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Through a misunderstanding, Chul-su (Lee) arrives on the doorstep of Chun-hie (Shim). Having nowhere else to go, he forces her to allow him to stay until they can contact their mutual friend to solve the problem. Their initial contempt for each other gradually softens, but they cannot bring themselves to have a full understanding of the other. Written by
Thomas Giammarco <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The Art Museum by the Zoo is a romantic comedy from Corea that's actually quite subtle and doesn't try for maximum punch like many of its counterparts, but attempts to tell the story somewhat naturally.
The setup is a little complicated, as a man takes leave from army service to visit his girlfriend, returning to their apartment only to find that another woman is living there! Stunned and shocked he gets the stranger, who is a would-be screenwriter, to help him meet up with his lost love, only to discover that she loves another (not a big surprise at all). So left without anywhere to go and having used all his money to pay the writer's rent (which she couldn't afford), they end up moving in together for the remainder of his leave.
Of course, you have clashing personalities: the tidy rigid pessimistic man and the messy wandering idealistic woman, which helps to set up the comedy. Now the comedy itself isn't a belly-laugh-type comedy. Rather, it just sets up situations where these two have to interact and because of how the characters are written, conflict naturally occurs.
In the meantime, they end up working on the screenplay together and through this screenplay, which plays out as a movie in a movie starring their respective love interests, we get to see the progress of their own relationship. There's no surprises here. The aesthetic is warm and gentle, with a look that appears to be gained through a yellow filter. There's something a little unearthly about the overall direction, but I found it likable enough.
Of course, in the end, this piece is rather unsurprising and straightforward and while its a far stretch for what normally occurs in Corean cinema, in itself, it's not exactly impressive. And the film, with its gentle pacing and rather simple story threatens to be a little forgettable as well, but having little quirks like the movie within the movie helps to distinguish it from its more formulaic peers. All the same, I find it hard to say that this is anything special.
I have to say that I somewhat enjoyed this piece. I certainly didn't find myself disliking it, but at the same time, I wasn't particularly impressed. I think that this might be a nice change of pace for those who like romantic comedies but have been inundated by the same old formulas time and time again and want something quieter and more gentle. It's certainly not a bad film, but unlike the characters in the story, the movie didn't win my heart. 6/10.
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