My Sassy Girl (HK - DVD R3)
Part comedy, part fantasy and part romance - My Sassy Girl proves once again that Asian cinema can juggle genres with real skill.
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Occasionally you come across a movie that is extremely difficult to categorise. The ‘RomZomCom’ Shaun of the Dead is a good example, falling into three different categories even if its bias was mainly towards one of them. The Asian title Windstruck is another classic example, mixing romance, comedy, fantasy and drama all into one to strangely entertaining effect. My Sassy Girl, although not an official sequel, pretty-much picks up where Windstruck left off, adopting the same strange clash of genres to entertain. So, does it work?
The movie kicks off with a girl being rescued from an oncoming train by a random guy who takes pity on her drunken state and tries to look after her. Getting himself into a great deal of trouble, when she later looks for him to find out exactly what happened, thanks are nowhere to be found. So begins a budding romance - My Sassy Girl is all about the hapless student Kyun-Woo, who falls in love with the angry, sassy girl with no name. However it is not only a romance, it is also a comedy with plenty of painfully funny scenarios for Kyun to get into. In addition, it is also a fantasy, mainly thanks to the fact that the Girl is a writer and Kyun has a vivid imagination, both combining for several great dream sequences.
Just like Windstruck, it manages to mix so many different styles and still remain entertaining, only to better effect here thanks to a lack of serious drama. Windstruck’s biggest obstacle was pairing serious drama with comedy, romance and fantasy – here they just dropped the drama and the end result is a warm, consistently light-hearted ride. Of course the biggest positive thing that they have in common is the lead female star, Ji-Hyun Jun, who is extremely pretty and sassy as hell (with a great right-hook) – perfectly suited to this kind of role. These two films may pose the threat of typecasting her but since they only prove that she can do well in so many different genres, I hope that she gets yet more deservedly decent roles in the future.
Her match in this film is played by Tae-Hyun Cha, who does a painfully good job as Kyun. She frequently hits him (and I’m not talking light slap, I’m talking full on punch to the face), pushes him into lakes when he can’t swim, makes him wear her high heels and pretty-much adds ‘wanna die’ to every single sentence she says to him. Despite all of this, he still wants to spend time with her and if not for Cha’s spot-on performance, this would be utterly unbelievable. As is, they have great on-screen chemistry, better even than Jun had with her counterpart in Windstruck.
With chemistry, comedy, romance and fantasy all just about mixed in the right proportions, despite its ludicrously long runtime it never seems slow. What we have is a movie that you cannot help but like. I’m not sure that it’s going to go into anybody’s top ten (though that largely depends on how much you think of the cute-as-hell Jun) but I would be surprised if many people could resist enjoying this warm little movie. Be prepared for a fun, frolicking ride with a lovely lead girl and a happy-go-lucky story full of clever, inventive scenes. It is refreshing and feel-good, and highly recommended.
My Sassy Girl is presented in a lovely 1.85:1 aspect ratio anamorphically enhanced widescreen transfer. The detail is generally very good, with only mild softness from time to time and no noticeable grain. The colour scheme is extremely broad, jumping from winter to summer and reality to dream with consistently good representation of all the tones used. The blacks are also solid and deep, allowing for decent shadows. There was no sign of digital artefacting and the print appeared to have no damage whatsoever. Overall it is a solid visual presentation.
The main track is a disappointing Dolby Digital 2.0 mix. It cannot help but be disappointing due to its limited range and lack of depth. Of course the vocals are generally quite well represented, coming clearly from your frontal array, but the quirky soundtrack – that certainly does well to play to the more comedic elements of the movie – is given limited dynamics. Effects are also restricted and do not play as central a role to the aural proceedings as they should. If you turn the volume up and shift your speaker set-up, you can still perfectly enjoy the movie but you do notice the complete lack of activity from the rears, clearly proving that 5.1 or 6.1 would have been a better choice. The English subtitles are not fantastic but are far from the worst that I have come across, only occasionally needing further translation.
We have a few extras to round off the disc – a theatrical trailer, the music video to the barely tolerable HK ballad ‘I Believe’, a brief photo gallery and succinct cast and crew filmographies. Although it does not sound like a great deal, it is no worse than one of those 2-disc special editions with a whole disc of extra features that simply has no value because of a lack of English subtitles. By the way, this is the Director’s Cut of My Sassy Girl, but since I have not seen the original I cannot comment on what differences there are. I suspect that, given it has a two-hours-and-seventeen-minutes runtime, the additions are fairly substantial.
My Sassy Girl is superb, fun and feel-good. It is a perfect combination of genres in a way that few Western equivalents have managed to juggle so successfully - and it stars Ji-Hyun Jun. The video is pretty damn good and whilst the audio is distinctly disappointing, the extras round the package off in a nice enough way to make it tempting. It is without a doubt a worthy rental and if you liked She’s on Duty or more obviously Windstruck, then given My Sassy Girl’s superiority, I would recommend picking this up right away.
You can purchase this title for $13.99 from Yes Asia.
Review by Casimir Harlow
Not suitable for children
Release Date: 31st July 2003
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 Korean
Subtitles: Chinese, English
Extras: Theatrical Trailer, Music Video, Photo Gallery, Cast and Crew Filmographies
Easter Egg: No
Director: Jae-Young Gwak
Cast: Ji-Hyun Jun, Tae-Hyun Cha
Length: 137 minutes
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