Saturday, August 3, 2013

KOFFIA 2013 Review: Whatcha Wearin'? / 나의 P.S. 파트너

How climactic is a climax if it’s formulaic? Refreshingly adult and with an openness often frowned upon in Korean culture, 'Whatcha Wearin'?' is a rom-com specifically designed to tease. You have every saccharine detail you’re expecting of the genre - a handsome lead and a beautiful damsel in distress, the emotional twists and turns and the almost always, happily-ever-after. However director Byun Sung-Hyun serves up romance, raunch and comedy in this film that tinkers with the boy-meets-girl formula.

The film’s lead couple both long for a real, human connection. Male lead Hyun-seung (Ji Sung) is nursing a broken heart and female lead Yun-jung  (Kim Ah-joong) is disenchanted with a boyfriend whom she has been with for five years. Fate brings the two together through a misdial of a single digit. Yun-jung initiates a conversation of suggestive banter and moans here and there, not knowing that Hyun-seung has answered and not her boyfriend. Sexually frustrated Hyun-seung responds excitedly, only to Yun-jung’s horror as she realises her mistake and hangs up.

Somewhat impressed at her oratory skills, Hyun-seung dials the number of the “mystery lady phone sex caller”. Here convention takes the throne and it isn’t long that the phone calls become more and the initially antagonistic two start forming a relationship over their apparent lack of skills in love.

Talking openly about sex in Korea today is still not commonplace and often taboo however director Byun Sung-Hyun does not shy away but rather explores urban characters who are both sexy and unashamed of their sexual desires. Hyun-seung and Yun-jung become 3D in their sexuality. From the phone sex sessions, the bare flesh and the vulgarities, the film does not lack in sex. It is however not just for the titillation of the audience but also perhaps, a suggestion that love is ultimately ‘connected’ to sex.

Hyun-seung and Yun-jung finally meet and the sparks fly! We watch and are hungry for what is promising to be an explosive sex scene but director Byun Sung-Hyun delivers us an anti-climax in the best possible way. They’re half naked, tossing and turning with passion but something just doesn’t feel right. Instead the film’s most impressive and tender scene finds the two on opposite sides of their love-motel bed, facing the walls and having a conversation on their phones rather than actually talking face to face. Your rom-com heart is waiting to be tenderised and is it here that Byun Sung-Hyun serves it best. Hanging up, Hyun-seung crawls into the bed and after having “fixed” their “connection” the two kiss and proceed to sleep with each other. The fade here is just perfect, suggestive but also quite succinct. Shot in a gentle palette of greens and blues the film avoids the colour cliché often associated with passion, red.

From this point in the film we see everything that we would expect to see: the emotional doldrums, fate-tearing-boy-and-girl-apart and the ultimate declaration of love - Hyun-seung gatecrashes Yun-jung wedding with a lovesong about what’s in her panties. But just as we readily await happily-ever-after, the anti-climax of the female lead’s pronouncement that she no longer believes in the words “I love you” has you gripping onto your shattering heart. Both leads have had their desires realised only to become disappointed. The question of "what does one really want in Love?" comes to mind.

Byun Sung-Hyun plays with convention in Watcha Wearin’? to the very end. Using our expectations as anti-climaxes that lead to the film’s ultimate climax, the finale - another racy phone call – see us the audience wait with bated breath for a promise of happy-ever-after but instead Hyun-seung asks Yun-jung with a lusty smile across, what is she wearing!!? Leaving the conclusion a suggestive suggestion.

By Genesis Mansilongan

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