I stumbled upon the Korean film White Valentine (Hwaiteu ballenta-in, 1999) yesterday while desultorily scrolling through the selection of Asian movies on the streaming site Viki.com.
Beautiful Jun Ji-hyun
What grabbed my attention was the name of the movie.
No serious movie buff would scroll past an alluring title like White Valentine without pausing, right?
Ha ha ha, you believed that?
Truth be said, Jun Ji-hyun is the reason I watched this lovely Korean movie.
White Valentine is the film that – as any Korean movie fan with the slightest hint of a libido will know – marked the debut of the divinely beautiful, talented South Korean actress and my inamorata Jun Ji-hyun. I can dream, can’t I? 😉
One of the best known actresses in South Korea today, Jun Ji-hyun, after White Valentine, went on to star in the highly successful My Sassy Girl (2001), the not-so-successful Daisy (2006) and several other films including the action thriller Berlin File (2013) I watched earlier this year when it debuted in theatres in the U.S.
Believe me, God built a special mold to create Jun Ji-hyun!
Set in a small village/town in the South Korean hinterland, White Valentine is directed by Yun-ho Yang based on the script by Lee Eun-kyeong.
At its core, White Valentine is a romance, albeit a very untraditional one.
Jun Ji-hyun plays Kim Jeong Ming, the 20-year-old granddaughter of a bookstore owner.
Her parents have died several years back and she lives with her grandpa in the apartment above the book store.
A lonely girl with a keen interest in drawing, Kim Jeong Ming while in school used to write letters to soldiers serving in the army, all the while pretending to be a grownup teacher.
Kim Jeong Ming has since left school, and reluctantly helping her grumpy grandfather at the bookstore while pursuing her passion as an artist.
The pace of this movie is unhurried, in tune with its setting in a small town.
To Kim Jeong’s village comes a young man with a strange habit of taking in injured birds and healing them.
The young man is grieving over the loss of his lover in a car accident.
Inevitably, the paths of Kim Jeong Min and the “Bird Man” cross thanks to a young white pigeon.
In White Valentine, love and loss are both handled in a subtle manner with none of the garish excesses one is subjected to in most Bollywood or Hollywood films.
A mere 17 when she starred in the movie, Jun Ji-hyun is a natural in front of the camera.
But it’s not just Jun Ji-hyun who shines in the film.
Lesser characters like her grandpa and her clumsy beau too have a charm of their own.
It’s one of the tragedies of the movie business that fine ‘side’ actors languish in obscurity since the limelight is focused only on heroes and heroines.
The photography is remarkable despite few closeup shots in the movie.
Overall visual effect is strong and extremely pleasing.
You might feel a bit disappointed with the absence of a neat ending to the movie.
But since when does life always have neat endings?
White Valentine is one of those rare movies where you feel you’re a silent bystander to events happening around you.