Asako in Ruby Shoes
"I've already watched it three times, and I can tell it will get many more plays in the future."
Asako in Ruby Shoes (2000)
Director: E J-Yong
Producer: Koo Bon-Han, Tsuchida Masaki, Iwata Hitoshi
Cast: Lee Jeong-Jae, Misato Dachibana, Kim Gumija, Kim Min-Hee, Ren Osugi
Running Time: 115 min.
Plot: See review below.
Availability: This title is available at HKflix.com
MIGHTY PEKING MAN'S REVIEW: Meet U-in (Lee Jung-jae of "Il Mare"), a lonely misfit in his late 20's. His life in Korea is a bore and his community-based job is tedious. When U-in is not working, he spends the majority of his free time alone or in front of his computer searching for nude chick-pix on the internet. The repeated viewing of adult sites take an ultimate toll on U-in when he decides he wants a woman for himself. One day, U-in notices an attractive girl (Kim Min-Hee) who happens to work in the same building as he does. Desperate but unexperienced, he confronts the woman and tries to start a conversation with her, but she ends up blowing him off. After numerous attempts to win her affection, she still gives him the cold shoulder. He finally takes a break from the rejection and it's back to the nude chick-pix on the internet. U-in's life slowly changes when he comes across a website called "Asako in Ruby Shoes", a live-cam modeling site that features a girl named Asako, a face that U-in falls instantly in love with.
Hundreds and hundreds of miles away in Japan is Aya, a young woman with no sense of direction and a lonely, out-of-place mind. Like U-in, her life is also arid. Emotionally, she sets herself free from dealing with her peculiar family every chance she gets. Even though she's visually appealing to everyday society, she lessens herself by hanging out in shady pubs with her freakish friend. Aya is suicidal and practices the act by by forcing herself to stop breathing. The thought suicide is put on hold, but never dropped, when she becomes mysteriously obsessed with a pair of shoes she purchases. To further escape the reality of her spiritless life, Aya soon takes up an odd job as a website model. Little does she know, her presence on the website does more than just entertain a certain web-surfer hundreds of miles away.
Sad but true, there's a "U-in" and "Aya" in all of us. We've all had those lonely nights where we longed for affection, but it was nowhere to be found. We've also had those unhappy days, weeks, or months when we wished we could stop breathing by choice. That's the essence of "Asako in Ruby Shoes", it has the ability to not only to entertain the viewer, but to also reference and reflect the more downbeat situations of our own lives. Not since Wong Kar-Wai's "Chungking Express" has there been a movie that has moved me this much.
"Asako in Ruby Shoes" is not only a magnificent piece of cinema, it's also a beautiful avant-garde film filled with musing visuals, bright and airy cinematography and a mostly-serene soundtrack (including the not so-serene theme song from Jimmy Wang Yu's "Man from Hong Kong" - how cool is that?). The actors and actresses all play their parts like gold-winning champs, especially Lee Jung-jae who makes a very-believable geek. It blends the romance, comedy, and melodramatic genres; as well as that in-between flair that gives it that nice independent touch.
Although there have been several films that explore the possibility of two people, from two different locations meeting by chance (ie "Comrades: Almost a Love Story", "My Sassy Girl"); "Asako in Ruby Shoes" puts a new spin on on this issue by updating it with today's internet technology. The outcome is fresh, outstanding, and very believable.
Obviously, I highly recommended this film.
MIGHTY PEKING MAN'S RATING: 9/10
MLINDBER'S REVIEW: Asako in Ruby Shoes is another one of those great films from Korea in a genre you'd normally hate. You know the type.
The movie is about a guy named U-in (Lee Jung-jae) from Korea, how much of a loser he is, and how much he longs for release from his dull life. He works in some kind of community bureau, doing dull work like making identification cards and handing out flyers. He also fancies himself a connoisseur of women (he's a pervert), and soon has himself obsessed with an online model from Japan. Aya (Misato Tachibana) is equally distraught, and is adamant on killing herself because she's run out of ideas on how to lead a normal life. She clings to her life even though she knows it has very little value, purchasing expensive shoes, and planning to kill herself (by holding her breath, as her grandfather did before her) on an international flight. She thus turns to a job in internet modeling, allowing her to enter U-in's life through the computer.
The film is billed as some kind of romance, but it has spurts of absurd comedic situations, and very refreshing moments of humanity. It structures itself after the typical Korean melodrama, with lots of realism fused with moments of unexplainable, yet perfectly motivated and propagated stylism. Moments occur in the movie that definitely feel set up, but the main flow of the story works so well with the overarching themes of dejection and a lack of satisfaction of life. The film achieves a great balance, and there are so many sequences in it that are just set up brilliantly by the director/writer (E J Young). The only confusing plot point is the numb finger of the main character. It never seems to be resolved. The acting, though, was very good and completely spot-on. Lee Jung-jae gave an excellent, loser-riden performance. He seems to have the "innocence" and boy-like attitude a lonely twenty-something would seemingly have. Misato Tachibana is very charming and likeable, exerting again an innocence that one would expect from one in her situation.
Asako in Ruby Shoes is such a great film. It works on almost every angle it pursued. I would not hesitate recommending this to anyone. I've already watched it three times, and I can tell it will get many more plays in the future.
MLINDBER'S RATING: 9/10