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by Jay Seaver

"Yaoi, that's some fun."
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2009 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: Part of what makes seeing foreign popular cinema fun is that the genre barriers often aren't quite in the same place, so while what you see is mostly familiar, it can quickly go to unexpected places. Seldom has that been more true than with "Antique", which adds some surprisingly tart flavoring to its sweet confections and somehow makes it work.

Kim Jin-hyuk (Joo Ji-hoon) comes from a wealthy family but has never accomplished much in his life, so when he announces to his parents (at the age of 29) that he intends to open a cake shop, they think it's odd - Jin-hyuk hasn't liked sweets since he was a child - but are supportive. Insisting on having the very best, he hires patissier Min Seon-woo (Kim Jae-wook), a master baker who learned his trade in Paris but has had trouble keeping a job because he refuses to work with women but, being a "Gay of Demonic Charm", always lures the men he's attracted to, gay or straight, into his bed. Despite being exactly Seon-woo's type, Jin-hyuk seems to be immune to his charms (and has been since high school, when Seon-woo had a massive crush on him). They're eventually joined by Yang Ki-beom (Yoo Ah-in), a former boxer now discovering his passion for baking, and Nam Soo-young (Choi Ji-ho), the son of one of the Kim family servants who has come to watch over he master as it seems Jin-hyuk is having the nightmares again - although he certainly serves as a handsome distraction for Seon-woo until his old boyfriend Jean-Baptiste (Andy Gillet) shows up.

And, no, Jin-hyuk's nightmares aren't about the fact that somewhere in the back of his mind, he's obviously not nearly so immune to Seon-woo's charms as he claims. No, this is about that time twenty years ago when Jin-hyuk was kidnapped for two months and returned with only vague memories of his captivity. This is important, because lately more kids have been disappearing, only when they show back up, they're dead, and the cake in their stomach can only have come from one bakery.

Considering how light and frothy the rest of the movie is, there's no way that this subplot should work, and it doesn't, completely. The first time Jin-hyuk has a nightmare, the bulk of the audience found themselves looking at each other, wondering what that was all about. It does give some shape to the film's second half, and makes the whole undertaking seem somewhat logical, even if it is pretty far from what Antique looked to be about going in. And I don't know if it was me, the film, or the subtitles, but the final unmasking of the villain left me a bit confused.

As if this movie needed a villain, or even more danger than Jean-Baptiste threatening to bring Seon-woo back to Paris for a lucrative new job. That's a frequent pitfall of films adapted from long-running comics (Fumi Yoshinaga's original manga runs about 800 pages), as multiple stories get compacted into one movie. The movie does feel a little rushed at times, seldom having time to linger over Seon-woo's wonderful-looking pastries or indulge the audience by watching him cook like a good food movie should.

However, when Antique is in its wheelhouse, which is often, it is frequently very funny indeed. Jin-hyuk and Seon-woo make a hugely entertaining odd couple, both when the scenes call for Seon-woo to get in the way of Jin-hyuk's wooing of the various women who come to Antique Bakery and ones where it seems that maybe Jin-hyuk doth protest too much. Yoo Ah-in makes a great foil for both, straight as an arrow but still tending to take the side of his teacher over his boss. Choi Ji-ho, meanwhile, is brilliant at dumb-guy humor, especially since he look so cool until the moment he has to open his mouth or try to carry something.

It's funny enough that even with the other stuff going on (which actually fits in very well), the gags are what the audience remembers. And the food looks pretty good, too.

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originally posted: 07/29/09 14:13:54
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: New York Asian Film Festival 2009 For more in the New York Asian Film Festival 2009 series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 Fantasia Festival For more in the 2009 Fantasia International Film Festival series, click here.

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Directed by
  Kyu-Dong Min

Written by
  Da-young Kim
  Kyeong-ee Lee
  Kyu-Dong Min

  Ji-hun Joo
  Jae-wook Kim
  Ah-in Yoo
  Ji-ho Choi
  Andy Gillet

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