25 May, 2011

the barefootbaklesa reviews: Virgin Snow [Hatsuyuki No Koi]

Watched this movie again the other day, just wanna share this one more time...

The Barefoot Baklesa Movie Review: Virgin Snow [Hatsuyuki no koi]
Direction: Han Sang-hee
Story and Screenplay: Han Sang-hee and Ban Kazuhiko
Release Date: November 2007

How long are you willing to wait for the one you love? How long can you keep a promise to the one you love? How long can you hold on to the hope that you and your love will find your way to each other again? In the cinematic style that I have come to expect of the Japanese slash Korean wave of films that I have seen these past few years, Virgin Snow presents a unique and well proportioned blend of plot elements that make up a romantic love story that defines the blossoming of a youthful love in places where the old and the new keep their fragile balance cradling the precious hope that love brings with it. [I have learned that there’s an alternative translation to the title in English, The First Snow of Love; more poetic, I think…]

The film begins when Kim Min [played by Korean actor Lee Joon-ki or Lee Jun-ki or Lee Jun-gi if you’re particular about spelling and phonemics] moves to Japan from Korea to follow his father who is a potter and ceramics artist by trade. While going around the city of Kyoto in his bike, Kim Min gets into an accident with a monk also riding a bike. He finds his way to a shrine, and at the ritual purification area [the way I see it, some sort of well or fountain where you wash up before you come into a sacred place], he meets a girl named Nanae [played by Japanese actress Miyasaki Aoi] who helps him tend to that scratch he got on his elbow. Nanae realizes that Min is not Japanese and guides him around the temple complex.

They come upon an Omikoji tree which peaks Min’s curiosity. He learns that an Omikoji tree is part of a fortune-telling tradition with the Japanese. You take your fortune, which you get in the form of a sheet of paper, and you tie it to the Omikoji tree if it reads bad luck; and if it says good luck, you keep it. Nanae tells Min that his fortune says lucky so he keeps it.
Right from the start, you see that these ancient practices are still alive and well in a place as modern and fast-changing as Japan. I mean, from the monk in a bicycle and a peaceful shrine where time seems to have stood still in the midst of the city, the writer could have chosen to place these characters elsewhere to have met for the first time; but this is where that factor of the ancient ways in a modern world comes into play.

You’re going to love Min as he struggles at being the new Korean guy at school, and you’re going to love him more when he tries to win the heart of Nanae [who also studies at the same high school] which starts out with rather disastrous results.
Indulge this blow-by-blow, if you please: On his way out from his first day at his new school, Min runs after Nanae and catches her by the bridge. Unfortunately, his bike accidentally knocks-off her painting case from her hands and it falls into the stream below. Kim jumps over the bridge to get it but fails to realize that the stream is quite shallow and ends up a bit hurt. And as he victoriously raises the painting case in the air, its contents all drop into the water.

But before I reveal too much [which I often tend to do when I do these movie review posts], allow me to just skip a few things so I don’t get too excited with all the sweet things he does and turn an eye towards objectivity.
Not long ago, I saw this Japanese animated film called Millennium Actress; and the film had quite a premise that said “love is a burden, and often a curse” [non-verbatim, but that’s pretty much the point]. And I realized how this governs the many love stories I have seen of recent vintage from the Japanese. It’s an observation rooted to certain philosophical musings that have been brought to my attention by my friend who studies Japanese philosophy. And as much as I want to veer away from being too profound with such a simple love story, you tend to realize that it is far from simple.
As the story rolls along, Min and Nanae’s love seems to have been built around these ancient practices like the Omikoji tree and the memory books, as well as superstitious urban legends passed on about lovers destined to part if they go to certain places, down to the charm/talisman that Nanae gives Min at the festival, and the promise to meet at a certain place in Korea by the first snowfall to seal their love with that magic or luck that goes with it.

And as their joy is cut abruptly by their untimely separation, Min’s promise to Nanae that he will learn to make fine porcelain for Nanae to paint on seems to have been lost. For when Min returns from Korea to visit his ailing grandmother, he finds out that Nanae has moved out of their home and is nowhere to be found. The seasons would change for these lovers lost to each other more than once until they find one another again. But as season’s change, so do some hearts; and the love they bear lost to the pain the heart feels.
Still, the journey of their love seems far from over. And by journey, you’re literally taken from Japan to Korea and back, but you’re also given this sense of completion –if you could call it that- when Min realizes that all he had to do was keep his simple promise.
If you see the way this movie ends, you’re going to want to watch it all over again and come up with the realization that the wait was all worth it, that some promises are worth keeping, and that if you hold on to your hope, your love will find you where you’ve always waited for him at the first fall of snow.

No comments: