Thursday, March 20, 2014

Secret Love Affair - Thoughts Along The Way - Ep 1-4

It can be hard to choose something new to watch, because you are committing to so many hours. I have mostly spent the last year watching well-known dramas that were recommended by other people, but lately I have watched a few new ones that were airing. I was interested in My Love From Another Star right away because of the alien, and the very first episode hooked me. Nampyeon and I enjoyed talking about it as we waited for new episodes, and there is a kind of on-line liveliness with new shows. I haven't been part of that since the Harry Potter books were coming out, and it was fun.

Ever since Alien Show finished, I have been looking for another new one to be part of. Nothing really sucked me in. Until now. That's Robin Hood from Sungkyunkwan Scandal, I said. But meh on the having an affair part, I said. Then came the 21-minute preview. That's REAL PIANO PLAYING, I said.

21- minute preview

Peering longingly at a concert grand from behind a curtain. View of head when sitting at the piano. View from the back. View of hands. Head again. Body swaying and arms moving artistically. View of Yoo Ah-in actually playing. Face and arms and hands in the same frame! Hold it! Nampyeon and I both play the piano, and we are pretty disdainful of most musicians in tv and movies. The actors are so obviously faking it, with views of moody swaying from behind the piano, where you can't see their hands. Short views of fingers on violin strings or bowing a cello. Someone else doing the playing for them. So tacky. By the time the duet came along, I was sold. I only had to say "piano" to Nampyeon and he was sold. We're watching this show.

Googling around for information, I found that a professional pianist recorded the music for the sound track. Yoo Ah-in and Kim Hee-ae really play the piano, and were given special lessons on the pieces used in the drama. So the visuals are them, and the sound is someone else. That's good enough. If the rest of the show has such care taken with it, this should be a really good one. The duet was very moving and emotional, and both they and the audience were drained at the end of it.

Episode 1

This show is more film noir than anything else. It is a sepia-toned world of jaded, questionably-moral people wandering around in dimly lit, claustrophobic  spaces. It's moody and oppressive when it's not being hostile. It's very well shot, from peeking at our leading lady, Hye-won, from behind a lattice at the beauty salon, to watching her feet descend the stairs - remarkably dangerous-looking stairs, I might add. The sound is low-key and mostly apropos to the action. Walking into the music building, you hear little snatches of people tuning up and playing. It's classic and calm.

We are treated to the foreshadowing of fate when our leading man, Seon-jae, crosses a  bridge on his motorcycle with a girlfriend who asks him to stop because, "if you kiss on a bridge, love is supposed to last long."  He doesn't and she objects, "if you don't, someone else will appear." Well, we knew that already.

Sitting at her mirror at the end of the day, Hye-won sums up what we know so far: she is fake, her husband is useless, nothing really belongs to her, she wants her boss' position.

We see Seon-jae moving in the open white outdoor world at the clinic and before the facade of the music hall. When he enters he is swallowed by the rabbit-warren of stairs and progressively darker halls leading to the black curtain he stealthily pulls aside to get a glimpse of the grand piano and watch it being played. He sees her critiquing a student. He is caught.

The piano duet at 43:30 is Schubert Fantasie in F Minor for 4 hands D. 940
It is played by piano professor Jo In-seo and his top student, Min-woo. Prof. Jo is maybe the only honest person at the college, and Hye-won's husband is jealous of Jo having such a talented student. For the glory of having a student like that, not because he is a good teacher himself.

I love that there are a few humorous moments in this all too serious drama. The incident with the phone in the men's room. Fishing it back from under the door haha! Hye-won agreeing to audition Seon-jae and taking a bite of the apple.

They bring him in for his audition. He's a big awkward kid in his jeans and puffy coat, looking a little taken aback at the opulence. Here she comes stalking down her dangerous stairs. She looks straight at him and he looks away.

Episode 2

When she invites him into her lair and asks him to play, he is nervous and sits silently at the piano for a minute. He's trying to remember what he had played the day before, because he had done it out of his head. He plays, then explains how he condensed two parts into one. They spend the day together cocooned inside her piano room. He plays for her - beautiful piano music - that's what we're here for - she requests more. And then they play together, moving together, quiet together, intense together. They are both affected, and are exhausted by the end.

At 3:25    Sun Jae plays the Schubert condensed into 2 hands.
     6:33    is the Bach Prelude and Fugue No. 1 from Well-tempered Clavichord
     7:48    the Paganini Etude No. 4 Arpeggio
     8:07    Mozart's Piano Sonata No. 8 in A Minor, K. 310
     16:54  Tchaikowsky's The Seasons: April "Snow Drop"
At 28:34 they play the Schubert duet together. The dumb thing about it is that they make a video recording, but don't show the hands. All they get to watch later is the head. :-P

Back at the college, CEO Daughter is acting up, behaving worse than in Episode 1 if that is possible. Someone should drop her off the end of a pier. If this were real film noir, somebody would.

We cut back and forth between the college crowd playing politics, to the audition, to looking back on the audition. Seon-jae is ecstatic, running to release pent-up energy, on a bridge reliving the moments, playing the railing like a keyboard, grinning like an idiot to himself.

35:35  Beethoven Piano Sonata No. 23 in F Minor Appassionata         

The tense mood is emphasized by low light coming from lamps and candles and through blinds or grilles highlighting faces against a dark background. We see that the house has a sliding bookcase with a secret safe behind it. nice.

It transpires that Hye-won is called the Little Fox and the Chairwoman is the Big Fox. They record CEO Daughter's (the Chairwoman's step-daughter) conversations and dump a college admissions scandal in her lap right in front of Chairman Dad. Good job.

The Little Fox and her husband go to see Seon-jae at his house and hear him play his own piano. It's another multi-level complicated space with tiny, steep concrete stairs. Looks like a fire trap. Strewn with laundry and piles of junk. Sliding door grille, looks like a jail. And then we end on a high note, with her stepping on a mouse trap and him picking her up and carrying her out. Whee!

Episode 3

Plot twist. Third episode and we have a major plot twist already. Here we have been expecting a clean little campus affair between two piano players, one with a dimwitted whiner husband. It's all gone sideways. The tone of this show is pretty dark. Someone posted that they worried whether to watch a show about an affair, but decided murders are bad too, and we all watch murder mysteries. It all depends on how it is handled. This show has uprooted us and we are waiting to see where we get planted next.

Of piano playing we get one new short lesson at 31:08 and a flashback at 12:10. Kind of a weird lesson. Who treats their students that way, putting a stick down their clothes? Looks pretty provocative to me. Then the twist happens and somebody goes into the army. Little Fox catches CEO Daughter drunk and reads her a lecture on morals and deportment. This can serve as a touchstone later, when she starts misbehaving herself.

Then she sticks her nose back into Seon-jae's business and now he can't leave her alone. Looks like he's going AWOL. Meets up with her in her garage. He's not a bashful kid anymore, and we're not waiting for the series to be half over for the first kiss, either. He grabs her and gives her a long enough anguished look that she could turn him down if she wanted, and kisses her, hard. We don't see their faces, but she pushes at him a little bit, just to show he's using muscle. And then she invites him in.

Episode 4

Hye-won pulls the come here- get away- come here- get away bit on Seon-jae, who loses it and is arrested for attacking a bad piano player. He looks like he is going a bit crazy in jail. Little Fox arranges for her husband to hear of it and he brings Seon-jae home and gets him out of army duty.

We get a look at the graft at the music school and in the Chairman's family. None of these people are likeable. Netizens complain about the shiny make-up on everyone, but I think it is appropriate. They are fake plastic people, not real at all. Either that or the shininess is so the people stand out against the dark background.

The only music is a cello student's lesson with a really bad/corrupt teacher at 35:50 and a flashback of the audition at 42:00.