Tuesday, September 27, 2005



A family friend comes over for tea and reports on a Korean movie she saw in Tokyo last week. The movie, whose title I will translate as "Spring Blossoms and Snowfall," is wildly popular in Japan and represents something of a love letter, or at least a big-hearted missive of conciliation, from Korea to Japan. Indeed, the actor who plays the male lead offered assistance following a Japanese flood faster than any Japanese thought to do. Oh and by Korea I mean the South of course. The North is a concentration camp, not something that can be called a country.

The movie is a clear rip-off of a Harrison Ford movie about a plane crash. No, not Six Days and Seven Nights, or Seven Days and Six Nights, the other one, where his wife is on the plane with her lover when it crashes and kills them both. Random Hearts.

But in this version of Randon Asian Hearts the plot has been cleverly changed to suit an Asian audience – an audience our friend tells us was entirely middle-aged and female except for her six-foot tall American husband, who was in the theater as part of his first trip to Japan and I can just imagine his sense of wonder and bewilderment. Apparently he also could not get past the ubiquitous vending machines and the fact that those machines sold beer and a cheap form of sake.

The Korean version still starts with an affair between His wife and Her husband, and a plane crash affecting their lovers' plane. But on that side of the globe the lovers very inconveniently survive. So we are in the hospital, where He retrieves and checks out his injured wife's cell phone and She retrieves her husband's cell phone (Asian high tech and lack of privacy!). That's how they each discover the affair! And the reason He traces Her down is to ask her not to tell his father-in-law about their spouses' affair (Asian sense of duty, obligation and self-sacrifice!).

Yes, they go to bed (not Asian; decadent western influence!), but in the end her husband dies and – stroke of bad luck – his wife does not. He takes his wife home and politely informs her that "he died," referring to her lover. His wife weeps extravagantly and right in front him and he hides how grievously wounded he is by this (Asian stoicism!). He meets Her one last time, in a garden where they engage in one last round of their customarily spare and oblique dialogue:

"What do you like?"
"I like spring blossoms. What do you like?"
"I like snowfall."

The theater is filled with muted sobbing as it becomes clear that there love is not to be, and the viewers confront the impossibility of finally achieving one's heart's desire and the necessity of finally, fatalistically embracing one's, well, one's fate.

But is that specifically Asian or just a part of the human condition? Though over there they do make it into an art form.


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