I just saw Miracle in Cell No. 7 and Masquerade on Saturday. Both have additional screenings (check the website) and while both are well made films, it’s the latter film, Masquerade that gets my full recommendation. Update: Also saw Architecture 101 and give it a good recommendation too.
Masquerade [Recommended] is a historical film about the last king of the Joseon era who falls ill and is replaced by a stand-in lookalike who ends up doing more than expected. Lee Byung Hun plays the king and the stand-in and is excellent. He spends most of the film acting as the obviously less refined stand-in. The film has wonderful costume design and has shots of very beautiful architecture and natural scenery. It’s really Lee Byung Hun whom you’ll be focusing on the most and for good reason. He gives an amazing performance as do the supporting actors. It can also be surprisingly funny at times, who would’ve thought a movie like Masquerade would have funny poop jokes.
Miracle in Cell No. 7 was a bit too long and dragged in places. It also takes on a tough balancing act of slapstick comedy and rape & child murder. In fact, the main character who is a mentally-challenged, single father is prosecuted for the heinous acts (all because of a stupid sailor moon bag) and sent to jail. That leaves his very young daughter in an orphanage whom he misses dearly. The inmates somehow manage to smuggle in the father’s daughter into prison and hi-jinx ensues. There is a lot of overacting and wacky inmate behaviour but whether you find the humour funny is largely subjective (I personally didn’t think much of it). However, to the film’s credit, there are serious consequences that arise from being an accused child rapist and murderer. The prison chief is one of the main antagonists who hates this new inmate but eventually he begins to suspect his innocence. There are at least 3 tear inducing moments in the film. You’d have to have a heart of stone to not cry at least during one of these scenes. You do have to suspend your disbelief over some ridiculous aspects of the plot. Trailer
Architecture 101 is a romantic and nostalgic movie about first love that takes place in the 90s. Although nothing new really happens, it hits all the right notes and delivers a universal story that almost anyone can relate to (except for maybe casanovas). There are also some very good and funny moments as well as sad ones. The film goes back and forth between the past and present. In the past we see how the main guy (Seung-min) and girl (Seo-yeon) meet in a college class (guess which one) and how their friendship develops. It is mainly from the guy’s perspective as we see him talking with his best friend when he’s unsure of what to do. His friend of course gives his some hilarious advice. Seung-min is unsure if the Seo-yeon likes him and wants to tell her his feelings. In the present, about 15 years later, Seo-yeon finds Seung-min at the architecture firm he works for and asks him to build a house for her based on a promise from their past. He initially doesn’t recognize her but when he does he eventually accepts but with reluctance. Inevitably the lingering questions of their unresolved, young romance come up again and some answers are revealed. The film is surprisingly free of the usual contrived set-ups and earns its emotional responses without heavy-handed manipulation. The house that is built is also quite nice to look at. Trailer