Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Drama Short: Hwang Jin Yi (2006) Review

Grade: B-

What it’s about
A historical drama inspired by the life and loves of a real-life Joseon-era courtesan. No matter how many men want her, Hwang Jin Yi’s only true love is her art: A musician, dancer, and poet, she willingly gives up everything to cultivate her skills. 

First impression 
Queen In-hyun’s Man left me hungry for a traditional sageuk, so I decided to give this a shot. It’s a much more down-and-dirty take on the role of the gisaeng than I’ve seen elsewhere, which makes it super interesting. And even if I could live without Ha Ji Won as an actress, Jang Geun Suk has never been cuter than he is playing her conflicted and slightly spineless lover.

Random thought
• You would think that music would be music everywhere, but it’s clear that there’s little or no overlapping in the DNA of traditional Korean music and any form of Western music. It’s amazing not only how different these two genres are, but also how completely the latter has taken over in Korea: Even historical dramas are set to easy-listening soundtracks that wouldn’t feel out of place on my small-town American radio station. And while there are some good things about globalization, it’s sad that it seems to inevitably amount to homogenization.

Final verdict

Fine, but not especially engaging. (Will I ever love a Ha Ji Won drama? Your guess is as good as mine.) Nonetheless, this show does have all the sageuk trappings you’re looking for: gorgeous scenery, beautiful costumes, and strong characters. Throw in several tragic romances and an uncompromising female lead, and Hwang Jin Yi drama turns into an easy, interesting watch. Not as compelling as the similarly themed Painter of the Wind, but worth your time if you’re into historical dramas.

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