Movie Rating: 9/10
Dol Seok was a lowborn slave who raised to the ranks of head tailor in the royal palace.
For 30 years he has worked with his hands until callouses has mangled his fingers, however it was known that he was the best tailor in the entire land. That was until he met Kong Jin, a vulgar man who makes clothes for gisaengs. One of the palace workers named Pan Soo had problems with his uniform and he requested Kong Jin to alter it. At first Kong Jin was hesitant to help him out because he only worked on Gisaeng’s clothing but his creativity and imagination couldn’t help expand his expertise that he was able to alter Pan Soo’s clothing better than what was expected. That’s how word went out about his work that he was recommended to the other palace workers until his name reached the Queen. She wanted to fix the king’s
garment used for a special occasion and assigned the task to her maids. However, instead of fixing it, the clothing was burned and sought out the help of the head tailor, but he said it was beyond repair. That was how Kong Jin was called into the palace and sees the Queen for the first time that he was mesmerized and promised to repair the King’s garment for her. During this time, Dol Seok and Kong Jin forms an unlikely friendship, one that is mixed with respect and jealousy. As time pass by and Kong Jin’s works becomes more bold and daring, Joseon’s fashion slowly changed as women try to copy the Queen’s fashion trend. All the while rumors circulate in the palace that the Queen and her tailor are having an affair driving the King mad with jealousy, despite his indifference to his wife since the day they were married.
This movie is such a compelling watch even though it’s far from being perfect, I still do not understand why there are a lot of negative reviews about it. I’m not sure if the reviewers even understood the bigger picture of this show. This is the reason why I have put this movie aside for so long that it took me 4 years to check it out. I realized that I’ve read bad reviews about it that it’s a must that I make my own version to make sure people will not miss out on it.
First of all, the actors of this movie are veterans and they were really good. They actually did an awesome portrayal of their roles. I would like to start off with my favorite supporting actor in this film, which was Pan Soo who was acted by Ma Dong Seok.
Because of him, there were a lot of comic relief despite the seriousness the movie had in store for the viewers. Thanks to him, the first quarter of this movie was a joy to watch. The next ones are Dol Seok and Kong Jin which was acted by Han Seok Kyu and Go Soo, their uncanny friendship which was brought by the love of making clothes was palpable that it was hard to feel bad when things had gone astray for the both of them. I especially liked how their dreams intertwined with each other and yet they both made different
choices and the path that they took separately lead them to be what they were meant to become. The Queen and King, portrayed by Park Shin Hye and Yoo Yeon Seok suited the role, because the royal clothes certainly looked regal when they wore them. Their characters had their own backstory to tell, since their relationship prior to getting married seemed like a fairytale story but it was simply marred by power struggle and inferiority complex. The Queen and Kong Jin on the other hand, had this peculiar relationship as of a royalty and a subject but then since it was obvious that Kong Jin was smitten by the Queen, there is that very thin line that cannot be crossed between a married woman and a man. I would tell more about my thoughts regarding their
characters but I will have to put it in a spoiler below, because it would reveal key points and major story plots from the movie. Oh, before I forget – I should mention one antagonist that really caught my attention because I totally wanted to bitch slap her character. Royal Concubine Soo Ui acted by Lee Yoo Bi was the kind of woman I would like to strangle due to her power hungry heart and her viciousness. For a royal concubine as ambitious as hers, I’d definitely want to see her fall from her power.
The cinematography of the movie was beautiful and colorful, though most scenes were
shot inside the palace, what made it great were the clothes. There were all kinds of clothes ranging from the ones Gisaengs were wearing up to those in the royal court. As for the story line, it didn’t feel draggy or over the top, however some people felt that the film was a bit rushed. In my opinion, the pacing was alright and that everything that has transpired in the movie was as clear as it could be. The only thing I would have changed if it was up to me, was add more on the back story of several characters like the King and Kong Jin. I would have wanted to know them better if not because of the time restriction. It’s not that necessary though, since the story
is about the current occurrences in the palace, the clothes they are wearing and how it moved and revolutionized fashion during that era. I know that not everyone cares much about their clothing ensemble or any trending fashion but it’s best to appreciate this film through Kong Jin. He’s the kind of person who loved clothes and has the guts to innovate and because of him, a lowly tailor during a time of heirarchy, was able to stir political power for the King and Queen.
Music wise, it felt like I was watching a saguek drama since most of them has a background music that felt like I was listening to Pansori music but other than that, music flow was great that it moved my emotions while I watched the show. I’m highly recommending this to those who like to watch saguek and those who love clothes.
Photos are not mine. Credits to the owner.
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Here are my thoughts about the main character’s relationship.
Dol Seok to Kong Jin – I love their relationship despite the self imposed rivalry for Dol Seok’s part. He is filled with awe and respect for Kong Jin’s work and yet he is also afraid and jealous because at the other side of the coin, he can be overthrown from his position, which actually happened because someone better came along. Though it was a bit vague if he remained as a head tailor in the palace, the fact that he was supposed to become a noble man in a couple of months. It was shown in the last scene that he was waiting at his home for the King’s royal decree which looked like it was not going to happen and yet he kept on waiting. It was sad that he did so much for the King but his loyalty was overshadowed by his limited talent and the King’s inferiority complex.
Kong Jin to Dol Seok – All he ever wanted was to make clothes for people, to make them look good and let them feel great about themselves. I love the way he respected Dol Seok because of his roots. Both of them were commoners, but Dol Seok was sought out by the King himself that it elevated his status among other people. However that’s not the main reason why Kong Jin liked him, it was because he knew that Dol Seok loved making clothes and that he had dedicated his whole life to making clothes. He knew that Dol Seok understood how he felt about the garments he made. Despite Kong Jin being eccentric and bold with his creations, he did not allow fear to consume him and so he still liked Dol Seok up to the very end even though he knew that he was about to die because Dol Seok make a copy-cat of his work. That particular scene when they were talking inside the jail was heart wrenching because despite how evil or mean Dol Seok seem to be, at the end when Kong Jin was gone and Dol Seok was burning Kong Jin’s remaining works, he found a nobleman’s garment that Kong Jin promised to make for him when he gets promoted. I think in that scene he realized how important Kong Jin was to him and the loss of a friend finally settled into his heart.
Kong Jin, the Queen and the King – During the early scenes when Kong Jin first met the Queen, it was implied how much he liked her as a woman and therefore she became his muse and inspiration. The proof was also the gold headdress that the Queen gave him as a gift for helping her out along with the message that he should give it to a woman he likes. Near the end of the movie, it was shown that he gave it back to her, implying that she was the one he liked. That’s why he made daring clothes for her not thinking what it would cost him. I like the huge difference between him and the King when it came to their personalities. Though the King loved the Queen, he could not let down his pride and come to her. It took a brilliant tailor to create an extravagant attire, the approval and appreciation of the Ming ambassadors and the failure of the opposing officials to humiliate the King before he went to seek the Queen but in the end it was too late. If my interpretations were right, the Queen did fall in love with Kong Jin because she accepted the hairpin and actually wore it. She also tried to save Kong Jin in her own way even though it was to no avail, at least she tried. She also mourned for his death using the handkerchief he gave her with an embroidery of her mother’s favorite flower.
The ending was beautiful despite the death of Kong Jin, it shows the impact of a man who moved the nation with his ideas and principles despite it being as simple as through clothes.