23rd August 2010
Last Sunday night, EBS showed director Park Jang-ho’s 1965 film A Certain Love Affair. Now, director Park had made just over forty movies between his debut in 1959, 3 O’Clock on a Rainy Afternoon and his final project in 1988, Lady in the Wall. The ~~ in the Wall series, which includes the Woman in the Wall (1969), Woman in the Wall 2 (1970), Man in the Wall (1972) and the aforementioned Lady, are why I am familiar with Park as I have seen some of them previously. All were about unhappy marriages where a long suffering, often neglected wife, falls in love with another man but is encouraged by the end of the film to return to her marriage on the husband’s promise that things will be different when she returns. Despite nearly a half decade or more and no less than 16 other project separating these films from A Certain Love Affair, Park manages to keep the same theme. If I had to sum up the first hour of the movie, I would have called it decidedly average with some clear budget problems that kept my mind occupied (more on that later). However, the last part of the movie took the film from average and slightly dull to terrible and made me quite angry with its message.
Yoon-hee (played by Kim Hye-jeong) has married Ho-jin (Nam Goong-won) without knowing all there is to know about him. Namely, that a car accident has left him unable to perform in the bedroom. On their honeymoon, he fails to tell her this and she assumes that his lack of physical intimacy is due to the fact that he is thinking of another woman. Later, she finds lipstick on his handkerchief and, following him, discovers him slobbering all over a young woman in a seedy bar. When she confronts her husband, he informs her of his physical problem and assures her that he will never see that girl again. They attempt to have sex, but it is a useless effort that leaves them both unsatisfied.
However, between seeing her husband pawing the bar girl and confronting him about it back home, Yoon-hee runs into her friend, ‘Miss Cho.’ It would have been hard to miss her in the attire she is in. Cho is wearing a skin tight leopard spot pair of pants and a French beret. This is not merely to show that she has bad taste in clothes. It is to show that she has been westernized in the worst possible way. Cho takes the opportunity to introduce Yoon-hee to Nam-soo (Nam Seok-hoon) who indicates that he is instantly attracted to the married woman. However, being married is not the only problem. Nam-soo is an employee of her husband’s company. Being morally corrupt, Nam-soo does not care that Yoon-hee is the wife of his boss and Yoon-hee is quickly warming to his advances. In fact, where her husband introduces Nam-soo to his wife at a club, Nam-soo asks to dance with her. The two, pretending it’s the first time they have met, dance while nuzzling each other right in plain view of Ho-jin.
You would think that this would make Ho-jin jealous…and you would be correct. However, he reacts to stress and anger in a surprising way. It puts him in an amorous mood. After arguing with Yoon-hee or after watching her dancing crushed up against Nam-soo, Ho-jin attempts to please his wife in bed (I am dreading the spam this sentence is going to generate) but, as usual, the two end up more frustrated and annoyed with each other than before. However, that changes in the final scene of the movie which I am going to reveal as I don’t think this film will ever see the light of day again and this may be your only chance to learn of it.
Yoon-hee has fallen in love with Nam-soo and the continuing arguments with her husband culminate in her deciding to leave home. She decides to meet Nam-soo and give in to his seduction. Unfortunately, she has to call him where he works so her husband has the means to overhear their plans. He races to Nam-soo’s house and arrives just as Yoon-hee has eased herself down on the bed and is ready to consummate their love. Ho-jin flies into a rage and severely beats Nam-soo. He would have killed him with a bottle if Yoon-hee had not thrown herself in between. Saved by his lover, Nam-soo departs (apparently not fired from his job) leaving Yoon-hee to deal with her enraged husband. Ho-jin cannot calm down and turns his fury on his wife, slapping her across the face and throwing her down on the bed. These days, what follows next would be described as rape. Apparently, in this movie, in constitutes a happy ending. His anger and jealousy cures the psychological block and he is a man again—shown symbolically through water rushing faucet while the sound of a train chugs along in the background. Thoroughly satisfied sexually, the couple vows never to cheat on each other again.
Blah. The idea of the end justifying the means has never appealed to me in any context. The idea of violence and rape leading to a couple’s happiness is ridiculous. The message this movie seems to have is that spousal violence can lead to happiness and that is something I cannot ever agree with. But..there was something about this film that kept me entertained until I was shocked by the unrealistic ending. This movie seems to have had no budget. The set director was apparently given one room to work with that had to represent three different rooms. However, he had a limited number of décor and knickknacks. There were two sets of curtains, the ones with the palm trees and the ones with the pineapples. The palm trees appear in the couple’s bedroom and in a frequently used hotel room. The pineapple curtains are used in the couple’s living room and in Nam-soo’s studio apartment. Various dolls, stuffed animals and other odds and ends are used in more than one scene and frequently move around–doll on piano in one room, same doll on bed in could’s house, same doll now on the shelf near the sofa. It was like playing ‘Where’s Waldo’ at times.
But the games I were playing and the mental notes I were taking to keep myself entertained during the movie were ultimately not enough. This film is not very good and just barely held my interest and in the end it is insulting to the intelligence and degrading to women. Bad as it is though, I do not regret seeing it. I like that EBS is showing these older films no matter how bad some of them are. They used to repeat the same classics like Aimless Bullet, The Coachman or The Housemaid every year or two. These are great movies but I want to see things I haven’t seen before and there were literally thousands of other films made in Korea in the 60s. Seeing them gives a more balanced view of the kinds of movies being made at that time. Ideally, I hope to be able to see every early film that is available and write something about them as there is so little information on them available in English. Whether I ultimately like it or not is unimportant in the long run.