Korean Films in Review: Antique Bakery

 

“Can anyone be unhappy while eating cake?” – This is the line that will intrigue you and keep you wondering what it means through the whole movie.

‘Antique Bakery’ comes from acclaimed director Min Kyu-Dong (‘Memento Mori’) and stars Ju Ji-hun and Kim Jae-wook delivering perfect performances throughout the movies entirety. Based on Fumi Yoshinaga’s Japanese manga of the same name, ‘Antique Bakery’ follows Jin-hyeok as he opens his own bakery in order to meet women, but his plans go a little awry when he hires Seon-woo, master patisserie and “gay of demonic charm”.

The movie is almost impossible to categorise into a genre, it has brilliant comedic moments and the first half Is very light, funny and innocent, but the second half takes over with undertones of murder, mystery and suspense. Take these two genres and lightly sprinkle a few brief musical numbers and some gay moments, and you have all the ingredients of a multi-themed movie that is sure to leave a sweet aftertaste and have you coming back for seconds – (I promised myself that I wouldn’t use cake puns in this review, but I just couldn’t help myself, watch for yourself and see why).

This movie is surprising in more ways than one, upon first impressions of the artwork of the DVD, the trailer and the synopsis, I prepared myself for a light-on-substance, bland movie that uses pretty boys and cakes to distract from plot holes – but I was happily proven wrong. The trailer is highly misleading to new viewers, although it nails the light and fluffy side of the movie, there is no mention of any of the darker elements or the thriller aspect. It makes the movie out to be less than what it really is.

All four of the lead male characters are well-developed, albeit some more than others, but the audience cares about what happens to them and they feel for them. The relationships between the boys flourish and evolve throughout the story, and the past, present and futures of the characters are not only believable, but could be seen as relatable to some members of the audience, especially the gay community.

The film is sharply edited and the pace of the story moves very fast, especially in the first half. This could be the directors attempt to cram as much as possible from the manga into the films relatively short running time. The speed of speech and other plot points may confuse audiences on their first viewing, so be primed to press the pause button a couple of times to catch up.

The second half of the film is quite heavy and its themes change drastically to that of the first half, and comic relief is rarely awarded until the final ten minutes of the film. This could again be because of the constraint of running time, and so many plot points to fit into the film. It may become frustrating for fans of the original manga, but the pace is a comfortable on for the viewers’ who have not read it.

The whole movie is overly theatrical, but not in a way that distracts from the story, it is actually quite charming. The watching experience is almost dream-like, as if the audience is put under a spell, which is both bizarre and wonderful at the same time.

Two of my personal favourite parts about this movie are the hiring processes that Jin-hyeok makes potential workers go through, and the facial expressions of Seon-woo, especially when Jin-hyeok tells Gi-beom that Seon-woo is a “homo”.

The movie is a cinematic representation of cake: cake is not particularly nutritious, it’s not part of a meal but it does make you smile and feel good. ‘Antique Bakery’ is not a thought provoking piece, nor does it call morals into question, but it will leave you feeling happy and smiling at the end.

If you are interested in seeing this film, Antique Bakery has now been released on DVD in the UK by Terracotta Distribution.

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