Can a person fake one’s way into love? All’s fair in love and war, they say, and the world would be only half as sad if a mere four letters were to be erased from that statement. In fact, anybody who has experienced unrequited love may have dreamed at some point that their special someone could be bought. After all, one would give anything to have the love of his or her life, and what other means of trade would be of more practical value in today’s society than money? And so, such half-ridiculous, half-hopeful stretches of imagination come to reality in director Hyun-suk Kim’s newest production, Cyrano Agency. In response to the question I initially stated, Cyrano’s band of con artists would reply, “Yes,” and offer their wares of love to any willing customer.
In Cyrano Agency, a theatre troupe facing financial crisis attempts to overcome their slump by offering their services as romance-fixing cupids. In other words, they essentially help bring people together by means of creating the perfect situation for love to grow. For our group of actors (con artists?) , this daunting work is accomplished skillfully and methodically. The job description means that they must produce their own work of drama, complete with the flawless script and a sugary scenario, and then conspire with their customers to make the targets fall in love with them. At the heart of the mission, the customers become the heroes of their real-action drama with the assistance of the troupe.
The troupe, which entitles itself “Cyrano Agency,” gets into the action; they bring out the camera, lights, and props; give acting lessons to customers; plant high-tech microchip audio-equipment on the rims of customer’s glasses to give commands through; produce artificial rain for a melancholy atmosphere, and finally, apply their background knowledge to create the perfect scenario for romantic connections to take place.
One day, a handsome rich man named Sangyong (played by Daniel Choi) knocks at the front door of Cyrano headquarters (a shady old mini-theater in a rundown basement) with a request to be matched with a girl he met in church, Heejoong (Minjung Lee). Although the probability of a successful match is calculated to exceed 90%, Cyrano’s president Byunghoon (Tae Woong Uhm) is reluctant to sign the contract. Sensing her boss’s unusual attitude, Minyoung (Shinhye Park) suspects that Heejoong may have been his lover in the past. She quickly warns Byunghoon that the agency is currently in debt and cannot afford to lose any potential customers. Byunghoon is left with no choice and must devise a plan for Heejoong, for whom he is still affectionate, to fall in love with Sangyong.
Hence the story is about a man who cannot approach the woman he loves because of some fateful reason, and instead must direct another man in wooing her. In fact, Cyrano Agency gets its title from the French dramatist Edmond Rostrand’s play, “Cyrano de Bergerac.” In the play, the titular character Cyrano is a poet and army officer who loves a woman named Roxanne, but cannot bring himself to confess because of his awareness of his own large nose. His cadet, Christian, is also in love with Roxanne, but does not have the literary style and eloquence to successfully woo her. One day, the handsome Christian asks ugly Cyrano to write love letters for Roxanne, to which Cyrano complies. So Cyrano vicariously expresses his love through writing love letters, while Christian makes the move to court her. Thinking that the love letters were written by Christian, Roxanne naturally falls for him. Cyrano looks on sadly as the two grow passionate and deeply attached to each other.
Cyrano Agency is not just a Korean rehash of the old play. The characters’ motives are so well portrayed that one ends up feeling empathy for both leading male characters. So while it may have gotten adopted from certain aspects from the original, the movie illustrates the story with a new light.
If you are worried that this movie might make you curl up with its corny storyline, rest assured that this film is anything but predictable, especially some of the underlying assumptions which are taken for granted but turn out to be totally out of the box. It is eye-popping to watch as the characters turn an ordinary café into a mission site, hire extras to act as the bad guys, and play the right background music to make the mood. The director pays such close attention to subtle details of a relationship that will make you exclaim with sympathy at certain scenes. Moreover, the troupe treats their projects like FBI secret missions. The utter gravity with which the characters tend to their tasks is absurd and hilarious at the same time.
Overall, this movie is light, but cleverly made and entertaining. It would be a cute film for friends, lovers, and audiences of all ages to see.