Music Washes Away From The Soul The Dust Of Everyday’s Life, part I

There have been a number of music-centred shows in dramaland. Some of them featured classical music, others were simply heavily music-led. In yet others, music was of importance to characters. Here’s a look at some of these titles.

The most recent music-led drama to join the family is Trot Lovers, a romantic comedy centred on trot, starring Ki Hyun Woo and Jung Eun Ji.  It’s a light, standard offering but the trot brings it to life. I really love the idea, so in this case I will not care that second leads are tiresome and meddling as always (although very very lovely), just enjoy the music it brings and the romantic developments between Jung Eun Ji and Ji Hyun Woo. I’ll try to skip the parts with secondary leads. I don’t really understand second lead syndrome, never have suffered from it.

No, not even in Reply at all, even though in Reply 1997 I did feel sorry for the guy who didn’t get the girl as he was treated very heartlessly by the lead girl, whilst being such a  thoroughly nice  character.  That second lead in 1997 reminded me of Thrash a lot but he was less emotionally engaging than Thrash. Still, he was a similar, very caring and responsible type, much like Thrash.   Fortunately the second lead in 1997 was a person of a very good heart and had a good bond with the main lead, a bond that just some girl would not be likely to break, not even the girl in question. Fortunately the writers were a bit smarter than drama cliches this time. The reason I prefer 1994 is precisely because NaJeong always had her heart on just one person and did not behave as stupidly as Shi Won had a tendency to do.  But this is beside the point at the moment and I digress…

Still both Reply 1994 and 1997 are a history of kpop of sorts. They include a dozen of songs by popular kpop artists of 1980s and early 1990s. Consequently, I would actually include them in a list of music-oriented dramas, since the songs offer a bit of pop cultural background although they aren’t an element of the plot as important as in the stories below. On the other hand,  both “Replies” have female characters going crazy over some boysband or singer.

Trot Lovers (k-drama, 2014) is a romcom with trot. And it’s engaging – mostly because of the music. Shing Sung Rok is an eye catching, very lovely second lead (give him a main role, someone) but nothing to worry over since this romcom is in fact formulaic so you can  more or less predict what happens. But I like it. Jung Eun Ji is quite a likeable actress but she seems to enjoy portraying characters who shout a lot. The only other movie about Trot I can recall  was Highway Star with Cha Tae Hyun and it was about this fledgling rock star who thought nothing about trot…until he learned otheriwse. If you love music, you love music in many of its forms. There is nothing shameful about trot. And trot can be a lot of fun, as Cha Tae Hyun’s character learned in the end too.

Here’s my favourite song from the drama so far. WARNING. Spolier for ending of episode 2. 

BEETHOVEN VIRUS, K-Drama, 2008. 

Drama land these days, especially Korean drama land, rarely  presents viewers with a drama with some depth and sincerity of execution. When dramas like these come along, they are a rare offering Beethoven’s Virus is one such drama.  Featuring Kim Myung Min, a man known for his acting prowess, and a  good ensemble cast, the drama makes me think that we really should ” hold fast to dreams for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly// Hold fast to dreams For when dreams go Life is a barren field Frozen with snow” (Langston Hughes).

Synopsis: Kang Mae aka Kang Gun Woo (Kim Myung Min) is a world renowned orchestra maestro who is a perfectionist in his work. He is not an easy person to work with and is feared by all his players. By chance, he comes across Du Ru Mi (Lee ji Ah), a violinist, and a young cop (Jang Geun Suk) who has the same name as his and discovers that even without formal training, the young Kang is a music genius. The three soon get tangled in a love triangle (dramawiki)

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There are few shows which strongly make me want to do some sort of commentary/review for them. But Beethoven’s Virus is a drama worthy to be offered a comment. If only because a character like Kim Myung Min’s Mestro Kang Mae doesn’t appear in dramas very often. This drama may be good for those who like character studies or those who like classical music. Beethoven Virus features glorious classical music. Its importance for the story, especially for the characters, is undeniable.

The central character itself deserves high praise. You hardly ever get to see coldness done in a humane rather than cartoonish way.Kang Mae is a rather deep and complex character. This character is more complex than Anthony Kim and all the little insecurities and nuances of his heart are very rewarding to get to know. Performance for the role is another high note- Kim Myung Min is effortless in this role, he confirms his acting prowess. His really is a force to reckon with when it comes to acting.

I loved the dynamic relationship Kang Mae had with Gung Woo (portrayed, very honestly, by Jimages (1)eung Geun Suk), such a deepening student-mentor relationship. Really, Jang Geum suk was a delightful surprise as he really did his best to portray his character in a convincing, honest manner.  And he plays a musical prodigy who can’t read music sheet but has the ability to directly reproduce the sounds he hears and  good memory.  He develops a sort of respect and a form of friendship or even brotherly bond with Kang Mae, though of course that bond goes through ups and downs due to Kang Mae’s own insecurities preominantly. There is, however, always a sense that Kang Mae  begins to care for his underlings. Maybe that growing need to care even increases his fear and his insecurity since he fears rejection too. There is a reason why Kang Mae is only good with music and composers. They are dead. They cannot escape or reject him.

0There is also a form of age-gap romance here as the lead girl does pick the more complicated Kang Mae as her love interest. Again,  many fans of Geun Suk seem to have been disappointed and called Kim Myung Min ugly and old as far as I could see. And also got really infuriated with the girl. Maybe that’s why the drama tends to be so criminally and undeservedly underrated in drama-centred communities. Really now. There wasn’t much on the way of triangle, though, since from the start Du Ru Mi did lean more towards Kang Mae.  Personally, I was happy. Furthermore, I was happy that she did not behave in a clingy manner but in a more dignified way. Also she really tried to understand and support Kang Mae and he really cared for her. I didn’t find anything cheesy here. And it was certainly better than her having a standard cliche romance with the pretty prodigy boy. She chose the harder way. The ending for them is very open-ended but it’s one that shows that Kang Mae does consider her a very important person. It was quite beautiful to see.

The intorspective glimpses into Kang Mae’s world of music, paticularly early on when he first conducted his make-shift orchestra comprised largely of amateurs,  helped to create the mood and develop the theme. I was particularly taken by how for all these characters..not just the main characters but everyone in the orchestra, if their dreams die, life may end up broken too. There certainly was a very interesting group dynamic in the show between Kang Mae and everyone else that made the show even better. And the side characters were fleshed out to an extent too. It’s not just Kim Myung Min that shines in the drama. There are some heart-grabbing side stories about not letting go of dreams and what these dreams mean for each of the characters.

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Pesonally, I loved it for what it was, a story about a complex characters full of fears and uncertainities, a story about bonding, a story about determination to perform but princicpally a story about pursuing dreams, greater or smaller, that make our lives. It was a story I was very invovled in from start to finish, predominantly thanks to the central character who was just too compelling for me. Kim Myung Min was absolutely perfect in this role. He’s such an effortless performer, really and he can easily convey emotional nuances of his character.  Kang Mae is a character far more complex than Anthony Kim, much as I loved Anthony Kim as well (from King of Dramas).   Oh and the overall ending erupts with a glorious power of music, bittersweet but hopeful. Certainly not a typical ending, either. It was an excellent watch. Beethoven Virus also features one of my favourite underwater scenes…I won’t say why or what it relates to as it would be a spoiler. I can only say I found the imagery in that particular fragment very imaginative and evocative.

My Paparotti (2013)

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The story concerns a troubled young man who finds hope after discovering music with the help of his musical teacher. This movie follows the protegee format to a T.  As far as the plot goes, the movie never deviates from the standard approach to inspiring teacher- troublesome student pattern. It follows all the standard elements you can expect from such movies and also it feels very much like a korean drama. The film is based on a true story and deals with a young gangster who loves singing and wants to become a tenor. Singing can lead him out of his current life…but not without proper guidance. He’s lucky to get stuck with Han Seok Kyu’s character, who really helps him. The movie strikes the right chords.

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 There is just something easily engaging about it and I think it rests in major part on the performances of the leads. The young student is a character you root for easily, such an underdog Lee Je Hoon is a young and capable actor who stands on his own against the veteran actor Han Seok Kyu.. Plus both leads have amazingly good working chemistry and also they hit all right notes in their performance. Han Seok Kyu is a solid actor that I really like having seen him in some flicks before and I’m happy to watch him as the cynical but ultimately caring teacher/mentor.

Overall, an easily likeable film that offers nothing new but for me I guess this kind of story never gets old: to see an underdog being motivated by an inspiring teacher for succes and to make more out of his life., to see an understanding develop between them and a form of gratitude. The ending of the film for me is really glorious because it conveys a deep gratitude and love of student to a teacher. It’s a feeling we should keep in mind for our own teachers and never forget to be greateful. Having had teachers like this that I love until today (and even maintain correspondence with them), these kind of stories just kind of hit me right in the heart

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I need to find out who sings in this movie, though. I would prefer it if they sang the songs themselves (it’s so much more fun to have singing actors) rather than using a backup singer but well the kind of songs they perform aren’t exactly easy to perform for just anyone.  Han Seok Kyu sings his part in the movie for sure, there is one song that does not require special training. They sing it together,  but I think Lee Je Hoon may have dubbed for everything if only not to overcomplicate things. Lee Je Hoon also can sing I think, but it’s just that the parts he would have been required to sing can’t be done in such a casual manner.

I liked this movie because in general I liked all the standard inspiring teacher stories. So nothing strikingly new here but for lovers of such stories like me this is a good watch. There is also the music factor involved that I find attractive. And An underdog succeeds kind of story which usually does have a supportive audience.  This is the type of movie I would rewatch too: an easy, comfortable watch with very good performances.

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