ArticleBaek Seolhui (Writer, Columnist), Song Hooryeong, Jeong Seohui (Cinema Journalist), Kim Boksung (Writer)
Photo CreditMBC Show! Music Core, BDNS YouTube

PLAVE’s Show! Music Core live
Baek Seolhui (Writer, Columnist): ASTERUM: 134-1, its second mini album, reached half a million in initial sales and stood atop the chart of a major television network music show. A total of 20,000 people visited the pop-up store at The Hyundai Seoul. These are the records that Korea's first virtual boy group, PLAVE, has accumulated over the course of a year. All members can write, compose, produce, and even choreograph their songs, and although each member has his own position, they don't draw a sharp line. With this ability, the quintet has transcended the potentially off-putting virtual technology to become a new preference of the public.

This unique group's strengths are most evident in their live videos. They can't appear on every music show due to obvious limitations, but when they do, they make the most out of their virtual idol status. For example, they move freely between the stage and virtual backdrops, float in the air, and join the separated members in the blink of an eye.
The live performance video of “WAY 4 LUV” from MBC’s Show! Music Core on March 9, 2024, the day PLAVE topped the chart, maximizes the strengths of their amazing performance, which is only possible for a virtual idol. Starting with the members jumping onto the stage in “Terra (Earth)” from the “Asterum” in Middle Earth, where they are staying, the video shows various performances that only they can do, like leaving only one member behind with the rest of the members disappearing into smoke, falling from the air, and changing the background in an instant. All of these effects blend seamlessly with the mood of the song, maximizing the “sentiment” that only they can deliver. PLAVE has opened up new possibilities for K-pop. But they've only just begun. As technology advances, the five members will take us to even greater places. I can't wait to see what the future holds for the quintet.

“Forever Waiting For You (“FWFY”)” (BDNS)
Song Hooryeong: “In the era of mukbang, I will not eat. Instead, I will make the most of the waiting process leading up to the meal.” Just like Moon Sang-hoon’s intention and the title suggest, “Forever Waiting For You (“FWFY”)” focuses on genuinely capturing the time of waiting. It starts with ordering delivery food and the talk goes on until the food arrives. During this neither short nor long periods usually passed unconsciously, “FWFY” seems to accomplish quite a lot. Moon Sang-hoon, first known to many for his alternate personas like a Korean geography star instructor or a soldier, began “FWFY” season 1 with an attempt to bring out the human Moon Sang-hoon in him by sharing his longtime tastes and innermost feelings. With season 2, he became an interviewer, showing how meaningful people's conversations can be even in a limited period of time. So when poet Jinwoo Hwon Lee wrote in his recommendation for “FWFY” that “Sang-hoon is an interviewer who gives away a part of the house he has built to himself and others,” he summarized the show's appeal in one phrase. For example, in the second episode of season 4, which featured singer IU as a guest, Moon leads from asking about specific tastes like “IU's philosophy regarding bread,” to eliciting a serious response about how she separates “IU” from “Lee Ji-eun.” What makes this intimate conversation possible is Moon's questioning style, which allows him to ask precisely what he wants to know, while still being able to express what he likes. He paraphrases the question of how IU considers the popular appeal when she writes by saying, “Your world has its depths, but when you put it into words or lyrics, if you just put it out there, a lot of people might drown, so do you have to raise the water level a little bit so they can splash into the water?” With all that sweet back-and-forth, the comment section is a rare sight. Many people reveal the candid side they have been hiding under a shield of “cringe” and respond in kind.

La Chimera
Jeong Seohui (Cinema Journalist): For him, the life is purgatory. Arthur (Josh O'Connor) searches for a way to reach his dead lover Beniamina (Yile Vianello), “the woman who is not here.” An artifact lies beneath the ground where Arthur, in his “chimera state,” collapses after taking a shallow breath. The tomb raider with water-dowsing talents is disheveled and forlorn. The gang wanders behind him with great expectations that he will sniff out priceless artifacts, but Arthur is a stranger, an ex-convict in his only suit, incarcerated in sultry weather and released in the cold, who wanders about “pretending to be a thief,” rummaging through the doors of basements in search of “my lost woman.” Beniamina's place can only be filled by Beniamina. Arthur is an Orpheus who wants to meet Eurydice, but he doesn't want to be as noble as the myth goes. He works in a graveyard, doesn't care about taboos, and loves crudely. Arthur's spiritual abilities lead him to an Etruscan shrine that has been sealed for 2,000 years, where he stands before a goddess and weeps. Amidst his “friends” who decapitate the statue for the sole purpose of easy transportation, the puppets who impersonate police and steal the statue, following the orders of black market dealers, and an auctioneer called Spartaco (Alba Rohrwacher) who glorifies vandalism by saying that since the statue is mere a body, “it could be any one of us,” Arthur lovingly caresses the stone head. Director Alice Rohrwacher explores this fierce battle of interests as part of Italy's long-standing problem of “the ancient art market and the illegal trade in archaeological treasures.” The raiders, who see themselves as predators in control, are actually “prey to the wider art market.” As “pawns in a vast system, mere cogs in a wheel,” they serve the “interests of the art market from which they are excluded.” And so, as Arthur watches everyone growling to get their hands on the “finished” statue at a private auction on a golden boat on a lake and sinks the head of the statue into the water, he becomes the exception to the long historic ills that have marred the “cradle of civilization.” “They aren’t made for human eyes.” Arthur, the only one who realizes that a legacy can't be priced by humans, is a chimera, not a human. During a rugged pursuit, his senses are prized for detecting a rare statue of a goddess, but his eyes are born again to help her escape a world that puts a price tag on her. The endlessly grieving lover turns his back on the world. Arthur now sees the dead in the tombs he has been breaking into, women who share rather than possess. He completes the task of not possessing the head of a cold goddess and leaves all the places he had visited behind, only to find an entrance that opens. The final pit closes for good. Arthur, who has followed “Beniamina’s thread”, warmly embraces Beniamina. Unrighteous without remorse, innocent without being exhibitionist, he is destined to be a heterogeneous mixture, unable to settle in the middle. The transcendent chimera is expunged “here.”

Small Things like These (Claire Keegan)
Kim Boksung (Writer): The cover of Small Things like These, Irish author Claire Keegan’s first novel, features a simple, picturesque winter scene, but don’t let it fool you: The book may be short—arguably, in fact, a novella–but it’s far from a heart-warming Christmas tale. 
The fictional story takes place in the real town of New Ross in the 1980s and set amid a very real tragedy that forced women into slave-like conditions and often death. The main character, Bill Furlong, is a father to five daughters with his wife, and the son of a single mother who was taken in by a widow. In a story populated by women almost exclusively, it’s interesting that the protagonist should be a man, which the author herself has suggested is because Bill’s choice to speak up or stay silent about what he witnesses isn’t the real point. Rather, it’s that no one is willing to risk their own stability to stop the suffering of others.
A cheerier reading might call the story an antidote to generational trauma, focusing on someone who knows how lucky they’ve been and paying it forward. Embrace every detail, but don’t expect a clear-cut ending with this book, which paints a picture, rather than a story with a clear beginning, middle, and end.

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