He Was Cool
I gotta stop watching these romantic teen comedies, no good can come of it. I can physically feel my credibility dissipate when I confess my love for them. People pretend not to know me, when I meet them on the street, and suddenly no one will take my calls. I see many lonely nights ahead of me. Still, with films like this, who needs friends anyway?

THE STORY

Eun-sung is the coolest cat in the neighbourhood, not a man (strike that - boy!) to be taken lightly. He’s an excellent fighter, which has quickly earned him a notorious status. All the guys fear him, and all the girls wanna date him. Either way, the room goes quiet when his name is mentioned.

After beating up yet another bunch of guys, who threatened some girls, Eun-sung posts a warning on the Doil Girls School website. The good spirited Ye-won sees this warning, and because she doesn’t know the reason behind it, she decides to send a rude reply. A big mistake! Suddenly she’s marked for death (well, sort of).

Eun-sung manages to get a hold on her phone number, and begins to harass her. When they happen to be at the same hairdresser as he calls her again, he suddenly also knows what she looks like!

Then Ye-won and her girlfriend Kyung-won ditch school one day, and find Eun-sung waiting for them. Ye-won stumbles, and falls right on top of Eun-sung and inadvertently plants a big kiss on his mouth!

Ka-boom! The earth shakes and the screen cracks! Literally!

The stunned Eun-sung informs her that now they’ll have to be married, because he usually doesn’t let anyone touch him - he doesn’t even hold hands - so that simple kiss seals her fate. He leaves his number on her cellphone, and orders her to call him later. Thus begins a beautiful and perverted relationship...

Ye-won is torn between thinking Eun-sung is a rude obnoxious bully, and getting all mushy when he looks at her. Eun-sung on the other hand always keeps Ye-won at a distance, making sure she doesn’t think too much of herself - he even dubs her Miss Ass - but somehow he’s always there for her when she needs him the most. And most importantly: you couldn’t get any one of them to admit - even at gunpoint - that they are actually dating.

The strange relationship does not go unnoticed at the school. Eun-sung’s ex-girlfriend and his groupies begin to wonder. Who is this little girl who has suddenly landed the coolest guy in school? Who the hell does she think she is?

They say opposites attract, but there’s gotta be a limit. This may be it.

THE FILM

“He Was Cool” is so stupid, light-headed and whimsical that I’m truly embarrassed to say just how much I loved it!

The film is yet another entry in the ever-popular ever-growing genre of opposites-attract teenage comedies. We all know the elements by now: A bubbly young girl is pitted against a cool heartthrob of a guy. They hate each other to begin with, as they must, but gradually they fall for each other. Obstacles will litter their way, complications will arise, but in the end they will get together, for true love will not be denied. The films start off as comedies, some crazier than others, but in the second act the comedy gives way to straight drama, as the protagonists realize the error of their ways and fall madly in love. The girl must overact manically, the guy must be cool, calm and collected.
“Slave Love” (still my favorite), “My Tutor Friend” and countless others have walked this path, but that hasn’t worn down the road. Instead you might say it has worn it to perfection. And before anybody screams “formulaic” let me counter with the argument that all films are inherently formulaic. The best films ever made usually follow “the filmmaking formula” to a T, and the more closely they follow this formula, the less noticeable it often is.

The trick to making this kind of teeny comedy work, is to bombard the viewer with a firework of surprises. We must be kept on our toes, uncertain of what the film will come up with next. We may know how the next scene is going to end, but how it’s going to get there will be the real surprise. A steady flow of craziness will insure that we don’t think too much about the preposterous wafer-thin standardised plot, and if the film does a real good job, we may not even realize that we ourselves fall in love with the characters, until it’s too late.

“He Was Cool” rests entirely on the relationship between Ye-won and Eun-sung. As their connection intensifies, so does their constant bickering, but I found it utterly irresistible on every level. Though, I couldn’t tell you exactly why this film got me so bad, or even what sets it apart from all the others. My guess is it lies in the simple little details. Like the scene where Ye-won’s mother sneaks up on her, floating like something out of “Tale of Two Sisters”, or just before Ye-won falls on top of Eun-sung, she hangs for a moment, suspended in mid-air, giving her just enough time to grasp the ramifications of the impending catastrophe! Like I said, the little things.

I’ve personally only come across this special brand of teenage comedy in South Korean cinema. Whenever Americans attempt to make teenage comedies, they never reach a point where they are truly emotional, and they are certainly incapable of switching to actual love story, once the comedic tone is established.

Finally “He Was Cool” is also very satisfying, visually. It’s imaginatively shot, with that fresh colorful look that seem to come to Korean cinematographers so effortlessly. Among the most impressive looking scenes we find a big post-school brawl with an opposing gang and some “Tim-Burton-on-happy-pills” inspired dream-sequences towards the end.

WRAP-UP

Movies exist in a void. A fantasy place where you will always have another chance, where no love is impossible, and where nothing - not even death - is final. In a romantic comedy we come across the purest form of this phenomenon.

I adore these kind of puppy love films, regardless of how detached they are from reality. I guess I’m a hopeless romantic, and for that I will not apologise. I will however apologise for recommending this film, which will be offensive to anyone who doesn’t share my capacity for suspension of disbelief. But even if I have to sit long nights all alone with a fluffy penguin as my sole companion, I will not waver. Things could be worse. As long as I have films like this to keep me company, I’ll be alright.
David Bjerre
October 25, 2004
GALLERY




Original Title
Geunomeun meoshiteotda
Country
South Korea
Year
2004
Director
Lee Hwan-kyung
- First feature film
Cast
Jung Da-bin as Han Ye-won
- First feature film
Song Seung-heon as Ji Eun-sung
- Ice Rain (2004)
- So Close (2002)
- Make It Big (2002)
Lee Ki-woo as Kim Han-sung
- Spinkick (2004)
- Windstruck (2004)
- Classic, The (2003)
DVD Availability
Available on DVD from YesAsia: