The San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival kicked off last
night to a packed house at the Castro Theater. A series of all-in-all
pretty decent introductions lasted a bit too long – highlighted of
course by some lady from Comcast repeatedly calling her iPhone an iPod
and encouraging everyone to use it to register on the CAAM (Center for
Asian American Media
) website. Sponsors satisfied and audience
sufficiently primed, director Lee Yoon-ki took the podium with some
delightfully sparse rhetoric reminiscent of the beloved “Domo Arigato
Mr. Roboto” guy at the Oscars (Best Oscar speech of all time), to
introduce his film, My Dear Enemy.

My Dear Enemy is equal parts
classic Hollywood homage, neon-streets-and-rainy-days city flick, and
carefully carefree love story. It firmly pins the charming, boyish
Byeong-woon (Ha Jung-woo) to the solemn Hee-su’s (Jeon Do-yeon)
modestly stylish coat pocket. Together they embark on a one-day journey
through Seoul’s understated neighborhoods trying to collect the ?3500
he once borrowed then lost.

In the 1940’s, Cary Grant could
walk into a ball and the whole women’s world would start baiting their
reels. When you’re starring in a movie at an international film
festival, you have to break out the oars for a bit. After 45 minutes of
paddling, Ha Jung-woo (who can also play an excruciatingly calm
torturer in The Chaser, playing tonight at the Castro) does a number on everyone’s affection. When his
arm-dangling, window-whistling immaturity is in full force, it’s plainly clear why he’s one of the most sought-after Korean actors. The
award-winning Jeon Do-yeon plays the quiet foil. Her pained grace in
full display, she might suffer from being too subtle for the rest of
the film. Nonetheless, her quiet awkwardness is plenty alluring.

more than a couple nods to Woody Allen, Lee Yoon-ki weaves a tale about
a city and a select couple of its lovelorn inhabitants. Unlike
Manhattan, it’s homage to Seoul doesn’t pack the punch the city
probably deserves. Cameras – hanging off rooftops, fastened to the
sides of cars, smoothly panning up the sides of buildings – don’t quite
blur the frame’s edges. They are some undoubtedly stunning rectangles,
but as a sonnet to the city the love’s unrequited. Thankfully, we’re
not taking it too seriously.

Lighthearted, modest, and
thoughtful, My Dear Enemy does its eye-catching, stage setting part to open what should be an excellent film
festival showcasing over 100 different movies in all. Pop culture spoiler: more than a couple Ha Jung-woo posters will go up in dorm rooms at Berkeley in the coming years.

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