Seen in Jeonju

Archive for October, 2009

The Reluctant Prince (1963)

10th October 2009

reluctant princeOriginally posted October 20, 2007–Last night I sat down and watched yet another Shin Sang-ok film.  Unlike his other films that I have reviewed here, this one has a strong element of comedy involved–mostly in the form of sight gags.  I now know why Shin did not make many comedies…  The movie itself is not bad but the comic scenes are poorly timed and executed–though much of the fault may lie with the lead actor Shin Yeong-gyun who is also not know as being a comic actor. (The KMDB generously overlooks the fact that the film is at least in part a comedy and opts to list the movie as a historical melodrama).

It is the story of Byeong who, at the beginning of the film, we assume is a country bumpkin living in the mountains of Ganghwa Province.  From the term people use to address him, we know that he is from nobility, but there is clearly nothing left of the fortune his ancestors might have had as Byeong lives in a clay and straw hovel with barely enough to eat.  He gets by though with his knowledge of what plants and roots are edible in the hillsides where he gathers straw and assisted by a man he addresses as brother.

However, when the king of the nation falls ill, life changes dramatically for Byeong. It turns out that he is closely related to the ruling house and he is thought out by the Queen Mother to be groomed as the heir. For a man raised in the mountains where he could wander freely, living in the confines of the palace surrounded by servants and attendants is equal to living in prison. He is not used to the rich food, palace etiquette nor sitting still and he longs to run free. He also longs for his friend, Bok-nyeo, a girl that he grew up with and whom he had always treated as an equal.

He misses her so much that the Queen Mother agrees to fetch her and allow her to live at the palace as one of the attendants. Their happy reunion is short-lived however as not long afterwards, Byeong is married to a woman of royal blood.  On his wedding night, the new prince escapes from his bride and joins Bok-nyeo on a secret visit into town where they meet with Bok-nyeo’s mother who has opened a shop their selling food and drink. Enjoying the country-style food, the prince has soon forgotten all protocol and is litterally frolicking with people of all classes. 

But princes do not frolic. The Queen Mother soon discovers what is going on and puts an immediate stop to it.  And while Byeong is bemoaning his fate and the fact that he is not allowed to do anything fun, Bok-nyeo is taken before the Queen to face punishment for being a bad influence on the future monarch. 

The plot synopsis does sound like a melodrama the way I have described it, and it gets to be even moreso from the point after the Queen finishes with Bok-nyeo, but it is the comedy that stands out most clearly in my mind.  The first bit is handled very well. Byeong has fallen while in the mountains and his clothes are severly torn in the most unlikely way.  He goes to Bok-nyeo who sneaks away to sew it for him. She manages to mend his shirt easily without him having to take it off but she faces a problem with the pants because the right leg has torn all the way up to the crotch. The pair come up with a solution where Byeong can take off his pants behind a bush. Because Bok-nyeo is wearing pantaloons under her hanbok, she allows Byeong to wear her skirt so he will not be bare.  Of course, the pair is discovered and a comic chase with the two looking like they are in drag occurs.  What makes this scene work is not so much the situation, it is how the characters relate to each other.  It shows that they are very comfortable in their treatment of one another very much like equals or true friends.

Later comedy does not work quite so well. Some parts of the princes education like how to walk without letting the tassles on the crown swing are fine, but others like the diarrhea scene or the antics on the grass when first reunited with Bok-nyeo just go on forever.  A liberal use of scissors in the editing room was required.

Had Shin decided to cut out the comedy in the film, I would be more than happy to recommend it. The story and acting are good. But the poor execution of the comedy makes me reluctant to do so. There are much better examples of Shin’s work out there.

Posted in 1960s, Review | Comments Off

A Good Windy Day (1980)

10th October 2009

good windy dayOriginally posted March 11, 2008—This movie seems to have been randomly assigned many different English names over the years–A Fine Windy Day, A Windy But Pleasant Day… I decided to use the name listed at the Korean Film Archives, A Good Windy Day.  But by any name, this film by director Lee Jang-ho is a masterpiece of filmmaking.  It is socially relevant, filled with interesting symbols and imagery and is compeletly entertaining.  It is a character driven story and all the performances by all the primary actors are astoundingly good.  The lead character is played by Ahn Sung-ki who is currently in theaters at the moment with his new film, My New Partner.  Those who are familiar with Mr. Ahn only through his more recent works, you are missing out.  In his earlier career, Ahn Sung-ki was a versatile actor who could convincinly portray a wide range of characters with ease–from a shy, book-smart philospher in Knee To Knee to an obsessed young man trapped in a fantasy nightmare in Flower on the Equator to likable, simple Deok-bae in today’s film.

Deok-bae, Choon-shik and Gil-nam are all struggling to make a living in a poor area of Seoul. The three have come to the city from various parts of Korea in the hope of earning a lot of money and taking part in the Miracle on the Han.  However, their lives they are living are less than miraculous.  Deak-bae works delivering Chinese food and is looked down upon by his wealthy clients. Choon-shik works in a barber shop and Gil-nam in a motel.

Their accents mark them and those around them as outsiders in the city. The true Seoulites are without exception, either spoiled brats (for the younger generation) or malicious corruptors of the innocent.  Take for example Myeong-hee.  We meet her when she is speeding away from one of her boyfriends and his fancy foreign car.  She plows into a group of school children and doesn’t even stop.  Her friend following from behind stops for a minute as the kids pick themselves up– but only for a minute and he drives around the ones that were too injured to get up quickly.  Myeong-hee is forced to stop when she hits Deok-bae, knocking him over and throwing the food he was delivering all over the road.  She and her boyfriend do not acknowledge Deok-bae at first as they proceed to get into a heated discussion in the middle of the street.  Myeong-hee is truely contemptible in the way she treats those she perceives as her social inferiors.  She baits Deok-bae, inviting him to her house and laughing mercilessly at this shy, humble actions. She takes him out for a drive and starts to seduce the innocent young man only to draw back and laugh when he finally starts to succomb to temptation.

While Deok-bae is dealing with the awful Myeong-hee, Choon-shik tries to deal with his feelings for a co-worker, ‘Miss Yoon’.  Yoon is also quite poor and is doing her best to support her father and many siblings through her work.  Unfortunatley, wealthy Mr. Kim often comes to the shop and she is expected to massage his arms and legs as he lounges in the chair and tries to grope her.  Choon-shik runs interference when he can and their blossoming love is sweet to watch.  Unfortunately, Yoon needs money and it is uncertain just how long she can hold out before she gives in to the proposition the Kim dangles before her.

At the start of the film, there is a wonderful short animation that sums up the movie to the point of where we are introduced to the characters.  Three figures are blown from different corners to the center of the screen where they fight against the powerful winds. By leaning together as a tripod, the three are able to stand tall.  However, even better, this same animated clip is played backwards as the closing credits roll.  Instead of the characters being blown together–the winds now appear to rip them apart from each other–which is certainly reflected in the film.

The three characters are always struggling against society and the class differences they encounter and, in a way, against their own country.  At one point, Deok-bae joins a boxing gym in the hopes of bettering his life. But in his first sparring match against one of his trainers, he is beaten nearly senseless.  We watch helplessly as he takes blow after blow from a large man in a training suit with the word KOREA emblazzened across his back.  However, even though he is knocked down–Deok-bae never gives up.

The class struggles are obvious from early in the film and director Lee draws parellels with the life these men lead to the way people treat dogs.  Early in the film, this is made clear with the men actually interacting with dogs of various sizes–Deok-bae with a large dog who refuses to give up what’s his and the talkative Gil-nam meeting a small, yappy terrior.  Later, when the three friends have an arguement, the sound of dogs barking at each other is played simaltaneously.  When Deok-bae goes to Myeong-hee’s house, she invites him to sit as she settles into a large sofa.  Deok-bae sits on a footstool and when Myeong-hee asks him what he is doing, the shy young man quickly apologizes and sits on the floor like a dog–sending the evil Myeong-hee into fits of laughter.  Also, later in the film, Choon-shik is thrown into a rage and literally froths at the mouth much as one might imagine a mad dog would do.

It is not all doom and gloom for these three, however and there are some small victories in unusual places.  Myeong-hee takes Deok-bae to a disco patronized by foreign residents of Seoul.  She pulls Deok-bae onto the floor and starts dancing with abandon to Michael Jackson’s Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough (yes–i am embarassed that I knew the song…).  Deok-bae has never been to such a place and has never seen people dance so wildly–except at the farm festivals in his home where musicians in traditional costumes would spin long ribbons on their hats in wide arcs while throwing their bodies into the air.  He draws on his roots and succeeds stunning Myeong-hee and earning the respect of everyone in the night club.  A surprising but short-lived victory.

As I already mentioned, Ahn Sung-gi is brilliant as the shy, slightly stuttering Deok-bae. Lee Yeong-ho as Chun-shik was also amazing with sad stares and, at times, smouldering anger.  For most of the film, I did not care for Gil-nam, but actor Kim Seong-chan managed to change my mind in the last 20 minutes or so of the movie.  Im Ye-jin, as Choon-shik’s sister is also good, as is Yoo Ji-in as Myeong-hee but the actress who stood out for me was Kim Yeong-ae in a very minor role.  She has no lines and only appears in two scenes, but her character and the performance she gives is extremely memorable.

A Good Windy Day was released on DVD as part of the Korean Movies Masterpiece Collection–but unfortunately, that series is not subtitled.  Hopefully a distributor will pick it up and make this wonderful film available internationally.

Posted in 1980s, Review | Comments Off

Ice Bar (2006)

10th October 2009

ice barOriginally posted March 4, 2008 –Before I begin a review, I have to say that I love how they weathered the posters above to make them appear older and worn. Why would they do that? Well, the film is set in 1969 and I think they wanted the images to reflect a little bit of age. As to why the film is set in ‘69, I am not sure.  In fact, it could have been set in any time period of the last century and the story would not have been changed at all.  It is possible that the producers were going for capturing a feeling of nostalgia that older viewers may find appealing.  I read a comment by a viewer that stated he would love to watch this movie with his kids–I don’t really agree. I think his kids would be bored as the movie does not have a lot of action. The film is intended more for over-40 adults –though others with patience can enjoy it for the performances of the actors.

The story is about a young boy, Yeong-rae,  living in Yeosu (the southernmost city on the west coast of Korea) who has been told all his life that his father is dead. However, he learns from a neighbor that his father is actually alive and living in Seoul. He is determined to go to Seoul to meet him and so to that goal, he takes a job selling ice cream bars on the streets of the city during summer vacation.  Yeong-rae is very clever and manages to overcome adversity through his wits and with swift actions. However, even he is not prepared for all the problems he must face to achieve his goal.

This simple story is, for the most part, enjoyable but suffers from a couple of problems. the first is that the various adventures Yeong-rae overcomes do not feel connected. The root of this problem can be traced to the history of the director, Yeo In-kwang.  This is Yeo’s first full-length movie. His other films (Peers, Driving Mrs. Park, Last Magic…) have all been short films and the different episodes of Ice Bar feel like short movies in and of themselves and any one of them could be removed without affecting the main storyline.

The other problem with this movie is the contrived tragedy.  Other, similar films such as The Way Home (which Ice Bar often feels like), have their share of tragic events. However, the events added to Ice Bar aimed at tugging on your heartstrings seem awkward and unnatural–like they were crammed into the plot with a crowbar at last minute. Completely unneeded and unwelcome.

The good parts of Ice Bar include the aforementioned acting–especially of Shin Ae-ra who plays Yeong-rae’s mother.  Ms. Shin has previously only appeared in tv dramas since her acting debut in 1987 and sporadically at best. However, she gives an excellent performance as the young single mother with a protective chip on her shoulder. The only person who really sees her sensetive side is Yeong-rae and even those occassions are very rare.

Probably the most recognizable face in the film in Jin Gu who plays In-baek, a young man who makes the ice cream bars for the owner of the small company–but also does odd jobs on the side for the owner that makes him wary in the presence of police.  You may recognize Jin Gu as the actor who played the quiet med student who encounters strange happenings in the morgue in the film Epitaph.

The other thing I enjoyed about the film is the set.  Although I saw no reason for the film to take place in 1969 except for older audience members to recall their past–’Remember how a train ticket to Seoul cost only 800 Won and we still couldn’t afford it? Those were the days.’–it was interesting to see how the recreated the past.  Most interesting are the frequent downtown scenes where people are selling their wares from carts on the street. In all of those scenes is a man in a cowboy suit advertising films. In some, he is wearing a large, cube-shaped sandwich board with different movies painted on the sides. In most, he is pushing an enormous cart with a large A-shaped billboard on top that shows the films being screened.  I resisted the temptation to pause the movie to identify the ads but recognized I Hate You But Once Again and Yu Hyeon-mok’s Descendents of Cain, both from 1968.  This movie takes place in the summer of 1969, so that would be about right–films used to open in Seoul first and then move out to other parts of the nation.

Ice Bar may not be everyone’s cup of tea for the reasons already mentioned but it is an interesting look back at childhood through the eyes of a child.  I do not mean to damn it with faint praise, but I would describe it as ‘nice.’   Nice does not mean special though and some viewers may feel they have seen this story before.

Posted in 2000s, Review | Comments Off

Maruchi, Arachi (1977)

10th October 2009

maruchi arachiOriginally posted February 20, 2008– In the late 1970s and throughout the 80s, Korean animation was dominated by giant robots.  More often than not, they were often imitations of Japanese-made cartoons or pale imitations of the earlier Robot Taekwon V.  However, that does not mean that cartoonists were not offering quality films–they were. And Maruchi, Arachi was one of the highlights.

Maruchi, Arachi was directed by Im Jeong-gyu who, unfortunately, made surprisingly few films.  The story seemed like a cross between the Hong Kong kungfu revenge films popularized by the Shaw Brothers in the seventies and a James Bond adventure. It was also featured an interesting blend of impossibly high-tech machines and mystical fantasy. On the downside, it also has quite a few childish features but these would have proven necessary for younger viewers–especially the inclusion of Doli and Jumbaki (more on them later)–for despite the action, the plot is rather heavy and serious for young viewers.

The story begins with Miss Jang and Mr. Yang hiking through the mountains where Disneyesque birds and animals frolic. They discover a cave that is obviously inhabited and, being hungry after their long walk, immediately begin eating the food they find there. The young owners of the cave are surprised to have guests but are far more gracious than I would have been in the circumstances as they offer yet more food and shelter to the pair.  The cave-dwellers are none other than Maruchi and Arachi a boy and girl respectively who appear to be about 16 years old (Arachi may be a little younger). They explain that they were raised in this cave by an elderly man who was an expert of the martial arts. However, he was slain by a large, flying skull surrounded by blue flames that shot lightning from its eyes. The children have been on their own since. Jang immediately suggests that the children accompany them back to civilization. Jang is a teacher and Yang is a taekwondo instructor.  With them the children can study and hone their skills.

And hone their skills they do. The pair quickly proove that they are superior fighters to anyone training at the taekwondo gym so Yang gives them their own personal training routine. Later, Maruchi is entered into an international taekwondo match and seems to be sure to win when suddenly the competition is interrupted by a hideous green combatant. He quickly takes out Maruchi’s opponent and almost kills the boy before escaping.

The puppy belonging to Jang’s younger brother chases after the attacker and trails him to his hideout. He watches as the man uses a de-aging/aging machine to transform back to his natural age and then report to none other than the floating skull, Blue Skull 13!  The plucky puppy then makes his way back to Jang’s house where the police and army are alerted. They storm the house led by Maruchi and Arachi, but the skull escapes along with his second in command, the evil green-skinned woman named Para.  The house blows up behind him leaving no clue as to where the skull may have gone.

However, the question of the skull takes a back seat to a more important event coming up–a Nuclear Scientist Peace Council is being held at a secret underwater facility. Jang’s father is a nuclear physicist and so Maruchi and Arachi are invited. The submerged convention center has everything an underwater resort could need but while the scientists are all relaxing around the pool, the facility is attacked by dozens of sharks belonging to an agent of Blue Skull. As all assembled scramble to the submarines before the domed resort is completely flooded a gigantic mechanical sea serpent makes its appearance and begins firing missiles at the seemingly doomed scientists!

The excitement continues as the movie takes us from Korea to the Arctic Sea to the Himalayas. Besides swarms of killer sharks and sea monsters, the heroes also confront yeti, a mermaid and the trained assassins of the Blue Skull before the heroes can take on the mastermind behind all their problems. Much of the movie is quite good and I especially liked how Arachi is treated as an equal to Maruchi. No one ever tells her to stay behind because she is a girl.  In fact, its just the opposite.  She is ordered out of the sub to take care of all the sharks (there are about 30) as her brother battles the sea monster. Her training is also the same as her brother’s both from the old man in the mountain and from Yang.

There are a few bad points as well. As an adult–I hated whenever Doli and his dog appeared.  Doli serves as a child identification figure. He does not advance the plot at all. His dog Jumbaki does more than he does including figuring out how to work the de-aging machine, finding the Blue Skulls lair and stopping a sniper from killing the heroes.  However, his tinny barks are earsplitting and he is never a welcome sight on screen because of them.

Unfortunately, there is not yet a subtitled DVD but those interested in seeing classic Korean animation other than Robot Taekwon V may be interested in watching this anyway as it is a rare look at cartoons of the past.

Posted in 1970s, Review | Comments Off

The Male Beautician (1968)

10th October 2009

male beauticianOriginally posted February 12, 2008—When I saw that EBS would be showing this film on Sunday night, I was looking forward to it since it is rare that they show a comedy and this was one that I hadn’t seen before. However, I also steeled myself and prepared to be at least mildly offended for male hairdressers everywhere. As it turned out, I needn’t have worried. This was not so much a running joke about men who enter traditional female roles. It was instead more of a spoof of one person’s life–and the spoof was done rather respectfully at that.

It is the story of Ku Hyeong-gu played by popular comedian Ku Bong-seo. Hyeong-gu was the name of a charater Bong-seo played in an earlier film by director Shim Woo-seob called The Male Housemaid (1968) and, although there is a sequel to that film called The Male Housemaid 2 made in 1970, The Male Beautician seems like the true sequel and a continuation of Hyeong-gu’s story.  It starts off with Hyeong-gu running out of the house in his apron buying tofu from the delivery cart.  He complains about how small his salary is as a kitchen maid and wishes for a way to make more money. That is when he hears about a man who studied hairdressing in France and gets the idea that he can be a beautician as well.

He goes to the shop of Miss Oh (Choi Ji-hee) who is expecting the aforementioned hairdresser. She mistakes Ku for ‘Andre Yoon’ and offers him a contract. The sight of how much money he is being offered–500,000 KRW upfront for signing the contract and then 50,000 per month plus a place to live. This was an enormous amount of money at that time and Ku cannot refuse.  He bumps into the real Andre and quickly sends him on his way, telling him there is no job here–but not before learning a handful of French expressions and taking notes on his style and mannerisms.

Ku then begins working in the shop and his clumsy attempts at hairstyling and beauty treatments are adored by the neighborhood women as they are passed off as being in the style of Paris. This illusion is helped by fellow housemaid, Nan-yi (Nam Jeong-im) who passes herself off as a former exchange student who studied under Andre and gives various foreign-sounding names to his hair creations.

I mentioned earlier that this film seemed like a friendly spoof of a certain individual and the name of the hairdresser should have given that away. I was talking about Andre Kim, the internationally recognized fashion designer.  The mannerisms and speaking style mimic Andre Kim to a tee. At first I wondered if Kim was even around at that time, but a quick search revealed that he had opened his first shop in Seoul in 1962 and had his first international fashion show in Paris in 1966.  (I also learned that he received all of his education in Korea which makes me wonder why he massacres the Korean language whenever he speaks–dropping in English or French words at every opportunity). 

Like many Ku Bong-seo comedies, this is a very light but very watchable movie with lots of sight gags. Enjoy it if you get the chance.

Posted in 1960s, Review | 1 Comment »

Plateau (1969)

10th October 2009

Originally posted January 21, 2008  –plateauLee Seong-gu is a very competent director whose work needs a wider audience.  I think I mentioned that before when I reviewed his film The General’s Mustache. Although the material he had to work with was not always top-notch, he often managed to film it in a way that gave it some appeal.  Plateau from 1969 is a case in point.  The story is nothing new, but the movie is able to hold the viewers interest.  Plateau is the tale of an artist named Oh Hyeon living in the house of his good friend Hyeon-woo just before the Korean War. Also in the house are Hyeon-woo’s wife and his younger cousin, Yeong-ju.  Hyeon-woo is not the same man that Oh had known when they were younger.  He is drinking far too much and is very short when talking to his wife–even going so far as to accuse her, half-jokingly, of having an affair with Oh. This makes his wife quite uncomfortable because, in fact, she would like to be having just such an affair and has been coming on quite strong to the young artist. Unfortunately for her she is married to Oh’s best friend and Oh has been gradually developing an interest in Yeong-ju.

The tension in the house is momentarily forgotten when the Korean War breaks out. Hyeon-woo is called away and does not return. His wife goes out to look for him and while she is gone, the city is bombed. Oh and Yeong-ju take refuge under the covers in the bed tucked away in the basement and there the two commit to their love. Hyeon-woo’s wife comes home and realizes what the two have been up to and decides then and there that she has to outwit her young rival.  Oh goes out to talk some sense into Hyeon-woo who has joined the Northern Army. While he is out, Hyeon-woo’s wife, (if she was given a name, I didn’t hear it), tells Yeong-ju that Oh has been drafted against his will. Yeong-ju flees the house to follow the men who are being led away by soldiers futilely looking for her lover. When Oh returns home, Hyeon-woo’s wife, henceforth HWW because I’m tired of typing, informs him that Yeong-ju has fled the city.

The pair also leave, heading south. At first, Oh has no intention of travelling with HWW and tries to leave her behind…only to have her come running after him.  Once she tells him that he should go off and leave her and when he does she is chasing after him at top speed two minutes later. Eventually though they are able to get on a boat heading the Jeju Island where Oh has a friend who owns a large tangerine grove. The pair start working there and living together as husband and wife after the war is over.

However, as fate would have it, Oh is called away to Seoul to visit a friend in the hospital. The very idea of him leaving sends HWW into fits of worry and she begs him to be back the next day. Perhaps she had a right to be worried as Oh is reunited with Yeong-ju at the hospital.  Yeong-ju had completed her education and is now an obstetrician. 

The movie follows a basic melodrama story from there with Oh trapped between two women–one whom he loves and one whom he is having a baby with.  It is interesting that the film does not villainize HWW.  It would not seem totally out of the realm of possibility–after all, she tricked the lovers to separate them and she is still married even if she can’t meet her husband in North Korea.  Instead, the film treats her, and all of the cast, like a victim.  And it is a role HWW enjoys. Even before the war, she was a victim trapped in a marriage on the verge of failing and making a rival of Yeong-ju when there was really no need. Kim Ji-mi plays HWW and portrays her in such a whiney, clingy way that it is impossible to like her even as we feel pity for her. Mind you, I didn’t feel pity for her self-made problems…I felt pity for her weekness and her inability to cope on her own.

While it is not a movie I would tell everyone to run out and buy (if it were on dvd), it is one that is quite interesting if one likes melodramas. And there is the strangest gizmo that HWW uses in her room at the orchard–it looks like a mini-loom but I had never seen anything like it before–the movie was worth it just to see Kim Ji-mi struggling unsuccessfully to use it and it offers a glimpse of day to day life in Korea after the war.

Posted in 1960s, Review | Comments Off

My Korean DVDs

10th October 2009

This is the list of the DVDs I own.  It will be updated regularly as I buy more. Previously, the list contained my VHS tapes as well. However, I recently donated those to the film department at Woosuk University. It was a hard decision made somewhat easier since I no longer have a VHS player. At least I know where they are and that I can watch the whenever I need to reference them.

Updated October 21, 2013/ Current Count:  674 titles

A+ Life (1998), Aachi & Ssipak (2005), Acacia (2003), Action Boys (2008), Actresses (2009), Adada (1987), Addicted (2002), Address Unknown (2000), Ad-lib Night (2007), Adventure of Mrs Park (1996), Aggressives (2005), Aimless Bullet (1961), All For Love (2005), Almost Love (2006), Angels on the Street (1941), Another Time Another Place (2008), Antarctic Journal (2004), Antique (2008), Apartment (2006), Arahan (2006), Arang (2006), Assassin (1969), Asshi (1970), Attack on the Pin-Up Boys (2007), Attack the Gas Station (1999), Baekbeom Kim Gu (1960),  Ball Shot By a Midget (1981), Bandhobi (2009), Barking Dogs Never Bite (2000), Barefoot Youth (1964), Be My Guest (2011), Beastie Boys (2008), Beat (1997), Beautiful (2007), Beautiful Sunday (2007), Bedevilled (2010), Best Seller (2010), Bet on My Disco (2002), Between (2006), Bewitching Attraction (2005), Beyond the Years (2007), Bichunmoo (2000), Big Swindle (2004), Birth of a Family (2006), Bittersweet Life (2004), Black Hair (1964), Black House (2007), Black Republic (1990), Blackjack (1997), Blazing Sun (1986), Blind (2011), Blood Rain (2005), Bloodline (1963), Bloodthirsty Killer (1965), Bloody Aria (2006), Blue Seagull (1994), Blue Swallow (2005), Boat (2009), Bold Family (2005), Born to Kill (1996), Boss X-File (2002), Boy Goes to Heaven (2005), Boy Meets Boy (2008), Boys of Tomorrow (2006), Brainwave (2006), Bravo My Life (2007),  Breath (2007), Brothers Heungbu and Nolbu (1967), Bungee Jumping of Their Own (2001), Breathless (2008), Bunshinsaba (2004), Bye Jun (1998), Byeong-tae and Yeong-ja (1979), Bystanders (2005), Cafe Noir (2010), Camellia Project (2004), Castaway on the Moon (2009), Cat (2011), Cattle (1975), Christmas in August (1998), Clementine (2003), Champion (2002), Charisma (1996), Charming Girl (2004), Chaser (2007), Chaw (2009), Children… (2011), Children of Darkness (1981), Chilsu and Mansu (1988), Chunhyang (1999), Cinderella (2006), Circle (2003), Classic (2002), Closer to Heaven (2009), Coachman (1961), Coastguard (2002), Coma (2005), Come Come Come Upwards (1989), Come Down To A Lower Place (1982), Come Rain, Come Shine (2011), Come To Me (1996), Conduct Zero (2002), Confessions of an Actress (1967), Cool and Cold (1962), Court Lady (1972), Cracked Eggs and Noodles (2005), Crossing (2008), Crying Fist (2005), Customer is Always Right (2006), Cut (2007), D-Day (2006), D-War (2007), Daehan Empire and Min Yeong-hwan (1959), Dajjimawa Lee (2008), Dance Dance (1999), Dance of Time (2009), Dance With Solitude (2004), Dance With the Wind (2004), Dancing Cat (2011), Dark Forest (2006), Dasepo Girls (2005), Dasepo Girls Series (2005), Daughters of Kim’s Pharmacy (1963), David and Goliath (1983), Day After (2008), Day Dream (1969), Day Off (1968),  Day the Pig Fell in the Well (1996), Daytime Drinking (2007), Deaf Samryong (1964), Dear Soldier (1944), Death Bell (2008), Death Bell 2 (2010), Declaration of Fools (1983), Deep Blue Night (1984), Detective K (2011), Dirty Carnival (2006), Dirty Mop (1984), Divine Weapon (2008), DMZ (1965), Do the Right Thing (1997), Doctor K (1998), Dokgotak: Return to the Mound (1985), Dokgotak: Throw to the Sun (1983), Don’t Look Back (2006), Dolai (1984), Doll Master (2004), DoReMi… (2008), Double Agent (2002), Dream (2008), Drifting Island (1960), Duman River (2011), Electric Man 337 (1977), Elephant on a Bicycle (2007), Eleventh Mother (2007), Elysium (2002), Emergency Measure 19 (2002), Emperor Gojong and An Jung-geun, the Patriot (1959), Enter the Invincible Hero <hkdvd release> aka Secret Bandit of Black Leopard <kmdb> (1981), Epitaph (2007), ESP Couple (2008), Eternal Empire (1995), Evergreen (1978), Everybody Has Secrets (2004), Evil Twin (2006), Executioner (2009), Eye for an Eye (2008), Face (2004), Failan (2001), Family (2004), Fantstic Parasuicides (2007), Farewell (1977), Farewell My Darling (1996),  Fate (2007), Feathers in the Wind(2004), February 29th (2006), Female Boss (1959), Femme Fatale (2007), Fighter in the Wind (2004), Fire Bird (1996), First Kiss (1998), Fisherman’s Fire (1939), Five Brothers <original poster> aka Angry Brothers <hk dvd release> aka Five Disciples <kmdb> (1979), Five Faces of Eros (2009),  Five Marines (1961), Flower in Hell (1958), Fly Penguin (2009), Fly Up (2009), Foolish Game (2004), Forbidden Quest (2005), Forever the Moment (2007), Foul King (2000), Four Toes (2002), Freedom Virgin (1982),  Foreer With You (1958), Fox Family (2006), Friends (2001), Frontline (2011), Frozen Flower (2008), Gagman (1988), Galgali Family and Dracula(2003), Gallant Men (1969), Game (2007), Gangster High (2006), Geneology (1978), General’s Son (1990), Geochilmaru (2005), Ghost (2004), Ghost House (2004), Ghosts in Love (1999), Gilsoddum (1985), Gingko Bed (1996), Glove (2011), Goblin’s Club (1986), GoGo 70s (2008), Golden Dragon, Silver Snake <hkdvd release> aka Fight at Hong Kong Ranch <kmdb> (1980), Golden Wing 1*2*3 (1978), Good Lawyer’s Wife (2003), Good Night’s Sleep for the Bad (2010), The Good the Bad and the Weird (2008) Goryeojang (1963), Gosu (1997), Green Chair (2003), Green Fish (1997), Guardpost (2007), Guest 1 (2011), The Guests Who Came on the Last Train (1967), Guns and Talks (2001), H (2002), Haeundae (2009), HaHaHa (2010),  Hallelujah (1997),  Hand of Destiny (1954), Handphone (2009), Hansel and Gretel (2007), Happiness (2007), Happy Day of Jinsa Maeng (1962), Happy End (1999), Harmonium in My Memory (1998), Harmony (2010), Haunted House (2010), Haunters (2010), Head (2011), Heartbreak Library (2008), Hearty Paws (2006), Hello God (1987), Hers (2007), Hi Dharma (2001), Hi Dharma 2 (2004), Hidden Floor (2006), Himallaya Where the Wind Dwells (2008), Hole (1997), Holiday (2005), Holiday in Seoul (1956), Hometown of the Stars (1974), Horse-Year Bride (1966), Host (2005), Housemaid (1960), Housemaid (2010), Hurrah For Freedom (1945), Hwang Jin-yi (1986), Hwang Jin-yi (2008), Hwaomkyung (1993), Hwimori (1994), Hyperbole of Youth (1956), Hypnotized (2004), I Cannot Sleep (2010), I Hate You Once Again (1968), I Hate You Once Again 2 (1968), I Hate You Once Again 3 (1970), I Hate You Once Again (1980), I Hate You Once Again 2 (1980), I Hate You Once Again (2002), I Love You (2001), I Really Really Like You (1978), I Will Survive (1993), I Wish I Had a Wife (2000), Ieodo (1977), If (2000),  If You Want (1987), If You Were Me (2003), If You Were Me 3 (2006), If You Were Me 4 (2008), If You Were Me 5 (2011),  Il Mare (2000), I’m a Cyborg But That’s Ok (2006), Indian Summer (2001), Ing (2003), Insadong Scandal (2009), Insect Woman (1969), Installment Secretary (1969), International Awards Short Film Winners Vol. 1, 2, and 3 (various years), Inventors (1984) , Iri (2008), Isle (2000), Jagko (1980), Jang-hwa and Hong-ryeon (1972), Jealousy is My Middle Name (2002), Jeonju Digital Project Set (various years), Jesus Is My Boss (2002), JSA (2000), Jungle Juice (2002), Kazuko Cinema (1998), Kick the Moon (2001), King and the Clown (2005), Kitchen (2009), Knee to Knee (1984), KNUA 2005 Collection of Student’s Work (various years), Korean Short Film Queer Collection vol. 1 (various years), La Belle (2000), La Vie En Rose (1994), Lament (1997), Land of Scarecrow (2008), Last Banquet (2003), Last Witness (1980), Last Wolf (2004), Last Woman of Shang <hk title> Pricess Dalgi <kmdb> (1964), Late Blossoms (2011), Les Formidibles (2006), Let the Blue River Flow (2008), Lies (1999), Life and Death of the Hollywood Kid (1994), Life Track (2007), Lifting King Kong (2009), Light Sleep (2008), Lineage of the Voice (2008), Link (2011), Little Bride (2004), Little Monk (2002), Little Pond (2010), Loner (2008), Looking for Bruce Lee (2001), Love (2002), Love Bakery (2000), Love Her (2001), Love in Magic (2005), Love Marriage (1958), Lovely Rivals (2004), Lovers Vanished (2010), M (2007), Madam Aema (1982), Madame Freedom (1956), Madeleine (2002), Make It Big (2002), Man From Nowhere (2010), Man Next Door (2009), Mandala (1981), Mandate (2008), Marachi and Arachi (1977), Marathon (2005), March of Fools (1975), Maria and the Inn (1997), Marine Boy (2009), Marines Who Never Returned (1963), Marriage is a Crazy Thing (2002), May 18 (2007), Mayumi Virgin Terrorist (1990), Members of a Funeral (2008), Memento Mori (1999), Memory of Murder (2003), Men From Eight Provinces (1969), Meui (2007), Midnight Ballad for Ghost Theater (2006), Military Train (1938), Milky Way Liberation Front (2007), A Million (2009), Missing Person (2008), Mist (1967),  Mr. Butterfly (2002), Mr. Gam’s Victory (2004), Mr. Handy (2003), Mr. Idol (2011), Mr. Whacky (2006), Modern Boy (2008), Mokpo: Ganster’s Paradise (2004), Mom’s Way (2005), Money (1958), Money Show (2009), Moodori (2006),  Moss (2010), Motel Cactus (1997),  Mother (2009), Mother and the Houseguest (1961), Musa (2000), Mudang (2001), My Beautiful Girl Mari (2001), My Beautiful Short Films II (various years), My Beautiful Short Films III (various years), My Beautiful Short Films IV (various years), My Dear Enemy (2008), My Father (2009), My Friend and His Wife (2006), My Generation (2004), My Girlfriend is an Agent (2009), My Love (2007), My Name is Dokgotak (1984), My Right to Ravage Myself (2003), My Song Is… (2007), Mystery of the Cube (1999), Natalie (2010), Natural City (2004), Never Belongs to Me (2005), Nice Shorts (various years), Night Journey (1977),  Night on the Water (1998), Nightmare (2000), Nineteen (2009), No Blood No Tears (2002), No Mercy for the Rude (2006), No Need for Love (2006), No Regret (2006), North and South (1965), Norway Woods (2010), Now and Forever (2006), Nowhere to Hide (1999), Number 3 (1997), Oasis (2002), Off Road (2006),  Oh! Brothers (2003), Old Garden (2006),  Old Partner (2008), Old Potter (1969), Oldboy (2003), Once in a Summer (2007), Once Upon a Long Time Ago (1978), One Fine Spring Day (2001), One Love (1981), One Million B.C. Ttoli (1981), One Thousand Year Old Fox (1969), Oolala Sisters (2002), Oseam (2003), Our High School Days (1978), Our Sweet Days (1987), Our Town (2007), Oyishi Man (2009), Papparazzi (1998), Paradise Murdered (2006), Paradise Villa (2002), Past is a Strange Country (2007), Peppermint Candy (1999), Perfect Match (2002), Phantom Submarine (1999), Phone (2002), Piagol (1955), Piano Man (1996), Plastic Tree (2003), Please Teach Me English (2003), Plum Blossom (2000), Poetry (2010), Poison (1997), Polluted Ones (1982), Pong (1985), Portait of Beauty (2009), Portrait of Fire (2001), Portrait of Youth (1990), Possessed (2009), Power of Kangwon Province (1997), Power of Sincerity (1935), President’s Last Bang (2004), Private Eye (2009), Promenade (2000), Promise of the Flesh (1975), Public Cemetery of Wolha (1967), Puzzle (2006), Quick (2011), Quick Man (2002), Quiet Family (1998), R-Point (2005), Rabbit and the Lizard (2009), Radio Dayz (2007), Railroad (2006), Rainbow Eyes (2007), Rainy Season (1979), Real Fiction (2000), REC (2009), Record (2000), Red Hawk (1995), Red Shoes (2005), Redeye (2004), Rehearsal (1995), Resurrection of the Butterfly (2007), Resurrection of the Little Match Girl (2002), Return (2007), Rhee Syngman and the Independence Movement (1959),  Righteous Fighter Kim Du-han (1975), Road (2004), Road Movie (2002), Road Taken (2003), Road to the Racetrack (1991), Robot Gundan and Meka 3 (1985), Robot Taekwon V (1976), Robot Taekwon V vs. Gold Wing (1978), Rocket Was Launched (1997), Rolling Home with a Bull (2010), Romance of Their Own (2004), Romance Papa (1960), Romantic Assassin (2003), Romantic Island (2008), Room Nearby (2008), Rough Cut (2008),  RU Ready? (2002), Runaway From Home (2009), Running Turtle (2009), Running Wild (2006), Sadder Than Blue (2008), Saigon Too Far (1990), Samaria (2004), Saulabi (2001), Save the Green Planet (2003), Scam (2009), Scandal Makers (2009), Scarlet Letter (2004), Scars (2011), School Excursion (1969), Scout (2007), Searching for the Elephant (2009), Seaside Village (1965), Season in the Sun (2002), Secret of Troupe 77 (1978), Secret Reunion (2010), Secret Sunshine (2007), See You After School (2006), Seokgamoni (1964), Seong Chunhyang (1961), Seopyeonje (1993), Servant (2010), Seven Days (2007), 71: Into the Fire (2010), Sexual Compatability (1988), Shadows in the Palace (2007), Shark (2005), Shilmido (2003), Shim Cheong (1972), Shin Sung-il Is Lost (2005), Shiri (1998), Short Films Like a Jewel in my Heart (various years), Short Films Long Feelings (various years), Short Time (2005),  Shower (1978), Show Show Show (2002), Silenced (2011), Single Spark (1995), Singles (2004), Six Daughters (1967), Sleeping Beauty (2007), Solar 1-2-3 (1982), Sorry and Thank You (2011), Sorum (2001), Soul Guardians (1998), South Korean Parisans (1990), South of the Border (2006), Sparkman (1988), Spellbound (2011), Spider Forest (2004), Spirit of Jeet-Geun-do (2004), Spring Breeze (2003), Spring in My Hometown (1998), Spring on the Korean Peninsula (1941), Spring Summer Fall Winter and Spring (2003), Ssunday Seoul (2006), Story of Mr. Sorry (2008), Straits of Chosun (1943), Summertime (2001), Sunflower (2006), Sunny (2008), Super Hong Gil-dong (1987), Super Hong Gil-dong 2 (1988), Super Taekwon V (1982), Super Titan 15 (1983), Surrogate Womb (1986), Sweet Dream (1936), Sweet Sex and Love (2003), Sword in the Moon (2003), Sword with No Name (2009), Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (2005), Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002), Tabloid Truth (2014), Taegeukgi (2003), Taekwon V (1984), Take Care of My Cat (2001), Take Off (2009), Tale of Two Sisters (2003), Tale of Cinema (2005), Tazza (2006), Teacher Kim Bong-du (2003), Tell Me Something (1999), Terrorist (1995), Texture of Skin (2005), Themselves (2011), Thirst (2009), Thirsty Thirsty (2007), 3 Extreme (2004), Three Guys (2006), 3 Iron (2004), Three Iron Musketeers (1983), Three Kingdoms (1980), Three Kingdoms2 (1980), 301/302 (1995), Time (2006), Time Between Dog and Wolf (2005), Timeless Bottomless Bad Movie (1997), To Catch a Virgin Ghost (2004), To Sir With Love (2006), Tosuni: The Birth of Happiness (1963), Towards the High Place (1977), Treeless Mountain (2008), Truck (2008), Ttoli: Special Investigator for the King (1980), Ttoli and the Zeta Robot (1985), Tube (2003), Turn It Up (2001), Turning Gate (2002), Twentidentity (2004), Two Hundred Pound Beauty (2006), 2003 Best 21 Korean Short Films (2003), Typhoon (2005), Ulemae From Outer Space (1986), Ulemae From Outer Space 2 (1986), Ulemae From Outer Space 3 (1987), Ulemae From Outer Space 4 (1987), Ulemae From Outer Space 5 (1988), Ulemae From Outer Space 6 (1989), Ulemae From Outer Space 7 (1992), Ulemae From Outer Space 8 (1993), Ulemae From Outer Space 9 (1993), Unborn But Forgotten (2002), Under the Sky of Seoul (1961), Underground Rendezvous (2007), Unforgiven (2005), Uninvited (2003), Unjust (2010), Untold Scandal (2003), Vanishing Twin (2000), Vectorman (1999), Virgin Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors (2000), Village of Mist (1983), Viva Love (2008), Voice of a Murderer (2006), Volcano High (2001), Volunteer (1941), Wanderer in Winter (1986), Wanee and Junha (2001), Wangsimni (1976), Way Home (2002), Wedding Day (1956), Welcome to Dongmakgol (2005), Western Avenue (1993), Who’s That Knocking at My Door (2007), Whispering Corridors (1998), White (2011), White Nights (2009), Why Did You Come to My House (2009), Widow (1955), Wild Animals (1997), Windmill Palm Forest (205), Wishing Stairs (2003), With a Girl of Black Soil (2007), Wolf’s Curiosity Stole Pigeons (1988), Woman is the Future of Man (2003),  Woman of Fire (1982), The Woman who Leaves Work in the Morning (1979), Woochi (2009), World of Silence (2006), World Without Mom (1977), World Without Mom 2 (1977), Written (2007), Yalgae: A Joker in High School (1976), Yellow Flower (1998), Yellow Hair 2 (2001), Yellow Sea (2010), Yeongja’s Heyday (1975), Yeonsangun (1961), Yongary: Monster From the Deep (1967), Yoo Ji-tae Collection (various years), You Are My Sunshine (2005), Younggu and Ddaengchili (1989), Youth Sketch (1987)

Posted in My DVD-List | 5 Comments »

Angels on the Street (1941)

8th October 2009

angel on the streetsOriginally posted October 8, 2007–  The Korean Film Archives have come out with a collection of films from the early 1940s with English subtitles under the name The Past Unearthed.  These rarely seen films are now available for purchase.  These take place in the final years of the Japanese Colonial Era and, in the past, these films have been accused of being pro-Japanese propaganda.  While I can see how that may be the case from the film I watched last night, I for one am glad that they were made as they give us a rare glimpse of some aspects of what life was like in Korea during that time. Of course, the picture in its conclusion seems a little too rosy implying that the image of life depicted is not 100% accurate, but there is still quite a bit to be learned.

The movie I watched yesterday from this four disk set was Angels On The Streets directed by Choi In-gyu and released in February 1941.  Choi began his career in 1939 and made his last known film in 1949. When the Korean War broke out he was reportedly kidnapped and taken to what would become North Korea. (His biography will get its own post soon).  Choi is perhaps most famous for making the first film following the independence of Korea, Hurrah Freedom! in 1945. 

The story follows two orphaned children living on the streets of Seoul, Myeong-ja and her brother Yong-gil.  They have been taken in by Mr. Kwon and his wife and are being forced to sell flowers and other small items to earn money for their keepers who abuse them badly and fail to give them enough to eat. When Yong-gil uses some of the money he earned to buy some penny candy, Mr. Kwon beats the child. To save her brother, Myeong-ja agrees to be sold to a drinking establishment that Kwon’s wife has been pressuring her to go to as the sale of the girl will bring much more money.  Yong-gil runs away in the hopes of saving his sister from her fate.  While living on the streets, Yong-gil meets Mr. Bang who takes the boy in.  Bang is in the process of building a home for orphaned boys on a tract of land in the country owned by his brother-in-law, Dr. Ahn. The movie follows the adventures of several of the boys, some who are more hardened in their steetwise ways than others, while Yong-gil wonders if he will ever see his sister again.

A simple film with some very intersting points.  I found the treatment of the children to be shocking–even by kindly, but condescending, Mr. Bang.  True, Bang does take dozens of boys off the streets and gives them someplace safe to stay but, instead of providing them with an education, he sets about having them make noodles to sell to support the orphanage.  Indeed, Bang seems very cavalier about education in general as he withdrew his two children from school over his wife’s objections. She knows that there are no schools where they are going, but her husband shames her into submission and so little Anna and Johan (called John in the subtitles) are taken to the orphanage to live as well.

That brings me to another interesting point–the number of western names the characters have. This is not a matter of the subtitlers changing the names for western viewers, these were actually the characters names.  Mr. Bang’s wife is named Maria and her deceased sister-in-law was named Katie.  We see from the name on the small boat on the land supplied by Dr. Ahn that she was refered to as Frau Katie showing a connection with Germany.  None of the men in the film are referred to with western names (they were usually refered to by their titles)–it was only the case for upperclass women and children.  The poor in the film were all given Korean names.

The pro-Japanese stance of the film comes into play twice in the film. In one short scene, the boys are in the field when a fighter plane flies overhead. The boys all start cheering and shouting ‘Take Me’ or ‘Let’s go together’ but their words are not subtitled in the film. At the extended conclusion of the movie, after all the problems are resolved one way or another, the Japanse flag is raised and the children all recite in unison a pledge of alligence in Japanese and their life motto which includes undying loyalty to the empire.

The film is surprising good considering its age except for the first five or ten minutes in a night scene which is much too dark to see what is happening clearly, though it is easy enough to understand through what is being said.  The film also has Japanese subtitles burned onto the right side the original print, but these do not interfere with either the movie or the English subtitles on the bottom of the film.

This dvd set has just been released, so keep your eyes open for it and snatch it up as soon as you can. It will be well worth your time.

Posted in Review, pre-1950 | 4 Comments »

A Schoolmistress (1972)

8th October 2009

schoolmistressOriginally posted October 1, 2007–Back in July, I wrote of a horror movie called The Woman With Half A Soul starring the Hong Kong star Li Ching.  At that time, I mentioned that she appeared in several other Korean productions that were made in the early 1970s.  Last night I had the chance to view another of them, her 1972 film A Schoolmistress directed by Lee Hyeong-pyo.  Lee directed more than 80 films between 1961 and 1986.  Depsite the speed at which he was required to make films to meet production quotas, his movies were often enjoyable if not necessarily creative.  His 1975 film A Beauty remains memorable to me because of the dreamworld that the main character lives in comprised of scenes from old Hollywood movies and Farewell 2 which starred singer Patty Kim in the superior musical follow-up (not really a sequel) to Shin Sang-ok’s 1973 film Farewell.

A Schoolmistress is pure melodrama.  Li Ching plays Miss Yang Chae-hwa, who is Chinese-Korean.  She spent the first 12 years of her life in Korea but then moved to Hong Kong with her mother after her parents had separated.  Now, 13 years later, she’s back in Seoul having taken a job at a girl’s school as an English teacher.  On her first day she meets Park Ho-cheol, the art teacher played by Shin Seong-il, with whom she will fall in love, the middle-aged, prudish Miss Oh, the teacher who supervises the girls’ dorm where Yang will be staying, and perky student Eun-ok played with over-the-top abandon by Ahn In-sook.

Eun-sook is determined to become best friends with the new teacher, giving her presents, showing her around Seoul but starts to become jealous when she realizes that her favorite teacher, Park Ho-cheol, has developed feelings for the exotic newcomer.  The situation goes from a light rivalry for Ho-cheol’s attention to all out war when Eun-sook learns that Chae-hwa is actually her half-sister!  You see, after Chae-hwa and her mother left for Hong Kong Eun-ok’s father remarried.  This proabably would not be a problem except he never divorced Chae-hwa’s mother who is now on her way to Seoul to meet her husband.

Fearing that her family is about to be torn apart, Eun-ok decides to take revenge on the new teacher and her former crush whom she feels has betrayed her.  During a rage-spawned hysteria where she struggles with Ho-cheol, the sleeve of her blouse is torn and her hair disheveled. Eun-ok makes her way to Miss Oh’s room where she spins a tale about Ho-cheol saying that the teacher attacked and tried to rape her.

What happens to Ho-cheol, Chae-hwa, Eun-ok and her family? Well, you’ll have to watch it to find out.  But a warning…this one is hard to get through.  Not because of the story which is quite an effective melodrama (I admit to sheading a tear by the end).’s difficult to watch because of Ahn In-sook’s performance. Even when she is not causing trouble, the character of Eun-ok is annoying because of her overactions.  Everything is done in excess by her whether its happiness, rage or saddness it I found her to be completely unsympathetic even before her lies that threaten to destroy several lives.

Posted in 1970s, Review | 1 Comment »

Shim Cheong (1972)

8th October 2009

shim cheongOriginally posted September 24, 2007—There are three or four Korean legends that are regularly adapted into films.  The story of Chunhyang probably has the been made into movies the most number of times. Janghwa, Hongryeon follows closely behind that and the next would by the legend of Shim Cheong.

Shim Cheong is the story of a young woman devoted to her blind father.  Her one wish is that she can find a way to cure him of his blindness.  She learns from a man from China that she has there is a ritual that she can perform, but it will be at the cost of her own life.  Nevertheless, the brave Shim Cheong eagerly volunteers to become a part of that rite which the Chinese sailor will be performing to appease the gods of the sea.  Bidding her father goodbye, Shim Cheong is then taken to sea and in the midst of a tempest, thrown overboard.  The woman sinks directly to the bottem and discovers, to her surprise, that she does not need to breathe as she embarks on an adventure across the ocean floor.

The underwater fantasy requires good special effects and a director who knows what he’s doing and in these areas, the movie succeeds brilliantly. The director of Shim Cheong is none other that Shin Sang-ok who is able to propel the film from a simple fable of devotion to one’s parents to an outright fantasy epic.  Especially enchanting are the underwater scenes.  The set was meticulously constructed with enormous corals, seaweeds and seashells.  The floor of the set is a mixture of flowing silks and actual puddles of water, both of which ripple from the action of a powerful fan.  The fan is also useful for causing the garments and hair of Cheong and the people she meets on the ocean floor to wave around them as if they really are underwater as them move around with exaggerated slowness.  Fish are added in distance shots by shooting through an aquarium. Unfortunately they used a freshwater aquarium and the presence of familar tropical fish of home aquaria (tiger bars, kissing gouramis, platies and mollies) destroy the illusion a little.  But all in all it is quite a convincing effect.

This is certainly my favorite version of the Legend of Shim Cheong and frankly, after watching it again, I am very surprised that it was not included in the recent boxed set of Shin Sang-ok films.  Be sure to watch it if it ever is released on dvd though…it is yet another example of Shin Sang-ok’s exceptional talent.

Posted in 1970s, Review | Comments Off