Love in Magic

Ji-hoon is a famous magician. He's also a ladies man. The city is his stage, or rather his hunting ground. Every night he's out looking for a new lady, and he rarely goes home alone. But Ji-hoon's womanising ways are about to land him in some serious trouble. One night when he's dragged yet another girl to yet another hotelroom, he suddenly gets a call from his friend, who has stumbled over some hidden camera footage on the internet of a couple having sex in a hotel. Why is that so interesting? Well, the guy is Ji-hoon!

Meet Koo Hee-won. A sweet young teacher, who also happens to be Ji-hoon's co-star in that soon to be infamous sex-tape. When Ji-hoon seeks her out to tell her that their brief union has been immortalised on the internet, she breaks down, but soon comes up with a plan. They must find the tape! They must find the ones who made it!

First they have to locate the hotel, but none of them can remember where they stayed! Ji-hoon and Hee-won then begin an intense hunt for the right hotel. They tour around the entire area, from one ghastly hotel room to another searching for surveillance equipment. Meanwhile they both try to get on with their love lives, but the more time they spend together, they more they start to remember the passion they shared, Could this unfortunate event bring these two people together again...? Or perhaps a touch of magic will do the trick.


I've been watching Korean films for quite a few years now, but that doesn't mean I don't get terribly confused every now and then. Perhaps it's because I'm still a victim of those darn subtitles, perhaps it's because I'm just a simple foreigner, and there are just some things that can't pass that cultural barrier. Regardless, "Love in Magic" is one of those films I just don't get.

The plot is pretty straightforward, so there's really no reason why it should be so messy. However, "Love in Magic" is a very badly told story. For example, the film uses flashbacks a lot, but there's no indication of when we enter a flashback. Often a scene will go on for several minutes before it's clear what we're no longer watching the present story.

A variation on this problem can be found in the strange transitions between some scenes. A person will say "Hey, do you remember that teacher?", the film then cuts to another scene, where we see a teacher, but that's not the person that was referred to in the dialogue. I found myself rewinding the film every 10 minutes, because I'd missed yet another poorly illustrated plot point, or some crucial detail. Oh, and while we're at it. Ji-hoon's babes look an awful lot like each other, and Hee-won constantly changes hairstyle (partly due to her looking different in the flashbacks), which just causes even more confusion.

That was a few problems with the way the story was told, but I also have problems with the story itself. First there's the title. "Love in Magic". That sort of implies that the story in some way will deal with magic, and since our major character is a magician, it must have something to do with him, right? Wrong! Actually Ji-hoon could have had any old job in the world, it wouldn't have made the slightest difference. He could have been a plumber for all I care, though "Love is in the Pipes" probably wouldn't have sold quite as many tickets. The point is that the film only uses the magic in one scene where Ji-hoon treats Hee-won to a magic show and dinner, and that's just not enough. It's not like it's a big issue, but the title does make a promise the film can't keep.

And finally I'm not sure I understand why it's SUCH a big problem that they were filmed. Of course it would be embarrassing for both of them, and Hee-won would certainly have a difficult time confronting her students knowing they had all seen her having sex, but surely it's not like they did a "Paris Hilton", they didn't know they were being filmed. Doesn't that count for anything?

But let's forget all the troubles and look at the pure simple heart of the film, the love story between Ji-hoon and Hee-won. Does that work? Well, actually it does. The two stars try very hard and though it's an uphill battle they actually manage to create two likeable characters, and it's conceivable they should develop an attraction to each other.

Getting past the high concept "sex-tape" plot line, there’re plenty of very cute scenes. In magic as well as in life, it's the simple things that work best. Take for example the sweet scene where Ji-hoon give Hee-won a little yellow rubber duck, which - by a touch of magic - only squeaks when he touches it. Or the scene where Hee-won gets drunk, to forget her sorrows, and Ji-hoon has to carry her home on his back (yes, it's been done before, but it still works). These and other scenes show the great promise inherent in the story, and if the film was less confusing and had managed to implement the magic aspect better, it might have been a winner.

The reason all magicians go through such great effort to explain how they'll perform a trick, clearly showing all aspects and props involved, is not just so you know there's no cheating - of course there's cheating, it's a magic trick - the reason they show everything the way they do, is because a trick doesn't work if you don't know what you're suppose to find amazing.

Ironically "Love in Magic" never bothered to take that lesson to heart.
David Bjerre
August 29, 2005

Original Title
South Korea
Cheon Se-hwan
This is his first feature film
Yeon Jeong-hoon
- Daddy-Long-Legs (2005)
Park Jin-hee
- Just Do It! (2000)
- Whispering Corridor (1998)
DVD Availability
Available on DVD from YesAsia: