Rating: 7/10
Year: 2001
Genre: Drama
Director: Song Hae-Sung
Cast: Choi Min-Sik, Cecilia Cheung

I really got a mixed feeling about this film. The first half of the film appears so boring for me, while the latter part really keeps me fully engaged. Is it a good film then?

This film has a pretty original concept. The story is about Failan (Cecilia Cheung) and Lee (Choi Min-Sik). Failan moves to Korea after the death of her mother, hoping to resort to her uncle, whom she does not know, has migrated to another country already. Feeling despair, Failan asks for help in a job finding agency. With the help of the staff there, she gets his "social security card" by arranging a fake marriage with someone she has never met before in her life, a gangster called Lee. Lee does not know anything about his wife, until the day when he gets the news...

In terms of the narrative strategy, the director does not employ a traditional linear narrative style, he rather combines the use of flashback and episodic narrative structure to present the story. In the middle of the film, montage of the past Failan and present Lee intercuts intermittently. It creates a kind of interaction for the characters even though they have never met before. Feeling of love can be sensed. It is this interaction that propels the plot and builds up the intimate relationship between the lovers, and it is this alluring use of narrative apparatus that impresses me most.

It seems to me that the director is a good artist. He really has a nice palette. The composition is exceptionally rich, that I would refer it as "emotional". For instance, in the beginning of the film, Failan's room looks dry and colorless, but after she has married and gotten to know more about her "husband", her room becomes much more colorful and intense. The decoration of the room reflects her emotional state at different moment of the film. Props and miniatures are used wisely as well. The photo and the scarf are both important motif and all of these items greatly enrich the relationships of the characters. A movie is a visual medium after all, it is much easier for a filmmaker to succeed if he is able to minimize the dialogues and maximize the use of images to tell a story. In this regard, Director Song has done a really nice job.

Cecilia Cheung is one of the best new actresses I have seen in the past couple of years. Apart from her charming face, she really knows how to act. As I know, she was not professionally trained as an actress (She was still a high school student when she was casted by Stephen Chiau. I am sure no one will forget her extraordinary debut in Chiau's King of Comedy), it is really a surprise to see how well she manages to control the gestures and emotions of the character. The good command of character development seems to be a natural gift to her. Choi Min-Sik, the lead actor of this film, also performs well. The pairing of Cheung and Choi is really risky, as we all know the age discrepancy, but thanks to the persuasive performance by Cheung and Choi, we never find their love affairs to be incongruous and awkward.

The only thing I hate about this movie is the boring first half. The director spends too much time to set up the plot. A great portion of the first half is a repetition of fight scenes, Lee just keeps getting beaten up again and again. I know his encounter in the beginning is crucial to the whole story, but it is just getting little sadistic and redundant.

To sum it up, Failan is not a disappointing work. If you are a fan of Korean love story (e.g. Christmas in August, Il Mare), you will definitely love its subtlety and composure.

VCD (HK version) - I began to regret that I only got the VCD of this movie. The cinematography is so beautiful that the VCD version is definitely not enough for me to fully appreciate it.

Cool guy(s) - Cecilia Cheung

Reviewed by: Kantorates