Salut D'Amour 장수상회(2015) Korean Movie Review: Be cautious of ambitions

Salut D'Amour 장수상회(2015)  Review: 

Be cautious of ambitions

Keywords:#장수상회 #SalutDAmour #Kmovie #KoreanMovie #Review #KangJeGyu #ParkGeunHyung #YounYuhJung #ChoJinWoong #HanJiMin



Hello. This is Prof. AKIA who talks Korean Movies. This is the review of Salut D'Amour 장수상회(2015). I have a question.

Introduction

What comes to mind when you think about Korean movies?

Old boy

In foreign markets, thrillers or noir movies such as 2003’s “Old boy” and 2010’s “I Saw the Devil” would be the answer to this question. However, this is not particularly true for the home market here. Those movies in Korea  , as they are in places like America, are more niche art-house movies that somehow sparked the public’s interest.

However, lighting does not strike that frequently.

It is very rare that what grabs the interest of foreign Cinephiles do the same for main-stream movie goers in Korea also.

In fact, even in the Korean box office, what garners interest is the movie genres is what you would expect to do the same in Hollywood but the Hollywood of the early 90s. This includes romantic comedies, goofy comedies, cop action and comedies. However, there is another undervalued movie genre that has been very important to the Korean box office.

I am talking about the “Romance” Movies.

Cheesy, sappy, sentimental mush “Romance” Movies have been the back bone movie genre of the Korean movie industry since its mid-90s renascence.  Almost every year, there was at least one huge hit in this genre.

However, recently, this genre has been on a downhill trajectory as the Korean movie industry is in flux and is lost in the wilderness looking for a future direction. A result, there is a strong resurgence of 60s/70s nostalgia throughout Korean movie industry.  “Romance” Movies are no exception to this cultural trend.

“Salut D'Amour” or 장수상회(2015) can be said to be the result of this  nostalgia.


The Elevator Pitch

How would I describe “Salut D'Amour or 장수상회”?


If you have seen a few Korean “Romance” Movies, you would say that they are rather close to “Nicholas Sparks” brand of movies but without the southern charm, the Caucasian focus, and obsession about large bodies of water.  


Salut D'Amour” is mostly a standard movie in this genre but with a few rather odd additions. I would describe it as …

The Elder citizen portion of Nicholas Sparks’ The Note Book (2014) meets “Shutter Island” (2010) starring Leonardo DiCaprio.



This movie is one of those stories romance writers do when they want to do something more challenging but do not want to actually put effort into it. So…

You get  movies like Nicholas Sparks’ Safe Haven (2013)


The Plot
The movie is centered on this cranky “get off my lawn” Old man who lives alone. Every day he wakes up, makes breakfast, goes to work at the local supermarket while being cranky to everyone. It seems that the only friend he has is his old Korean marine buddy who also seems to be alone and is missing not so few marble upstairs.

One day, an Elder lady with her grown up daughter moves in across the street and the Old man takes an interested in her. Thus, with the help of the people around him, the wacky people, the Old man succeed in creating your standard “Meet cute” scene and the dating montage scenes follows.  

Definition
            Meet cute
a scene in film, television, etc. in which a future romantic couple meets for the first time in a way that is considered adorable, entertaining, or amusing.[1] The term has existed since at least the early 1940s.
This type of scene is a staple of romantic comedies, commonly involving contrived, unusual, or comic circumstances. The technique creates an artificial situation to bring together characters in a theoretically entertaining manner. Frequently, the meet-cute leads to a humorous clash of personalities or beliefs, embarrassing situations, or comical misunderstandings that further drive the plot.
---wikipedia


This is all your standard romance stuff only with older couples dating that can be seen in movies such as Hope Springs (2012), Something's Gotta Give (2003), Last Chance Harvey (2009), and Grumpy Old Men (1993).

However, there are some weird tidbits scattered here and there which only kicks in in the latter parts of the movie. This is where the “Shutter Island” (2010) angle comes into play that I will not totally spoil.
Shutter Island” (2010)


The Limits of Standard Romance Movies
In regards to its standard “Nicholas Sparks” elements, there is nothing wrong with “Salut D'Amour” (2015). It is very competently “Nicholas Sparks” like! The Elder love bird couple, in all their mature glory, are cute and have above standard chemistry between them. It does not hurt that “Park Geun-Hyung” (박근형)and “Youn Yuh-Jung” (윤여정), who play them, have resumes covering almost half a century in both movies and TV.

They know what they are doing!


I could say that they are the Robert De Niro and Diane Keaton of Korean movies. As a side note, I think the two Hollywood thespians starred in a movie called “The Big Wedding” back in 2013. Did not see that movie but I heard it was not great.

Back to “Salut D'Amour”

The Cast

Most of the supporting characters are played by character actors I have seen around. While no one really steals the movie, they are interesting enough to provide a distraction when the leads are not together.

So, “SalutD'Amour” (2015) seems like a decent enough movie for its genre.

It has a good leading couple.
It has decent supporting characters.
The story seems to have all of the cliché element list items checked off.

Many movie creators have asked the question “What else can you do? “ and answered “nothing much”. “Salut D'Amour” (2015) is more ambitious which is the problem. It says “we can add a big twist in the middle of the movie that changes what the movie is!”

Romance movies as a rule are very formulaic and they are so for a reason. It is a “lean and mean” movie genre. It knows what its audience wants and is going to delivery it and nothing more! As a result, the story has just enough structural support to not topple over. This means that it is very difficult to add on other stuff to it without having it toppling over. And..

“Salut D'Amour” (2015) topples over!

It cannot really handle the mid-movie shift caused by the twist since it is really overly elaborate and convoluted. As a result, the two parts of the movie do not stick together well. If the movie was handled less like a standard “Romance” movie, there was a slim possibility that it would work.

director Kang Je-Gyu 

However, the director Kang Je-Gyu (강제) is not known for subtlety. He directed “My Way “(2011), “Taegukgi “ (2004), and “Shiri” (1999). While this is his first outright “Romance” movie, all his movies seemed to have a strong cheesy romance element to them. He brings this broad touch to “Salut D'Amour” (2015) also. What I mean is that the first half of the movie is too standard a romance movie that it fails to lay the foundation for the twist at the end.

Yes, there are a few things here and there but they are all random and insignificant.


It is like what happened in Nicholas Sparks’ “Safe Haven” (2013).Spoilers! For the whole movie it was standard romance movie and then there is a ghost in the last scene.

Why?

At least, it does not really change the whole movie like in the case of “Salut D'Amour” (2015).


Conclusions
Salut D'Amour(2015) is standard Korean Romance movie but with the elderly as the focus. It is a gimmick that is interesting enough on its own. It has good performances and is well shot for a movie in this movie genre. At the same time, it is very blunt. You can see from a mile away how and when the movie is going to try to manipulate your emotions. In other words, if you are well suited for Romance movies especially of the Korean variety, you may like it.

However, you will also have to be very forgiving of its ambition with clay feet.  The mid-movie twist is overly convoluted and thus it has to utilize a whole series of scenes to just explain what has been going on as if it was a heist movie. And this actually just enlarges the holes in the plot. The handling of the story is just too blunt.

I cannot really get over this!

Many Korean drama lovers, in contrast, may not have this problem considering that many of those shows are far more convoluted then this movie. As a side note, the Korean title can be translated to “Jang-su” Market. This is actually even a less relevant to the plot title than the one for “International market/ Ode To My Father”. I just dislike the titling practices of Korean movies.

I give this movie a grade of a C.

Score: C or 4.5/10







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