Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Oh Ji Ho - At Basketball Game In Hawaii - 05-27-06

This photo is the only one posted yet at any of the boards I have checked. Many many thanks and deep appreciation to RainbowJae In, a member of the KBDF 32 forum.

This is what she said about the picture: "Here's a picture I took of Oh Ji Ho, but it's kinda dark. I had a good seat behind the Phoenix Bench and by the entrance to the locker rooms. Oh Ji Ho saw me aiming my camera towards him and he smiled for me."

Her comment reflects her loyalty and enthusiasm so beautifully, I just love it. The original photo can be seen at the forum.

This copy has been adjusted for contrast. It's more visible now. All the credit goes to Rainbow Jae In for a great job!
Click on image to enlarge.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Oh Ji Ho - Simply the Best!

Oh Ji Ho was selected the Most Valuable Player on the Korean stars' Phoenix Team, while Yu Hyong Kon was the Most Valuable Player on the Hawaii Select Team. The Phoenix Team won the game. The Phoenix team took an early lead which they never relinquished. However, it was not a runaway game. The Hawaii Select Team narrowed the lead to 3 points in the final minute of the game, but missed its chance to tie the score with a 3-point shot and had to settle with a 2-pointer in the final seconds. The final score was 62-61. Congratulations to all of the players for a fun and entertaining game.
Credit: KoreanWiz.org

Maybe I should stop worrying about his health?

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Oh Ji Ho in Hawaii

This excellent photo was taken by "songjc" who is a member of the KBFD 32 forum. She's posted many great pix of the K Stars basketball team, Phoenix, as they arrived today for the game being held on Saturday. Scroll down to view announcement, and poster.

Let's all thank songjc!
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La Belle (Mi in) Reviewed...again

La Belle (Mi in)
Commentary by A. Murray
April 27, 2006

What a much discussed and often misunderstood movie!

Because there is frequent nudity and apparent sexual activity, untold numbers of people have labeled it either as pornography or soft-core pornography whether they’ve seen the film or not. Korean law prohibits full frontal nudity in movies made there, so you see breasts and buttocks, nothing more. The sex in La Belle is definitely not the real thing.

The movie is NOT pornography. Hard-core pornography deals with very explicit sexual acts. Pornography consists of displaying intimate parts of the body during sexual activity. It relies greatly on tiresome close-ups that usually resemble pink machine parts hammering into other pink machine parts. I will not stoop to a critique of porn flick background music, or the moaning groaning vocal overlays.

La Belle does none of this.

Something a lot of people don't seem to understand about La Belle, is the fact it’s surreal. When recognized as surreal it reaches a level where it must be processed through intellect first. Surrealism demands that of the viewer. Because it is abstract, it keeps you saying to yourself, did I really see that? Do I understand this, or am I totally off base?

In this case, it's a frequently surrealistic erotic story that could be simply told. Journalist meets woman. Woman is a nude model.

Woman loves a man who cares very little about the fact she exists, other than using her for sex.

Journalist becomes obsessed with woman to the degree that he no longer functions in his professional capacity as a writer. They both go down the tubes.

End of story.


Seeing La Belle is like being submerged in a pool of sensuality surrounded by beautiful imagery. The director, Yeo Kyun Dong, has a fine eye when it comes to line, and gives us an uncluttered elegant framework for the film. Dancer, Ahn Eun Mi, contributed her talent as a "body choreographer", working with the stars Oh Ji Ho and Lee Ji Hyeon for a month, teaching them how to move fluidly. It is this kind of attention that makes La Belle something very special.

The vision of the director, the talent of the choreographer, and the abilities of composer/pianist, No Yeong Shim, who wrote and performed the music, acting in concert with each other, gives us a beautifully crafted view of sex and love in their many variations and tones.

The film opens with a shot of a writing desk and chair. The camera approaches slowly, finally showing an open book with a fountain pen lying across the page. The doorbell rings several times. We hear the voice of a man. He says, “she’s back”. And so begins the tale of a journalist, and a model….

The man (Oh Ji Ho) is obsessed with the woman (Lee Ji Hyeon) with whom he is having an affair, while at the same time wanting to be free of her. He is filled with self-loathing, seeing himself as weak. The relationship is mainly sexual in nature, devoid of any real connection, and therefore, ultimately frustrating. The gratification of the act of sex dissipates quickly, and both are left empty.
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While he wishes his love were reciprocated, it is not. He fantasizes about her being the woman he wants her to be in apparent real-time scenarios woven into the actual scene being played out, as he copes with the truth. She is not who or what he longs for her to be.

She wishes for the man she can’t have...the lover of her choice, the abuser who beats her and uses her in an offhand way. She waits for calls from him, and lives with one ear tuned to her cell phone. When he does call, she leaps into action, racing to dress, put on make-up, and leaving as fast as possible to get to him.

This is witnessed time after time by the writer, whose home she has moved into since she seems to have nowhere else to go.

These afflicted lovers have terrible emotional scenes. When the woman returns after a visit with the other man, either drunk or beaten physically, the writer is always there and takes care of her in spite of his desire to be shed of her. They both seem to sink deeper and deeper into a swamp of inner disgust and driving sexual desire.

Director Yeo Kyun Dong uses visual clues throughout that may or may not be picked up by the viewer. In one scene the couple is out walking, one on either side of the street, although they are theoretically walking together. What could describe the separation between these minds and souls better than such a simple device? He also did interesting things with audio other than merely supplying us with a remarkable musical background.

The very sounds in the film--the clattering departures of the woman, her slamming of the door, her frequent shrillness, her noisy occupation of another's space…is jarring. All this, opposed to the introspective silence of the writer and his isolation when he is alone or quietly writing as his lover sleeps, is calculated and clever, simply because it works on the subconscious, and tells us so much about the characters, without saying a word.

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When viewed through the intellect first, without expectation, but with the mind open to the surreal, this becomes a little gem in it's own right. The majority of gems taken from the earth are flawed. It goes without saying that it is a most beautiful film physically, but also that it is flawed.

Some of the flaws lay in the acting ability of Oh Ji Ho who was relatively inexperienced at the time La Belle was made. He was widely criticized for this by online critics, and it took some of the bloom off the rose. Fortunately, he is a doggedly stubborn individual, who doesn’t quit or let go easily, and has made remarkable strides in his work. What he did have then, and still has, is beauty.

In my opinion, he was simply too young for the role even though he looked older than his twenty-four years. In the love scenes, he was exquisite. I have never seen any to compare with them. Where some of the film is done with voice-over narrative, Oh Ji Ho shows his stuff while reciting the lines. In this, he exonerates himself. He reads beautifully. His voice is like honey. His tempo is flawless.

Lee Ji Hyeon, on the other hand, is unquestionably excellent as the desperate woman filled with longing for the man she loves so futilely, while living with a man she eventually feels nothing less than disdain for, a man she uses as a sexual soporific to quell the pain of her life. Her acting ability stuns, as one would be stunned if dropped into a vat of ice water. She takes your breath away. Seeing this talented dynamic woman at work causes you to fall under the spell she weaves. She’s a powerhouse of phenomenal magnetism and energy.

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Oh Ji Ho and Lee Ji-Hyeon are good-looking people. Both have nice bodies. They are agile and graceful, and totally believable in the love scenes, which are incredibly sensuous and caressing. This is where the choreographic expertise of Ahn Eun Mi shows brilliantly. Even so small a detail as the positioning of the actors’ hands during the love scenes comes into play with a huge payoff. The physical aspects of the love scenes are stunningly beautiful. They are always riveting.

So, one might say the film is choppy in a sense. When it flows it’s divine, when it stalls it becomes awkward.

Since the reader may not have seen this movie, I will refrain from divulging more of the plot, or the events that take place. I suggest you see it.

Technical Note:
My copy is the Spectrum version from Korea. Generally, Spectrum does a fine job, with excellent picture and sound quality. This version has both. Unfortunately though, it has the worst subtitles I’ve ever seen. They confuse rather than clarify.

I’ve watched the film three times, the last without subtitles since I'm now familiar with the story line. I was able to enjoy it a lot more without reading the titles. Because I enjoy listening to the Korean language, I kept the sound on.

La Belle with English subtitles is available at:
HK Flix
OST ONLY at Mr. Kwang
Mr. Kwang

Also published at:
The Hyacinth Papers
The Hagfish Chronicles

Oh Ji-ho and The Silver Knife

Oh Ji Ho and The Silver Knife (Eunjangdo - 2003)
A Culture Clash
By A. Murray
26 April 2006

Click image to enlarge.

The Silver Knife is funny, though it has been compared to "Sex is Zero", and came up wanting according to the party commenting, with whom I disagree. I think it holds its own pretty well, and I really like the cast.

This movie introduced me to Yun Da-hun's charm. He’s a good actor and a very funny man. Another new face for me at the time I bought The Silver Knife, was the fantastic Song Jae-ho.

As the father of Min-seo, he is impossible; an entrenched Confucian in heart and soul. He is dictatorial, and hard to get along with except when it comes to consorting with his peers---the other village elders. Then, all present are in accord. That accord does not spill over into the family dynamics.

Min-seo lives with her family in Andong. The most precious family treasures, in the eyes of her Confucian father, are the Yeolnyeomun (gate of virtue) which is part of the historic site occupied by the family, and the eunjangdo (silver knife), both symbols of a woman's chastity. The Yeolnyeomun, a perpetual reminder, is located conveniently just outside the house.

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At the age of twelve, upon reaching womanhood, Min-seo is solemnly given the gift of a small ornamental silver knife by her father, with the admonishment that she is now responsible for her continued purity. Virginal she is, and virginal she will remain. She (also solemnly), accepts the knife, and the obligation it carries. She takes her responsibility so seriously, that she even layers herself with extra underwear to prevent any possible opportunity for assault against her state of grace. Her schoolmates, on discovering this, chide her for it mercilessly, but she remains staunchly faithful to tradition.

Fast forward to Min-seo desiring to go to college, in, of all damnable places, the great wicked city of Seoul. From home to perdition in one small leap. Her father flat out refuses to allow it of course, saying among other things, "Seoul corrupts the mind".

Aided by her mother, who doesn't want Min-seo to live the life she herself must live, and by her brother who feels the same way, she manages to leave home. The departure scene is very amusing, with the mother in a physical grappling match against the father, who is nearly foaming at the mouth in rage. The term, "going ballistic" fits here nicely.

Min-seo's train ride to Seoul is not without incident. She handles it with great aplomb…and her trusty silver knife. Of course.

Click image to enlarge.

The sex scenes are all very, very funny.

There's a sexy dance contest, during which Oh Ji-ho once again strips down to the nitty-gritty, wearing only a dinner plate as protection from chilly drafts.

There's a condom scene between two other characters, which takes place in the back seat of a car that is utterly bizarre, and therefore priceless.

Oh Ji-ho is Ju-haek, the smitten boyfriend who is dying to get into the (now figurative) much layered underwear of the pristine Min-seo. He is the soul of chivalry and protectiveness coming undone in the grip of young lust. He plots and schemes alone, or with the help of his friends, trying to come up with a plan that will land him between the sheets with his ice princess. The situations arrived at are so ridiculous, you have to sit and laugh at them.

There are other characters always either getting it on, or trying to with mixed results that are invariably weird and funny as hell.

This is over-blown comedy done with a heavy hand, and I can't think of any people other than the Korean filmmakers who could do it so well. They have a certain special kind of touch.

Toward the end of the movie, Ju-haek makes an impassioned statement that is quite powerful, decrying the tradition of the silver knife, which was as often used for committing suicide after dishonor, as it may have been to defend honor by turning it upon the man who attempted intimacy. Oh Ji-ho shines in this sequence, and you see his potential, as yet unexpressed elsewhere. (2003)

There is also a scene of tenderness between Ju-haek and Min-seo that takes place on a bridge, which will touch any heart that allows itself to be reached by a simple act of caring that says, this is love, doing something like this is what makes love real.

If you are looking for a basically jolly movie with strange characters, a lot of sexual innuendo, and buffoonery galore (a specialty of Oh Ji-ho's), this is it.

Click image to enlarge.

The Silver Knife is available at:
HK Flix (Korean [region-0] and Hong Kong [region-3] versions.

Also published at:
The Hyacinth Papers

Friday, May 19, 2006

Oh Ji Ho - Phoenix Basketball Team

Oh Ji-ho and other Korean celebrities playing as the Phoenix basketball team, will be in Hawaii on the 27th of May 2006. Part of the proceeds from the game will go to The Boys and Girls Club of Hawaii.
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Oh Ji Ho - An Aries

A new keyring. I love this picture because someone caught him in a shirt frayed at the neck. It makes him very human. I've noticed he seems to prefer wearing clothing that's been well broken in. A lot of it shows signs of wear. The backlash of being a mannequin so much of the time.

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Oh Ji Ho at ease.

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This is a publicity shot taken early in his career.

Oh Ji Ho and the mysterious horn.

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Do you know the origin of this early photo? Did it come from a movie, from a drama? Share your information with other fans. Leave a comment!

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Oh Ji-ho's Weight Loss -WHY?

Something is not quite right about OJH these days.

He has always been very thin during his career as a model. In one early photo, he looks almost frail, but that was also when he was quite young.

In Silver Knife, he had picked up muscle and weight. He looked wonderful. In A Second Proposal, at age twenty-eight, he had built up yet more body mass, and his muscular definition was beautiful. He was still a slim man, but appeared brimful of good health, vitality and strength. He glowed, and was almost too beautiful to look at with both eyes open.

Now, at age thirty, he seems to have gone back to ultra thin, and it appears to be in an alarming degree. I first noticed the difference in Super Rookie when he was wrapped in a towel, having just come from the shower. I was surprised to see how skinny he looked. His legs, which had become beautifully shaped as a result of working out, had changed, as had his torso and arms.

It bothered me a bit then, but I didn’t pay that much attention to it.

However, I recently saw him in a music video by V.O.S., and was horrified at the way he looked. His jaw was like a knife-edge. In one shot, the area beneath his chin was hollow. It really disturbed me. Oh hell…to tell the truth, it freaked me out. When I saw it, I thought, “cancer?"

Yesterday, I saw some stills taken at a Levi’s Redloop Jeans promotion. It was then that I realized just how far it’s gone. He looks terrible. His face is not the face I once almost fell on the floor over. He appears joyless and depressed.

I’ve noticed it’s a trend these days to have models look as though they’re bored to tears, sullen, irate, or all combined. The models/actors in the pix looked pretty grim also. I guess that sells pants. Who knows, or cares? The fashion industry is a demon from hell.

The thing I do care about is the fact that in one photo, he has a certain sunken look around the shoulder and breastbone that seems extreme. Particularly since his arms are at his sides, which is a relaxed position that does not exaggerate the natural hollows of that area.

I want to know: What exactly is going on? Is he sick, or under pressure from studios and agencies to be bone thin? Is he in a state of depression, perhaps emotionally distressed? Is there trouble in his love-life or family life? Any one of these things could cause someone to stop taking good care of him or herself.

The two logically possible scenarios are illness, or, applied career pressure from agencies or studio brass. Illness is something that comes and gets us when it wants to. Career pressure is something we capitulate to out of fear or crazy ambition. We all need to work to keep ourselves alive. Actors and models are no exception to that rule. No dollars, no bread on the table.

The photos below illustrate the changes in him. Click on the two lower images to enlarge for comparison.

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Thursday, May 04, 2006

Oh Ji-ho - First Take

I initially became aware of Oh Ji-ho sometime last winter while looking through web images to illustrate a piece I was writing. That was the first time I saw this, now very well known. photograph, and thought, “this is the most beautiful man I have ever seen in my entire life."

Click on image to enlarge.
Without exception, he was, and still is, a startlingly handsome man.

I came upon the picture again several times, then discovered there were such things as forums (don’t ask what took me so long) where people talked about all kinds of issues and interests, and actors were often a big part of this talk. That’s how I found out he was a model, and had made a movie that was classified as erotica. “Hmmm", I said

I finally joined my first forum, saw more pictures of him, and read comments about the movie.

The forum was Japan Today (now called CrissCross-Japan) the thread was, A tribute to the beauty of Asian men, and the movie was La Belle.

I like very well produced erotica that relies on sensuality rather than hyper-realistic sexual display. I am not especially interested in hard-core pornography.

I found reviews of La Belle on the web, and through reading them I learned that it was categorized as an art film here in the States, after having been screened at a film festival in New York City.

I also read comments that the film was very beautiful visually, and saw some still photos from it, which proved that to be true. I found out that it was available at HanBooks in an all-region version with English subtitles. Of course I bought it.

So…I saw all of him there was to see without seeing everything, since Korean law forbids full frontal nudity in movies made there. Hey, sometimes we’re better off not knowing the entire truth. Reality can be so crushingly disappointing.

I wanted to look at more of his work, so I began to buy it when I could. I currently own La Belle, I Love You, Silver Knife, Love Trilogy, A Second Proposal, Super Rookie, and Autumn Shower, and am looking forward to adding more as it comes along.

I've discovered that he does comedy very well, and hope there's an opportunity for him to further explore that area in series such as A Second Proposal, or films that are a cut above Silver Knife, but that have the potential to be as zany as it was.