THE FOUNDATIONS OF FIRST LOVE
Jun Ram Hwe – 기억의 습작 (Calligraphy of Memories)
The story is about a look at first love as Seung Min (Uhm Tae Woong) is commissioned by Seo Yeon (Han Ga In) to rebuild her old house. They first met in college through their “Introduction to Architecture” class as young Seung Min (Lee Je Hoon) and young Seo Yeon (Bae Suzy) navigate through adolescence by learning about love and heartbreak. The movie goes back and forth between the past and present as the adult counterparts walk down memory lane as they build the house.
If you hadn’t guessed already, I have a major crush on Lee Je Hoon. And Jo Jung Seok. And Uhm Tae Woong. This movie is right up my eye candy alley. Hee…
It’s a very talented cast and they express the complexities of young love well. Yes, I’m including Suzy in the mix here too. Despite criticisms about her acting at the start of Dream High, I liked her acting here.
On the one hand, you got the young adults who are becoming aware of their feelings and on the other hand, you got the adults who are partly reliving their childhood dreams and desires. The subtlety of emotions are woven through the scenes that extend from past and reaching into the present. In that way, the movie is nicely paced.
I’m disappointed that with a title like Introduction to Architecture or Architecture 101, take your pick, the subject of architecture doesn’t have its same share of the spotlight. It would have been nice to view the house as just another character in the movie that represents the emotions of the protagonists. In I Love You, I Love You Not, Im Soo Jung and Hyun Bin used the space of the house and the unique architecture to depict a married couple heading for a sad but amicable divorce. At first, the house is cold and distance with its weird angles and spaces but by the end, it represented a previously unseen warmth and comfort.
Or I wanted to see how the young Seo Yeon and Seung Min used their class lectures as a way towards each other. How does urban planning relate to love? The young couple even find a uninhabited, traditional Korean home to hangout at but it’s just used as a prop and nothing more. I really think the movie missed a huge opportunity here.
One of my favorite things about this movie was the references to the 90’s. This is my element as I remember the hairstyles, the baggy clothes, cd players, the ginormous computers that had about 1000 MB of disk space and beepers… Oooh beepers! All those little codes we come up with in order to send messages. “8282” (Hurry up – it was a play on words for 빨리빨리, bbal lee bbal lee, as 8 is pal and 2 is ee. Now say it fast.) “17 31707 1” (I Love You – the numbers form these words upside down.)
Of course, Napp Teukki (Jo Jung Seok) is the witty embodiment of this generation. I just loved him as Seung Min’s best friend. I mean who is going to give you kissing advice the way Napp Teukki does it? “Your tongue, her tongue. They meet. Then rub them together.” Look at how frightened Seung Min is. That whole scene had me rolling on the floor with laughter.
Unfortunately, I did too much internet searching for Jo Jung Seok scenes so I saw all his best scenes on various news outlets before watching the movie. Womp, womp. Don’t you hate that? Having said that, he is really a scene-stealer in the movie. I love Jo Jung Seok’s chameleon ability to portray such compelling and different characters. From Kim Byung Gun in What’s Up to Eun Shi Kyung in King 2 Hearts and now Napp Teukki in Introduction to Architecture, I love that they all showcase his wide range of talent.
I think it’s nice to see that the cast studied each other adult/young adult counterpart when taking on the role. There is a natural ebb and flow and harmony with their acting as the adult characters are a bit bolder and yet hiding beneath the cool exterior, there’s still a scared young adult. Particularly Uhm Tae Woong and Lee Je Hoon. Lee Je Hoon plays the young Seung Min as a bumbling college kid who is constantly checking to see how Seo Yeon is reacting. Uhm Tae Woong plays Adult Seung Min and while he still harbors feelings for Seo Yeon, there’s a part of him that has also moved on. But in reverse, Han Ga In as the Adult Seo Yeon checks out Seung Min’s reactions.
The movie is charming and genuine. Without giving it away, the ending was unexpected but I wasn’t satisfied nor dissatisfied with it. In some ways, it seemed natural that Seo Yeon and Seung Min would choose this path. The problem was that it was anticlimactic. The movie takes the emotions to a fever pitch and then it doesn’t seem like they know what to do with the rest of the story. While the film is extremely enjoyable, the fact that it didn’t take advantage of using architecture as a metaphor for first love is the most unfortunate thing about it.