Sweet and Sour

Vampire Owl: I see that they are now exploring two shades of life.

Vampire Bat: Life has millions of shades as of now, towards infinity.

Vampire Owl: There are not many shades for the undead.

Vampire Bat: We have stayed in the grey, not light or dark, not sweet and sour area.

Vampire Owl: Well, humans do consider us to be very much evil.

Vampire Bat: You have never really cared for their opinions.

Vampire Owl: If they are going to cross over to our realm, we will have to care.

Vampire Bat: Nobody can come through the portal without identification. They shall meet their doom even if they manage to do so.

Vampire Owl: Well, you cannot be sure about humans and evil – both always find a way to spread the terror.

Vampire Bat: Evil shall spread, but random humans crossing the portal are the least of our worries. An army of the dead led by the lich queen should worry us more. It would give even Uncle Dracula a jolt.

[Gets a chocolate cake and three cups of Thekkady tea].

What is the movie about? :: Jang-Hyuk (Lee Woo-je) is hospitalized due to Hepatitis B, and his own relatives as well as parents keep away from him. They keep their masks and glvoes at all times and makes him very uncomfortable. A nurse Da-eun (Chae Soo-bin) ignores the advice of others and takes good care of him. Soon, they become close, and spends some time time together after he saves her from being caught for smoking. She is annoyed that she has to work all the time, and often eats with him or falls asleep on his bed. He helps her to take a nap in his space while setting a timer. Jang-Hyuk is unhappy that he has to be in bed at a time right after he got a permanent job, but the presence of Da-eun makes him feel better. Even though he feels that she the two are really close, the time for his discharge is almost there, and Da-eun seems to be getting distant from him. On the day on which he leaves, his favourite nurse is nowhere to be found, and his friends and family returns to him as he is now cured. His friends also tells him that people like him won’t be able to get beautiful girls like her as girlfriends.

So, what happens with the events here as we just keep looking? :: He goes back to the hospital and find the first part of her number, and calls a good number of phone numbers until he finally finds that it is her on the other side. She invites him to come to her home, and he stays with her for the night – he spends the night repairing the broken lamps and preparing breakfast. The two seem to be attracted to each other, and after they go on a trip to Jeju Island together. He decides that he would lose weight and in that way, they can wear similar clothing and look cuter together. A slim Jang-Hyuk (Jang Ki-yong) comes into the picture soon. As he has been a hard working engineer, he is intimated by his superior that he will be sent to a big firm in Seoul where he will have some grand opportunities with chances to earn more. This means that he will have to travel from Incheon to Seoul so that the couple can still be together. But when he reaches there, he discovers that there is another candidate for the permanent post, and he would not be assured about holding the position because she is tough competition.

And how does life go on with the new changes :: The other candidate for the permanent post, Bo-yeong (Krystal Jung), seems to be always trying to make him look worse than her. But when Bo-yeong comes up with a new bridge design, Jang-Hyuk comes up with a critical flaw in the design. She is forced to sort it out with him. Initially, he is happy about her not able to solve the problem, and thus not able to go home. Soon enough, he takes pity on her, and helps her in solving the problem – the two begin to have a bond, and with their success, gets more projects to work together. The relationship between Jang-Hyuk and Da-eun seems to be more strained though, as both of them have to work late, and traveling all the way between the two cities in the heavy traffic is even more strained. He arrives late, and even though he does not come home every day anymore, shows less interested in Da-eun. He even refuses to do the small things at home. Soon, it turns out that Da-eun is pregnant, and he wishes to spend more time with her, but it also seems near impossible. Then it seems that he has feelings for Bo-yeong. Life becomes more complicated for all of them.

The defence of Sweet and Sour :: Chae Soo-bin raises the level of this movie with her performance, and it can be seen that she is always one step ahead – it becomes clear by the end of the film. The cuteness factor also serves well towards the performance, and the initial moments at the hospital are so good. Krystal Jung and Jang Ki-yong plays the other two main characters, and their work also contributes well here – the combination scenes at the office are very much interesting; there is some humour related to that too. I am seeing all these three main performers in any movie for the first time. Lee Woo-je, despite lesser screen space, adds some humour to the movie early too, along with a feel-good factor – the early incidents featuring him are very relevant to how the movie ends. The movie is more drama and less romance, and it is evident after half an hour into the proceedings itself. It has to be best appreciated for how it brings the twist in the end, how it brings everything together to have a feel-good even within break-up – a little bit of tampering with the narrative helps it to achieve the same with efficiency.

Positives and negatives :: The movie nicely move away from the cliché which would have been expected with this movie. As things come around, the audience is reminded of the situations when work and family are not easy to manage together. With the stress that comes as the result of work, and the desire to reach newer heights as part of the job, the relationships are very much destroyed with ease as shown here. The endless work and no appreciation is no stranger to any of us even in India – as it has been evident for years, the situation of nurses never got to be any better, despite the service that they have provided during the corona virus pandemic and beyond. The movie keeps reminding us about the every day problems which become part of relationships. The physical exhaustion as part of a competitive world is something that would feel real for almost everyone; unless you are a politician who can get whatever is needed with least work. The movie should have still focused on the romance as much as the drama. There are also moments when the film seems to repeat things, and does a little extra when not needed. People who missed the first few minutes will also fail to catch up with the finish.

How it finishes :: Sweet and Sour is the romantic drama with a twist that makes us feel that it is more than just the usual drama of life – yet, it is as close to reality as it can be. The last fifteen minutes or so becomes the big finish that elevates the movie. It serves as a reminder to what can happen when more importance is given to things other than relationships. Yet, in a world which seeks success in work for the definition of an ideal person, especially men, you just cannot stop working as if your life depends on it. You will never stop thinking about how the world has transformed, and about the difficulties to battle the competition, and still be available to do anything other than work. It is the curse that has come across the profit-seeking world, which never stops asking for more; profits matter more than lives, and there are not many things that can substitute money in a world which favors nothing over a huge bank balance. The idea that simple romantic drama can bring something different makes us think a lot about the possibilities that we can have even in a realistic world. The reality of romance strikes hard.

Release date: 4th July 2021 (Netflix)
Running time: 101 minutes
Directed by: Lee Gye-byeok
Starring: Jang Ki-yong, Chae Soo-bin, Krystal Jung, Lee Woo-je, Choi Hwan-yi, Shin Joon-hang, Park Chul-min, Yeo Min-joo, Park Ji-hoon, Yoon Byung-hee, Lee Geung-young, Yoo Sun, Choi-hyeong, Kim Mi-hye, Ahn Gil-kang, Kim Mi-kyung

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

The Story of 90 Coins

Vampire Owl: I have to say that this title has immediately caught my attention.

Vampire Bat: It is not natural for such a thing to happen for you considering the fact that this is a short-film.

Vampire Owl: I have loved more short-films these days than any other. So, there is a certain vision coming to me.

Vampire Bat: So, you will be watching more short-films?

Vampire Owl: I don’t see why not, as you have been writing about so many. I have to keep up.

Vampire Bat: So, you are coming up against the realization that short-films are more worth the time, right?

Vampire Owl: Yes, I have gotten fine results with the last few which I watched.

Vampire Bat: Also, it is for everyone, and not limited by the boundaries, as it is available online.

Vampire Owl: And available in so many language, with English subtitles.

Vampire Bat: The only thing which stops us from watching a short-film is we ourselves.

[Gets some kuzhalappam and three cups of elaichi tea].

What is the movie about? :: The movie begins with Wang Yuyang (Dongjun Han) telling Chen Wen (Zhuang Zhiqi) to be with him forever. When she doesn’t agree to the same, and shows her doubts about the future of the relationship, he asks her to give him ninety days to prove her love towards her. Every night, when they left each other, he would give her a coin, and if she rejects his proposal after those ninety days, they would take the cash to the stall where they had first met, have some drinks and bid adieu to each other, hoping not to meet again – that would be the end. Otherwise, they are going to use it for the wedding purposes, according to him. Even though she does fall in love with him, her first priority is to have a house in the city. She also has her career in front of her, and marriage doesn’t come at the top of the list at the moment.

So, what happens next? :: Then there is a chance for her to go to Paris, which is quite the perfect place to continue her fashion designing work. The city which has been commonly referred to as the fashion capital of the world just seemed to have endless opportunities for her. Andre (Jose Acosta), her French co-worker is also asking her regularly to join him on the trip to France, and see how far she can go with her skills in the field. They have their own complications in the relation in between, and it remains to be seen, if they can stand the factors of real life when going through their tale of love. It comes to that point when the relationship was going to be no more – but the promise of ninety days remain. Will they be able to go through those days which are reflected in each coin? Is it love or is it the job that gets the upper hand in the end?

The defence of The Story of 90 Coins :: The movie is just so beautiful to watch – there are those wonderful shots, and there are also beautiful people working in it. Along with the same, the performances are also too good that we feel the reflection of the emotions of the two protagonists. The emotional effect that this movie brings is more than what some of those highly appreciated romantic flicks lasting two and half hours has brought us. We can take the example of two Malayalam movies which are considered top love stories – Ennu Ninte Moideen and Annayum Rasoolum. While the former was entertaining, it dragged itself to almost three hours, with moments which didn’t need to be there. The former also had a run-time close to three hours and had more drag than material. These two, the most overrated love stories don’t stand a chance against a nine minute short-film, and there lies the beauty of The Story of 90 Coins.

Soul exploration 1: Love and promises made :: We see so many movies with promises of love being made. Lets take the example of another overrated movie, Neelakasham Pachakadal Chuvanna Bhoomi – it only has the glorification of our youth who can’t make a good promise and stick to it, and as people don’t usually stick to promises they liked it. The Story of 90 Coins is for the kind of people who stick to those promises made in love, like the characters in the movie Anarkali. Unlike what a lot of youth from a spoilt generation thinks, love is not love when it finds deviation – falling in love is a commitment, and whether it is before or after marriage, it takes real courage, faithfulness and trust to stand with the person you love. With love, comes a promise, and it is about this promise that The Story of 90 Coins talks about. Good men and women keep it, and won’t let it become a random memory which comes into mind later.

Soul exploration 2: Love and love only :: There will be other things like work and people will keep looking for job satisfaction – unfortunately, in a terrible modern world, it is something that people will use to judge you and society will even judge your partner on the same. There will always be those offers to make you feel successful, but it is not inside that cabin or the cubicle that you find what matters the most – it is in in front of your beloved, in her words, and in her arms. As we look at a world affected terribly by modernity, we feel so much less of love – they turns into robots, and they divide us into factions. But there will be a day when we realize that love matters – it will be not that creepy new generation love made in the name of modern love which has no commitment and just infatuation and lust. Love will be love only when it is worth to be called by arranging those four letters in the right way in heart, and never stepping back from those feelings of oneness.

How it finishes :: There are lots of dialogues in this movie which are certain to stay with you. The process of making you feel the love begins from the first few seconds itself, and there are those amazing words in the end, which are sure to give your emotional side and belief in true love a big push. It is shameful that we have more of “theppu” short-films here rather than true love stories – we are the industry which had so many of real love tales which became big hits in the past, and we struggle to make more of the same kind even as short-films. It is during those times that this Chinese short-film from Michael Wong becomes a very significant lesson. This is a movie which has won more than fifty accolades from different international film festivals, and it is the director’s short-film debut. After watching this The Story of 90 Coins, I hope that he will make a lot more of similar interesting flicks.

Release date: 28th July 2016
Running time: 97 minutes
Directed by: Michael Wong
Starring: Jose Acosta, Dongjun Han, Zhuang Zhiqi

Watch The Story of 90 Coins here:

Other short-films of interest: Mangalyam Thanthunanena, Red Jacket, Grace Villa, Culprit, AUFDRUCK, The Shaman.

@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Specials: Remake Saga

temporary

*With two of the four remakes of Drishyam still pending and scheduled to release next month, I take this opportunity to remember a few of the Hindi movies which were remakes from Malayalam, with most of the better known ones from Priyadarshan. So, as we wait for the release of the much awaited movie remakes starring Kamal Haasan and Ajay Devgan, let us have a look at one of those remakes. Even though a good number of them worked in both languages, here I choose a movie which still remains a much loved title in Malayalam, but the same can’t be said about its Hindi remake. Sanmanassullavarkku Samadhanam and Yeh Teraa Ghar Yeh Meraa Ghar are the two movies I am writing about.

Even though the setting look different, they are the same with the situations in both movies. Actually, the protagonist enters the scene earlier in the case of the Hindi version. The sequences do look exactly the same though, beginning with the eviction notice and going on with talks about the problems of the house, related to the marriage of the female family members and the other financial problems which have been created and the chances of any of the troubles getting over. These things actually do remain the same everywhere even though the cultural differences and changes in the tones of characters according to the language can also be seen.

The Malayalam version has better known actors playing the supporting roles, and as the scene shifts to the city, the changes are more easily visible – both cities are nowhere close to being similar in the soul as each has its own identity. You can see that from the way characters interact and even from the looks of the building which the protagonist owns. There is a gap of fifteen years between the movies and the changes are clearly seen; so are the differences in language and culture. This raises the question if this remake would have worked better if done a few years ago and with even less similarities with the original. The good thing about the remakes of Drishyam is that the gap between the original and the last released remake won’t be more than two years.

The Malayalam version also had Mohanlal who is a big difference between the two versions – it would have been easier to guess though. Even with some dialogues which seems to be exactly translated with such clarity like using a good translating software, there is no match for that time period which was like the golden age of Malayalam cinema. The version is also longer at the beginning stages; if you check at 35 minutes of the Malayalam version, the Hindi version has only reached 29 minutes or slightly shorter with the story reaching the same point. But you won’t feel that so much time has passed, and it is the skill of the legendary actor to keep the audience interested, and things are closer to the life of the 1980s. Then in the end, the Hindi version gets longer by around 40 minutes.

The slight changes occur when the run-time gets to half an hour with new characters included as they lead to some more situations; those having no place in the original. The Malayalam original also has fun right through it, even though the Hindi remake has more ups and down with its progress, and makes less sense. Sreenivasan was that big boost to the original that the remake misses despite the presence of Paresh Rawal. He comes with that hilarious performance in a song which can never be matched. The jokes become less effective as the original was so simple and right out of the heart. The veteran actor Thilakan was another big positive along with the songs.

The extra sequences that the Hindi version adds nothing good to the movie, as some of them actually remind the viewers of older Malayalam movies like Shubhayathra, Minnaram, Chandralekha and Vandanam, which might have been added to bring some extra humour. Chandralekha-inspired money lending sequence is rather too ineffective in this movie unlike it was in the Malayalam movie. This actually means that the Malayalam version gets ahead and now the remake from Bollywood is lagging. Releasing too late, the remake had to do something special, and not add things from other movies. There was also the social satire element of the Malayalam version which doesn’t become that effective here.

Hera Pheri was actually that remake of Ramji Rao Speaking which did some justice to the original. I liked how it worked with Garam Masala (Boeing Boeing), Hungama (Poochakkoru Mookkuthi), Dhol (In Harihar Nagar) and Hulchul (Godfather) even though, in almost every case, the original scores better. But here, even with the jokes, the effect is less, as Yeh Teraa Ghar Yeh Meraa Ghar doesn’t do the same for Sanmanassullavarkku Samadhanam even though it should still be okay for those who haven’t watched the original or the scenes from other Malayalam movies. I don’t have much of a positive opinion about Bodyguard and its remakes though. About the nonsense movie Pokkiri Raja and its remake Boss, there is no need for any opinion. The ratings are very low for our movie here, but this remake isn’t that terrible as it shows, when we think about those movies and compare. But with Drishyam, there seems to be some very nice effort put in there made, and you will know if you have watched the trailers. I will be watching both the remakes, and I really hope that they do justice to the original – if they do, it is going to be awesome!

@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.