A delicious slice of feel-good cinema!
Based closely on the 2002 Yaoi manga Antique Bakery (西洋 骨董 洋菓子店, Seiyō Kottō Yōgashiten, “Western Antique Cake-Shop”) by Fumi Yoshinaga, the Korean adaptation broke through the million mark of legitimate viewers three weeks after opening. It was invited to the Berlin film festival for the culinary non competition section and Joo JiHoon won the Baek-san award for his role as Jin Hyuk, a very eligible bachelor who sets up and runs a bakery in his home town, employing Min Seon Woo (Kim Jae Wook) a former school mate – to create the delicious cakes he oddly enough has no like for. Min Seon Woo – a gay man with ‘demonic charm’ – has a bad working history as all men, gay or straight fall for him but feels he can work with Jin Hyuk who has been the only man to reject him. With the addition of an ex-boxer (Yoo Ah In) with a sweet tooth to the team followed by a clumsy bodyguard (Choi Ji Ho), their reputation spreads, but Jin Hyuk is not all he seems and with the arrival of Min Seon Woo’s former lover Jean-Baptise (Andy Gillet), will it all fall apart?
Manga novels are well known for having many story arcs so bringing one to the big screen is always going to be a challenge. Director Min Kyu-Dong (Momento Mori) does a really skilful job that allows the viewer to enjoy each arc like a layer, the cute outer sugar of handsome guys, delectable looking cake, fun musical sequences and then the bittersweet history of each man. The mystery, thriller and a touch of horror that reveals itself through the story gives the film weight and focus and stops it from being just a fluffy nothing. He brings out the best in the actors, Joo JiHoon doing far better in this role than the more reserved drama ones chosen previously. The ambiguity of his character’s preferences is dealt with very well and he seems relaxed and natural in the role. Kim Jae Wook is very convincing in the role of the ‘devilish gay’, not an exaggerated camp like you might think either, but charming, gentle and a touch feminine. His flirtatious nature with Jin Hyeok is fun to watch as is his friendship with his boxer apprentice Ki Beom. The only role that could have been more substantial was that of Soo Young, the bodyguard, but his comic timing and clumsiness are endearing and well played.
The editing for the film will maybe annoy some with its fast cuts and transitions, as some sequences make the subtitles a little too quick also, but the humour and camaraderie in the film does not need translating. Unusual points to note are actual male kissing scenes and bedroom scene which, unlike a western film, is neither explicit or unnecessary, and also a non Korean character who gets to speak his own native French along with two other members of the cast – a refreshing change from the butchered English some films like to parade as it is accurate and well spoken by the Korean characters (to my ear anyway). Its daring but remains still quite innocent in its portrayal of gay men and even if you are not a fan of the genre the confectionery and mystery will keep your interest.
It is its cheerful nature though that, for me at least, makes Antique is an utterly charming film and as delicious looking as the cakes you see them serve.
Joo Ji Hoon (Kim Jin Hyeok)
Graduated as an Acting major from Kyonggi University before starting out as a model, winning 2 awards in 2005. In 2006 he was cast in the role of Prince Shin in the drama ‘Goong’, a role that earned him a best new actor award at the 2006 MBC Drama Awards. A year later in ‘Mawang’ (2007) he took on the role of Oh Seung Ha and with both Antique and the Kitchen under his belt was seen a very promising career and promising talent who was growing with each new role. 2009 was a bad year for him though after owning up to having taken Ecstasy at a night-club and was dropped from an upcoming drama production and endorsements. Currently on hiatus with a suspended sentence, he is due to enter the military in February and is eagerly expected by fans to back a comeback some time after this. I hope so too!
Kim Jae Wook (Min Seon Woo)
Graduated from Seoul University of Arts with practical music and sings in a band called Walrus with friends from high school and, whilst he has been modelling and has acted in four dramas already, ‘Antique’ is his first film. Most popular for his role in ‘Coffee Prince’ in 2007, for which he won best new Actor at the 16th Korean Entertainment Awards, his fan meeting in Japan last year sold out within a week. Having lived in Japan when he was younger he speaks fluent Japanese and his band performed at the Grand Mint Festival, a rock festival for which he was also promotional rep. His next project is as yet unknown, but more is expected from him for sure.
Yoo Ah In (Yang Ki Beom)
Winner of the 8th Pusan Film Critics Awards for Best New Actor for the film Boys of Tomorrow, antique is his fourth and most recent film. In the last year he had a role in the drama ‘Man Who Can’t Get Married’ and was well received by fans in the drama ‘Strongest Chil-woo’.
Choi Ji Ho (Nam Soo Yeong)
Model and actor who started his career in the 2007 drama: ‘Time of Dog and Wolf’. ‘Antique’ is his first film and, being such a new talent on the scene there is not much information on his background yet.
Release Date: November 13, 2008
Official site: http://www.antique2008.co.kr/
Runtime: 109 min.