Botton’s Essay in Love and Jeon Gye Soo is very interested in the psychology of relationships. Not so much the art of seduction, but more about the human nature side of things. Jeon Gye Soo said that Love fiction was very much like the male Bridget Jones and the title can be interpreted in a number of ways. This gave the movie a very different feel to the usual Korean romcoms. It was refreshing to see a strong male’s lovey dovey side and a female character that differs from the usual perfectly groomed damsels in distress, which resulted in a very unique sort of relationship. The ending was ambiguous and with the movie concentrating more on the human behaviour rather than the love of a relationship – it reminded us of indie flick 500 days of Summer. The love story in this film was very different with a not so fairytale ending and we feel it would have very much suited a Joseph Gordon Levitt voice over saying “This is a story of boy meets girl, but you should know upfront, this is not a love story…” (From 500 days of Summer).
With Jeon’s interest in human relationships and movies, it’s no doubt that Jeon would be familiar with our home grown romcom veteran Hugh Grant. Jeon mentioned Notting Hill and About a Boy and named High Fidelity as an inspiration. Originally when Jeon had problems finding funding for Love Fiction, he actually wrote to British film investors although never received a reply, he was ready to have Hugh Grant take the part and we’re pretty sure Julia Roberts already has the armpit hair!
The male protagonist role Goo Joo Wol, was especially written with actor Ha Jung Woo in mind and he quickly jumped on board even though it took approximately 5 years for the film to finally get funding. Mr. Ha was interested in the role as it gave him the chance to fully exercise his acting skills and show a different side to him yet simultaneously playing his usual character type in a humorous way; a sort of sarcastic remark on his normal roles. Mr. Ha fully embraced the part and recited love poems with so much love and emotion that it’s hard to believe he played such a creepy morbid psycho killer in Chaser. We especially loved how okay he was about being embarrassed in the modelling scenes. Goo Joo Wol became such an awkward yet likeable character that we found ourselves slowly falling in love.
Even though Ha Jung Woo was on board from the get go, it took some time trying to find an actress to play the part of Hee Jin in image conscious South Korea. This was due to the armpit hair scene which played a pivotal role in the movie as a sort of love test. In the end we loved Kong Hyo Jin who was eventually cast for the role of armpit hair girl. She rocked enough attitude to pull it off fashionably and we have to say that the rather odd armpit hair scene was possible one of the most romantic things we have ever seen. Extra kudos to the two for some brilliant acting and getting up close and embracing the armpit hair, metaphorically and literally! Director Jeon says that he never purposely added in the armpit hair concept for the comedy factor, it just happened this way, and maybe we’re immature, but when is armpit hair ever not funny Mr Jeon?
Fun Fact: We don’t know why this always comes up in director interviews, does the South Korean film industry have a reputation for being cheapskates? But someone asked if the Alaska scenes were in fact filmed in Alaska and unfortunately no, as weather forecast stated there was no snow, they went to the snowiest town in Finland instead. But unfortunately there still wasn’t the MASSIVE amount of snow that Jeon Gye Soo hope for. Jeon Gye Soo will be staying in London for a week, and with our current eccentric weather patterns, maybe you’ll be able to experience snow here…
A picture is worth a thousand words: Source
During the screening, there was an issue with the subtitles which dampened our enjoyment of the movie a bit but nonetheless, it was a very well done movie with some very witty dialogue. It was so refreshing to see such a different kind of love story and we especially enjoyed the wonderfully stylistic scenes of the developing novel plot line. We found all the characters super likable and the fact that the same actors were used in both the main story and the developing novel plot scenes gave all the characters an extra dimension. We especially loved the adorable imaginary friend which was a very cool method to help the main character further express his feelings and emotions. We can only imagine that better subtitles would have made the movie even more awesome, so we give this movie a DAEBAK and would recommend it to male and female audiences alike!