Review/Top Ten Tuesdays: Ten Favorite Shots From History of a Salaryman Episode 1

10 Jan

In lieu of a traditional “What I Like About” review of the incredibly unconventional “History of a Salaryman”, I’d like to present my ten favorite shots from the show’s first episode. The show is visually literal and there are plenty of shots (some of them extended shots) that make this show just gorgeous to look at, not to mention very very funny.


Oh this shot cracks me up. Yoo Bang (Lee Bum Soo) grabs the gum straight from Cha Woo Hee’s (Hong Soo Hyun) mouth. Yoo Bang’s facial expression here is priceless; it screams “at last!” as if she just won the prize. Before this however, one of my favorite moments from this episode was Woo Hee’s self-flattery: “I know I’m pretty but…” Haha Self-absorption at its most hilarious.


This is just one of three shots taken from that epic golf scene and this one is the most stylistically interesting. We get a lot of back story from just looking at this shot. They’re two big time honchos surrounded by a cavalcade of  suits. The huge gap between these two groups reveals how much they don’t like each other and the whole golf course is a business trope.


This shot has a lot to do with the mis-en-scene we have going on. Everyone has different concerns and body languages that we understand the atmosphere and how chilly the air must be during this scene. Director Bum Jung (Lee Ki Young) has an alarming expression, the nerves he is feeling as Yeo-chi squares off with the department store representative, who is quite nervous herself but poise enough to clasp her hands together. I love Yeo-chi’s slouch, hidden in her posh animal fur coat, as if to point out she’s too good for this. In the back, Mo Ga Bi’s body position makes the audience feel the awkwardness emanating from the scene. In short, this is quite a shot that says a lot without using words.


The best part about this shot is the fixation Yoo Bang has on Yeo-chi from across the window. It’s even funnier when you actually hear the words spewing from Yeo-chi’s mouth. In fact, they’re so hostile, they have to be beeped from time to time. Nonetheless, this shot does establish perhaps the attraction Yoo Bang has for Yeo-chi during the rest of the other episodes stem from his false first impression.


Continuing on with the hilariousness of this show is this decidedly ironic shot. On the one hand, the show’s music highlights the seriousness of the scene, since we are talking about spies, top-notch security, and even the blue lighting. The irony comes from how funny this scene actually is. The bloated music contrasts with Yoo Bang’s hilarious expressions during his time in the air duct.  Truly, this show knows how to balance humor and seriousness to the point of parody.


The second of three shots from the golf scene, this one is pure comic bliss. I love the expressions of the guys in suits as they march through the water and this guy even managing to do a flying kick! It’s almost satirical how adamant and devoted the suits looks as they pounce on their enemies.


Haha! Yeo-chi’s background hysterical hissy fit is one of the most glorious moments of this show. It happens in the background so if your are focusing in on Yoo Bang’s chat with his guest, you wouldn’t have noticed it. Basically, Yeo-chi slaps the waitress for spilling a drink on her shoe, then proceeds to throw everything all around. All of this happen while Yoo Bang obliviously signs papers. Just plain brilliant.


Leave it to Yoo Bang for undercutting the serious tone of the show by simply showing up on screen. Here, he gets in front of the camera  during a particularly serious scene between Hang Woo and his director. I love his facial expression here: so full of confusion and curiosity, which are essentially Yoo Bang’s trademark characteristics apart from his obliviousness.


Does anyone drink coffee like that? He just looks funny but hearing his voice over adds to the punchline. That he is gaining attraction for someone completely out of his league and out of her mind makes this shot funnier.


The moment I saw this shot, I knew I was in love with this show. This shot is lifted straight from the 1986 film Platoon, an iconic shot of course from the Vietnam War. Mix this with the hilarious score and we have ourselves an epic scene. When I saw this, I realized how much the show parodies film and television moments to, not only highlight the comedy of its self seriousness, but also (or at least I’d like to think so) to make an homage to film.

For a brief review of the show, it’s very funny. There are so many moments that are just laugh-out-loud funny because they go away from contrived humor. Sure, there’s a lot of obvious funniness going on here but they’re not dumb humor either. It’s a gorgeously shot show, well-acted by some of the funniest people in the industry, and the story is really interesting so far. Overall, I’m on board.



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