Boy meets girl, girl meets ghost

Boy meets girl, girl meets ghost

Actress Kong Hyo Jin has a quick, radiant smile and a soft, expressive face. She is mainly in her element in sunny South Korean romances such as The Greatest Love, where the worst affliction known to mankind is abject embarrassment.

However, in horror-tinged tale The Master's Sun, she is somehow more wonderful as a dishevelled, misunderstood woman who has become a pariah and a janitor after she wakes up from a road accident with an ability to see dead people.

She wants to help them but she also wishes they would have better manners and not harass her around the clock. Could they let her sleep and not possess her?

Screenwriting sisters Hong Jeong Eun and Hong Mi Ran, who created The Greatest Love, My Girlfriend Is A Gumiho and other comedies, wrote The Master's Sun and the show, typical of their style, moves from a scare to a laugh in a beat.

So does Kong, who shifts subtly between fear and fun, warmth and wooziness, terror and comic misery: between one scene where the janitor is fleeing a limping, stiletto-shod ghost in a mall and another scene where she has lost a shoe and is walking around with a tissue box on her foot. (By the way, none of the ghosts are that frightening. Many of them turn out to be sad mothers, wives and girlfriends - dead people dropping by from other Korean shows.)

And when the Hong sisters throw Kong a gimmick, she catches it and makes it believable.

That would be a brooding, calculating retail heir (So Ji Sub) who runs the mall and turns out to be the janitor's talisman.

Whenever they come into accidental physical contact, she realises, the dead people around her vanish into thin air. With him around, she may finally have a good night's sleep, she fantasises.

When she tries to tell him that, however, he thinks she is making a crazy, misguided attempt to flirt with him.

But Kong plays their scenes with dreamy innocence and optimism: She doesn't want him, she just wants to touch him and surely he will come round someday.

It's daft. It's dumb. You know it is just one of the Hong sisters' tricks to accelerate a romcom and quicken your pulse.

Then again, a show powered by the magic of an embrace is charming, isn't it?

In Dating Agency, you have a Korean romance that is even more technical - that is all about the nuts and bolts of engineering boy-meets-girl moments.

The agents here are matchmaking spies, tricked out in espionage equipment and thinking up elaborate plans for their clients to entrap love interests.

For a vet to make an impression on a bored librarian, the agency chief (Lee Jong Hyuk) directs a pursuit scene at a train station.

The vet appears as a mystery man in a trench coat and disappears after depositing the librarian on a train, away from extras posing as criminals.

According to the story, which was adapted from 2010 film Cyrano Agency, the agents are unemployed theatre types and the chief worked on a production of French play Cyrano de Bergerac a long time ago.

But to judge by the stunts they pull, they look more like action heroes who have fallen on hard times or overgrown boys who live through video games.

Maybe the show wants to do its own thing. But as it moves away from the movie's premise that real-life lovers, like reel-life ones, need good scripts - that passion requires poetry or great prose, at the very least - it has lost some soul.

The agents here are not so much poets - not one of them is a Cyrano - as life hackers, cracking the code of the dating game to make it easier to win.

woeiwan@sph.com.sg

View it THE MASTER'S SUN One (StarHub TV Channel 820 or mio TV Channel 513)


Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.

Purchase this article for republication.

BRANDINSIDER

SPONSORED

Most Read

Your daily good stuff - AsiaOne stories delivered straight to your inbox
By signing up, you agree to our Privacy policy and Terms and Conditions.