Seen in Jeonju

Archive for the '1990s' Category

Revenge Week: Day 5

12th July 2013

Incest as a tool of revenge must surely be one of the most shocking methods of achieving vengeance. The role it played in the most popular of Park Chan-wook’s Vengeance Trilogy shocked audiences around the world with both its venom and its creativity. The more recent Dirty Blood features a young woman intent on getting revenge on her father and begins a sexual relationship with him without him knowing her real identity. Are these cases unique in Korean cinema? The answer, of course, is ‘No.’

Back in 1971, we have another example of a young woman out for revenge against her biological father. The movie this occurred in is called I’m Your Daughter and it was directed by Jo Moon-jin and it had some big-named stars in it. The incomparable Moon Hee played Baek Yeon-hee opposite Shin Yeong-gyun who played Mr. Baek and Shin Seong-il who played her former lover, Seong-ho. Two other major actresses of the time, Ko Eun-ah and Hwang Jeong-soon also appear in the film.

In the story, Yeon-hee lives in poverty. Her mother bore her out of wedlock when she had an affair with Mr. Baek and never recovered after he abandoned her. After her death, Yeon-hee turns to her boyfriend, Seong-ho for comfort and becomes pregnant with his child. Seong-ho attempts to do the right thing and marry her, but cannot oppose his family who object to the marriage because of Yeon-hee’s background. Instead, Seong-ho is married off to Mr. Baek’s legitimate daughter, Ja-myeong and Yeon-hee is left to fend for herself and raise her son on her own.

To support herself, Yeon-hee becomes a hostess—entertaining men at a bar. She moves closer to Seong-ho’s house so her son can get to know Seong-ho a little. It is there that she is presented with a chance to avenge her mother, and Yeon-hee hatches a dreadful plot. The womanizing Mr. Baek frequents the bar in which Yeon-hee works. Throwing all morals to the wind, Yeon-he gradually becomes closer to him, seducing him and allowing Baek to fall in love with her. When sh is ready, Yeon-hee finally reveals who she is, taunting him with the information and blaming him for her mother’s death and her own ruin. It turns out that Yeon-hee had concocted the ultimate revenge against Baek. Upon learning of his incestuous relationship with his daughter, Baek has a heart attack, keels over and dies. Yeon-hee leaves her son in Seong-ho’s care and leaves for parts unknown.

A decade earlier there were a couple of other films where adult children enter their fathers’ lives without their identities being known, to wreak havoc on his family and business. There is one where a son comes back, gets a job with his father, and attempts to make his stepsister fall in love with him as revenge before having a change of heart and another from 1966 where a young woman gets a job in her father’s office as his personal secretary and feeds confidential papers to rival companies for revenge.

Unfortunately, while these films still exist, a trailer or film clip is not available. So instead, I will leave you with the clip from Who Broke the Red Rose Stem? (1990). A more typical revenge film where a woman sets out to avenge the deaths of her father and husband as well as her daughter’s lost sanity against a cooperate director responsible in his effort to steal the company from her. Five years later she has reinvented herself as a fashion designer and with her model bodyguards enacts revenge on the businessman only to have it revealed that her husband is alive and was manipulated by the evil corporate heads into killing her father. She decides to take her vengeance out on everyone involved, manipulated or not…

Trailer of Revenge 5!

Don’t forget to head over to Modern Korean Cinema for more Revenge Week

Posted in 1970s, 1990s, video & trailers | Comments Off

Revenge Week: Day 2

9th July 2013

Nothing to Lose

Over the past couple of days, I have been browsing through a huge number of revenge movies and I was left with two observations. The first is that I really needed to making a working definition of what a revenge movie is to better weed through the literally hundreds of possibilities I was looking at. The second observation was that it seemed to me that the majority of films, with the major exception of the imitation Hong Kong kung fu films, the person seeking revenge was, more often than not, a woman.. at least in revenge films made before the year 2000.

To work through the first point, I eliminated all horror films despite the fact that ghosts are generally motivated by a need for revenge. Horror is a completely different genre than what I felt the theme of REVENGE WEEK is about, despite the fact that a ghost’s motivation is almost always revenge. That does not mean that a revenge film has to be realistic. I would consider A Teenage Hooker Becomes KIlling Machine.. as a revenge flick even with its science fiction elements. Also, someone seeking revenge in a movie does not automatically make it a revenge film if the motivation is not all-encompassing. Of course, a character may give up on his or her revenge plot before it is complete, but I would still consider it a revenge movie is it was a major element in the story. I have a good example of that which I am saving for later in the week.

Since most of the films that I will be dealing with this week are about women avenging wrongs wrought by man, I decided that today I would give an example of a man seeking revenge. The image above and the trailer below are from the film I Have Nothing made in 1991. Directed by Im Seon, it is the story of Choi Kang-ta who was raised an orphan by a monk on a lonely island. The monk trains Kang-ta in how to fight, preparing him for a dangerous future. Upon reaching his 24th year, the monk explains the Kang-ta that he pulled his pregnant mother from the sea where she had been thrown by some men wishing to drown her. Unable to save her, he promised to tell Kang-ta her story when he was old enough.

Kang-ta heads to the city to find out more about his background and avenge his mother’s death. Along the way, he earns the respect of several small time swindlers and thugs and winds up putting together his own gang. This brings him to the attention of his mother’s killer, Kang-ta’s own father, who wants to see the young man dead. The older man had married Kang-ta’s mother for position and money as her father is an elderly, wealthy man–with gang ties of his own. Kang-ta’s father throws the power of the gang at his son trying to stop the young fighter from making contact with his grandfather and telling his story.

Click here to view the trailer to I Have Nothing

Now head on over to Modern Korean Cinema and see what other revenge filled flicks they are talking about!

Posted in 1990s, video & trailers | Comments Off

Countdown to Halloween D-5: Zzu-Zzu

27th October 2011

Today, while I was preparing a post for the next monster on the Obscure Monster Halloween Countdown when a friend looked over my shoulder and said excitedly, “You should write about Baby Dinosaur Zzu-Zzu!”  “You mean Young-gu and Dinosaur Zzu-Zzu?” I asked. That was a movie I had briefly considered and dismissed. “Yeah!” he replied, “I saw it when I was about nine or ten years old. It was a lot of fun. You have to write about it.”  Well, since I have to write about it, I will.

zzuzzuWhat really made me agree to write about the movie was the image pictured right. Warning!  Do NOT look directly at this still photo! The absolute hideousness could possibly cause blindness. You all know what I’m talking about. Not the strange reptile creature holding hands with Young-gu.  It’s that horrible collection of verticle and horizontal stripes. And the shorts with suspenders combo. I don’t think I have ever seen anything so terrible in my life. And it appears throughout the movie.. Young-gu never once changes what he’s wearing except for a brief scene that is even worse when he takes off his shirt. Yes, it is true. After my friend told me I had to write about the movie, I felt I first should actually see it.  I was a little reluctant to do so being familar with early Shim Hyeong-rae films and his character Young-gu. As an adult, his films are hard to watch. He has often been blamed for making childish films and his detractors would have a point except for the fact that they Shim’s films were made for children.  In nearly all of his films, Hyeong-rae portrays himself as an adult-sized child, whether he is in the Uleme series, the Young-gu movies (Young-gu and Ddaengchili, Young-gu and Dracula..), or the direct-to-video Hyeong-rae series (Hyeong-rae and the Hulk, Masked Hyeong-rae and the Goblins…).  By playing the child, no matter how unconvincing he is to the mature eye, he provides children with an identification figure.. a character or friend with whom they can imagine sharing impossible adventures or whom they replace in their imaginations with themselves.

The plot of the movie follows the British movie Gorgo (1961) and the 1967 Japanese film Monster from a Prehistoric Planet starring Gappa (a monster that should be on somebody’s obscure creature list)  In all of these films, somebody finds a giant egg or a baby, unknown beast and decides to take it home and then are shocked with the parent or parents of the hatchling come searching for it. In Young-gu and Dinosaur Zzu-Zzu (1993), (NOT “Princess Zzu-Zzu as the KMDb calls it— somebody there mixed up the words Gongryong with Gongju. They are not interchangable), Young-gu finds a giant egg in a cave.  The egg then chases him (?) and nearly crushes Young-gu before coming to a hault and hatching.

At first terrified by the little dinosaur that bears more than a passing resemblence to the original Yonggary from Yonggary, Monster from the Deep (1967), Young-gu soon finds himself coming to its rescue when a gang of children attack the beast out of fear.  The police get involved as well, so Young-gu hides to monster in his room with his stuffed toys like in E.T. He might have evaded the police but Young-gu and the little dinosaur run afoul of three thieves who having seen the dinosaur, want to capture and sell it to the highest bidder. After several misadventures, the thieves finally succeed and take the little dinosaur and the kidnapped Young-gu to Seoul.

It turns out that they left the village just in time.  The real threat to humanity shows up– Zzu-Zzu’s mother. She appears by breaking through the side of a mountain in a scene that was clearly inspired by Yonggary and that is done at least as well as that more famous monster. Her major fault is that she comes at the 50 minute mark–  That meant 50 minutes with no real monster.. or did it?  Little Zzu-Zzu made it quite clear that she did not eat vegetables or grains.  Clearly, she was carniverous… I kept waiting for her to turn on the thieves and eat them. But she doesn’t get the chance. Her mother finally tracks them down in Seoul, after destroying much of the city, finally attacks the building where Zzu-Zzu is hidden and melts her kidnappers with her flame breath. 

That turn of events seemed surprisingly out of place in a movie clearly aimed at very young children as did the ultimate, and quite bloody fate of Zzu-Zzu’s mother as she bleeds out on the street and dies. The soldiers then turn their guns on Zzu-Zzu and…. 

This film was Shim Hyeong-rae’s first attempt at making a monster movie and he has many others to his name..Tyrano’s Claw, Young-gu and the Space Monster, Dragon Tucca, Yonggary and D-War.  Three of those are possible candidates for this list, but tomorrow I be taking a look at a 1961 movie featuring a vampiric vine.

Posted in 1990s, Uncategorized | Comments Off

The Moon…is the Sun’s Dream (1992)

9th January 2010

moon is the suns dreamOriginally posted August 10, 2007–When most people think of Park Chan-wook, they are most likely remembering his vengeance trilogy comprised of Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy and Sympathy For Lady Vengeance. They may also recall the much-discussed JSA which made him a director to watch or his recent film I’m A Cyborg, But That’s Ok–a film that seemed to polarize audiences into groups of either ‘love it’ or ‘hate it’.   But Park had a couple of films before making JSA in 2000. One of them was Threesome in 1997 and his debut film was today’s topic, The Moon…Is the Sun’s Dream.

I did not know what to expect when I started the film. I had read that it failed upon its release in the theaters but had somehow developed a small cult following of fans despite not drawing large crowds to the theaters.  While I was not expecting a great film, I was looking forward to catching glimpses of what would make Park great in his future films. However, that turned out not to be the case.

The story is about Moo-hoon, a gangster in Busan.  At the beginning of the movie, Moo-hoon has betrayed the gang he works with by running off with their funds and the boss’ girlfriend, Eun-joo.  The gang traces the pair to a seedy motel and Moo-hoon gets beaten. As the gangsters are about to slit his wrists, Eun-joo bravely blocks the descending blade…with her face. (Eun-joo proves on more than one occassion not to be the brightest cookie in the box).  Although the gangsters are unable to recover the stolen money, they recapture Eun-joo who is then sold into prostitution.

Jumping ahead a few years, we meet Moo-hoon again when he visits his half-brother Ha-yeong.  Ha-yeong is a photographer currently working for a fashion magazine and avoiding the drunken advances of the fading, alcoholic model Soo-mi.  While there, Moo-hoon spots a photo of Eun-joo among a series of photos Ha-yeong took featuring prostitutes.  Moo-hoon rescues Eun-joo and the pair live together with Ha-yeong.

Eun-joo becomes interested in modeling and even has an operation to get her scar removed though she is unaware of just how Moo-hoon came up with the money for such an expensive operation.  She becomes a success as a model and is even offered a role in a movie.  Her future seems secure.

Moo-hoon is not quite so lucky. He has been contacted by his former gang to do one more job for them. If he refuses, they will kill Eun-joo. Moo-hoon makes a plan that will turn the table on the gangsters but, in order to ensure Eun-joo’s safety, he breaks up with her first.  He then embarks on what may be a suicide mission against his former friends in the gang.

I had two major complaints about this film. The first is that it was unbelievably boring. At about the forty-minute mark I seriously considered turning it off.  I am glad that I didn’t because it does become more interesting in the second half of its running time but it is not, under any circumstances, a great movie.  The second thing I found annoying was the amateurish use of lighting and color.  Now, as it was his debut film, one can expect a little bit of amateurism. But Park seemed to be under the impression that adding various colored filters to a scene would make them more interesting or artistic.  It does not. If colors are used for a reason it is fine, but just using filtered lenses because they came with the camera is not. Likewise with colors–I kept wondering if they set manager had ordered too much purple paint as we see an unusual number of purple walls.

I also did not like most of the action sequences in this film. Almost all of them are cut before their conclusion and we have to assume what happened or be told by a character at a later date how the scene played out. For example, the opening scene (filmed with a yellowish filter) in the motel. We see Moo-hoon beat senseless by the thugs. We see Eun-joo scarred by the knife. We do not see what happened after that. Why do the gangsters take Eun-joo but leave Moo-hoon to escape? Did he suddenly find the strength to battle his way out?

There were, however, some interesting points as well.  Quite a bit of tension is built up in the elevator scene.  We know that Moo-hoon is armed with a plan and a large billy club when he enters an elevator disguised as a courthouse guard. He is to free a gangster that is being escorted by two officers. As the elevator descends, he taps his club against the palm of his open hand. The sound, combined with the numbers of the floors as the elevator drops, manages to build up a good deal of tension and suspense.

Another good scene is Moo-hoon’s fight with gangsters in the back seat of a car. He is outnumbered three-to-one and the enclosed setting and awkward camera angles manage to create a claustrophobic feeling.

The most interesting scene appears at the end of the movie and is entirely outside the action of the film and involves photographer Ha-yeong.  At his introduction, Ha-yeong had informed the audience  in a voice-over  ‘I am the camera.’  The entire narrative is told through him (which doesn’t always work as he is not there for many of the sequences and could not have known what was going on) and I came to think of Ha-yeong as the Park Chan-wook identification character.  In the final scene, Ha-yeong is watching the film Eun-joo made which ends with her crying on a pier. We have a view of this as if we were sitting near the back of the theater, the screen of the movie taking up our screens (whether theater or tv) with the rows of seats in front of us. The theater is empty except for Ha-yeong and the camera which seems to be the viewer. Ha-yeong moves forward towards the screen and leans against it filled with regret and sadness for the crying actress.  Then the lights come on and a voice (the viewer) says in Korean “What the hell…?” Cue red filter as Ha-yeong turns around and stares directly into the camera–at the viewer–with an accusing look mingled with remorse.  It is a surreal moment that feels as if the director is speaking directly to you without saying a word.

Unfortunately, the rest of the movie was not like this at all and my reaction to the film was the same as the disembodied voice…What the hell…?  Thankfully, in the years that followed, Park Chan-wook managed to develop his style and technique to become one of the most respected directors in the Korean film industry today.

Posted in 1990s, Review | 2 Comments »

Incoherence (1994)

22nd December 2009

incoherenceOriginally posted June 24, 2009–In 1994, acclaimed director Bong Jun-ho debuted with two films. The first was an 18-minute film which translates as White-Colored Man and which featured some very impressive actors. The second was the film which I will review today, Incoherence. I had forgotten that I owned this 30-minute short as part of the My Beautiful Short Films II collection (available on DVD) but rediscovered it as I was screening shorts for a student workshop I had to teach.

Incoherence is divided into three episodes and a rather long epilogue. Episode one is entitled Cockroach.  It is the story of a professor who has sexual fantasies about his students. Between classes he reads pornography in his office. One day, he forgets the handouts he had prepared for class and sends his favorite student to get it..only to remember that he has left his porn out in the open on his desk. He calls a short break as he races after the student. Although she beats him to the office, he hurls a book across the room which lands squarely on top of the magazine, effectively concealing it. When the surprised student asks him why he threw the book, he makes up a lie about killing a cockroach.

Episode 2 is called Up the Alleys. It starts with a jogger of about 60-years of age in an expensive, coordinated track suit running through the quiet streets. He stops in front of a house, opens a carton of milk left by the milkman and talks with the young man who has come to deliver the paper. He offers the paperboy the second pint of milk that is sitting in front of the gate before he continues his jog. As the paperboy drinks the milk, the lady of the house comes out and is furious to find her milk gone. The stunned youth tries to explain that he thought the man who offered him the milk lived in the house, but the woman does not believe him as her milk has been disappearing daily and she cancels her subscription to the paper. The old man watches all of this from around the corner and chuckles to himself as he continues his run, only to unexpectedly encounter the paperboy again in the maze of backstreets. A chase begins, sometimes real, sometimes imagined by the old man who clearly is enjoying himself.

The Night of Pain is the title of Episode 3. In it, we meet a very drunk man trying to get home. A series of mistakes leaves him stranded somewhere far from his house in the unfortunate postition of having to use the bathroom. Although he is directed to a public toilet, he finds the door locked. He is about to perform his urgent business in a less than appropriate place when he is caught by the night guard.  The short tempered guard hands him an old newspaper and tells him to crap on that in the basement, fold it up and throw it in the dumpster (like he has to do each night). When the man indignantly goes to the basement, all the while shouting “Do you know who I am,” he discovers that the cellar is where the night guard lives. There is a bed and a small kitchen set up there for him. Viewing this, the man gets a positively evil (yet funny) idea.

The Epilogue is set up to reveal exactly who each of these characters are and why their offenses are so ironic. All three appear on a talkshow discussing what is wrong with society today and offering theories as to why crime is on the rise. Although they have their televisions turned on, none of the victims of these men are watching the program carefully enough to recognize the men as the perpetrators of the crimes against them.

Incoherence is an excellent short film with some black humor sprinkled throughout and a heavy dose of irony at the end as we see who each of the characters are and what their crimes mean. The only problem with the film occurs at the end with some topical issues being discussed in the talk show clearly being dated with the passage of time.  However, it is a good film and worth tracking down to see.

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2001 Imagine (1994)

23rd October 2009

screen capture from 2001 Imagine (1994)The fourth installment of the My Beautiful Short Films was released earlier in October. This series of DVDs feature short films spanning the decades are a must-see for viewers who wish to watch early movies/student projects  by their favorite directors or the creations of popular directors outside of their mainstream works.  The collections could be criticized for not being cohesive–they do not have a common theme at all and the films chosen often seem random. I could also criticize them for the order in which the films are shown–my mind turned off during the intentionally confusing yet somehow boring animation on My Beautiful Shorts 4 leaving me struggling to pay attention to the later movies on the disk.  However, I won’t criticize them at all. These DVDs are one of the few places to view Korean short films outside of film festivals and with the occassional film such as 2001 Imagine appearing occassionally appearing among the collectiosn, it is definitely worth investing in owning the sets.

2001 Imagine was directed by Jang Joon-hwan with the cinematography by Bong Joon-ho.  With such a collaboration, it is any wonder that this film is engrossing?  Jang would later go on to direct the love-it-or-hate-it film Save the Green Planet (which I loved) and the short film Hair which has been declared a hit whereever it has screened.  Jang is also slated to direct the sequel to Tazza which is now being called Tazza: The Revenger (still in the scenario writing stage as of this posting) and it was announced last week that he will be directing part of the omnibus movie being created for the 2010 Pusan International Film Festival currently being called The Pusan Project.  It is a shame that we have not had more feature-length movies from this amazing director–but until we do, we will have to content ourselves with whatever we can.

2001 Imagine is the story of a man who is under the delusion that he is the reincarnation of John Lennon. He tells us in a voice-over that he has always known this but has kept it a secret. He has grown up alone with his mother after the suicide of his drunken, abusive father. However, his mother has a weak heart and she cannot continue to do the hard work required to support the two of them. She winds up in the hospital after her heart fails. The man, played by Park Hee-soon (The Scam, A Million, Hansel and Gretel…), decides it is time to reveal who is really is in order to relieve his mother’s concerns about money. However, as he whispers his secret to her, she has a heart attack and dies. 

Left alone, the man falls deeper and deeper into his delusion. Donninig a wig, sunglasses and general attire of a latter-years Lennon, he goes out to astound the world with his singing and songwriting skills. To his surprise, he is thrown out of every audition he attends. It is no surprise to the viewer though as he does not know how to play the guitar and the only song he attempts to sing has the words “I love you” repeated over and over and over again. Like any artist who does not have his ‘genius’ recognized, he does not blame himself, but society at large for being blind and/or idiots.  He then meets a young woman who bears a passing resemblance to a young Yoko Ono and stalks her.  She agrees to go out with him after he lies to her by saying his father was a wealthy diplomat but it is not long afterwards that viewers learn just how unstable he really is.

Throughout the film, the viewers’ sympathies are drawn to the man who, aside from being slightly odd, seems quite likable.  Therefore some later aspects of the film, as the man spirals deeper into insanity and desperation, we see quite a different side to him that is unexpected and terrifying. His frequent internal voice-overs no longer match the actions we can see unfolding on the screen and we can know firsthand how much he needs to lie to himself to maintain his fantasy world.  I strongly recommend this 30-minute film. It can be viewed on the My Beautiful Short Films 4 DVD and is subtitled in English for non-Korean speakers.

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