Seen in Jeonju

Archive for November, 2009

Kim Yeong-ae

30th November 2009

After the mid-term exams, one student who was struggling in a class asked if she could do some extra work to improve her grade.  I pointed to a stack of Cine21 magazines on the coffee table in my office and told her she could pick any interview out of them to translate and submit to me before finals.  To my surprise, instead of choosing a more popular, hipper star, she chose Kim Yeong-ae.  I admit I hadn’t even read this interview prior to her choosing it.  Kim Yeong-ae had been in many movies in the 70s and early eighties but has done mostly television work since then.  She left tv for awhile to run a company selling cosmetics—most notoriously mud packs.  These mud packs were soon rumored to cause skin disease because of an alleged contaminent.  Although the rumors were proven false and she won the lawsuits against her, her business was in shambles.  Frankly, I almost did not post this articles.  Much of what Ms Kim says is so negative.   Here is the article as translated by my student.  (This interview in its original Korean language form can be found in Cine21 n. 720, Sept 8, 2009. The original interview was conducted by Lee Hwa-jeong and can be viewed here – )… ( seems my student skipped a few sentences along the way…but it was a good effort otherwise)

kim yeong-aeWhy did you choose to act in the movie Goodbye, Mother out of all the possible roles you could have had?          When I was offered the role of the mother in Goodbye, Mother, my situation was quite difficult.  I wasn’t really feeling ready to work.  I was appearing in a drama here and there, but I didn’t feel I was ready to take on a film part. However, the scenario caught my attention and I liked the fact that it was the story of ordinary people. My favorite parts to play are of the people next door like I did in the dramas ‘Wave‘ and ‘Brothers’ River’.

The movie is the story of the relationship between Ae-ja and her mother…but it seems to me that Ae-ja is the larger role.     My part was large enough! I was worried about how my acting would be received and if I could manage the part.

Well, they say that once you learn how to ride a bicycle, you never forget. I think the same can be said for your acting skills.   No, that’s not true.  My acting is not improving as I get older and I am always so tired after wrapping up a shoot that I catch a cold.  I see other actor’s my age performing and I think to myself, “Her style of acting is so old-fashioned!” I think people might look at me the same way. I feel as if I have lost my ability to concentrate and think on my feet since my role in Hwang Jin-yi about three years ago.  And since I had been through so much since that part, I was worried that I would not be able to do as much as I used to.

Although I was excited to be on a movie set again, I was still nervous. I was worried about my reputation and the fact that I was rusty after several years of not acting. I threw up often and couldn’t sleep at all. I even suffered from a burst blood vessel in my eye–all because of high expectations of myself.

I’m not sure that director Jeong Ki-hoon knew that.  He referred to you as an ‘expert’ and that you were very helpful on the set. Everyone else was calling you ‘Mother’.    That’s natural considering my role.  There is somewhat of an age gap between myself and the director who often told me I was a ‘fox’.  He directed me well and got me feeling like an actress again in no time at all.

There are many scenes where you interact with your ‘daughter’ played by Choi Kang-hee. I was wondering what you thought of her as an actress…    She is more like a friend to me…but a younger friend. We have a lot in common and many similar interests. We both have some bold ideas and hate staying in one place.  And besides that, we are both anti-social!

I don’t understand that. With your long experience as an actress and your time as a CEO, you should be good at mingling with people.    No.  When I go shopping for clothes, my stylist picks everything out.  I have kept the same hairdresser since I was 28.  I have a person who is responsible for my makeup and nails.  I just follow the people around me.  I prefer to maintain my relationships with these people whom  I already know.

That sounds kind of scary.  It’s just that I want everything to be scheduled for me and to go smoothly. I actually keep myself in control.  It also means that I expect alot of my co-stars as well. Of course, I am not talking about making mistakes.  Everyone does that. However, I don’t want he or she to ignore me.  I cannot stand that!  I always try my best and give a huge effort with whatever task I’m given.  I have heard from many people over the years that I am too strict. However I don’t agree with them.  My character in Hwang Jin-yi was so strict that I was fed up with playing her.  One day my son told me that the character was just like me! (Laughs)  I guess I always try to be perfect.

The mother in the movie Goodbye, Mother really seems to suit you. She is also an upright person who always follows her principles.   I think I have a lot in common with her.

I heard that many people called their mothers right after watching Goodbye Mother. That must be because your role was special.  Although I played the mother, I thought of myself as the daughter while acting. My own mother passed away when she was 79.  I was stunned when she died. Even though I had been taking care of her for twenty years, I never expected that she would pass away suddenly. I thought she would always be beside  me.  I most regret what I last said to her on the phone. “I’m busy, tell me what you want to say.” And then I hung up

Tell me about when you were younger. Your photos are beautiful. You must have attracted many men.    When I was in middle school, the children in the village used to follow me around with sticks and call me very derogatory names.  They used a term meaning half-breed because my skin was so white, my forehead was high and my eyes were brown.  My father was very strict with me when he saw boys following me. He assumed I was leading them on and I was severely scolded.

It must have been difficult then to get your father’s permission to get into acting.   Well, I was quite spunky! I didn’t go back home for a month after submitting my application to a vocational high school. My mother suffered from his complaining that she did not raise me better.  I used to rebel quite a bit.  By the time I started to get into acting, he was too sick to prevent me and then he passed away a short time later.

Did you really want to be an actress? I think you were influenced by many people telling you  that you were beautiful.   In the past, men and women who were good-looking were asked if they were interested in acting. I’m from Busan and when I came to Seoul, my friend urged me to apply to an acting competition at MBC. So I applied.  I wonder what would I have done if I had not won. What would I have become? I used to dream of being a housewife.

When did you really start getting into acting? With my aunt’s support I set about learning everything I could about acting while I was staying in Seoul. I didnn’t know the first thing about it. But I was the eldest child and I did not want to bring shame to my family. When I look back, I think the reason I made it so far in this field is because of my pride and patience.  I had my first leading role when I was 25 and I loved it. At this time, Kim Ja-ok, Ko Doo-shim and I were very popular.

You were in a lot of movies in the 1970s but afterwards you seemed to switch to television parts.  I was in various kinds of movies in the past.  But always meeting new people on the movie set and shortly after parting ways only to meet another new group made me feel very uncomfortable.  I was also in some adult films but I stopped doing them because I was worried that my son would go into a video shop and find them.  That thought makes me laugh now.  Frankly, I was a terrible mother. I usually checked if he had done his homework with a phone call. I think now that I should have spent more time with him rather than working so much.

Your business venture ended quite messily. Although you won the lawsuit, it must have been quite stressful coming right after your divorce.   Owning a business was not for me.  I felt like a dog on a chain taking care of 80 or 90 employees.  After the rumors broke out, I wanted to die! But I couldn’t because I didn’t want people thinking, “She deserved to die.” I cannot tell you how much I suffered during that time.

How did you get through it?   Nothing could console me then and it made me very bitter towards my husband. I wanted to have it all–I don’t do anything in moderation.  I wanted to keep a generous mind toward everyone but I couldn’t do that within my own family.  I guess I can’t change who I am.

The movie Goodbye Mother has brought you back.  Yes but I was worried about negative comments because I am nearly 60.  Actors thrive on compliments.  I want to hear that my part was the best in the movie, not that I was the best.

As an actress, are you afraid of getting older?  Getting old is inevitable.  It is something people should just accept. No one can stay beautiful forever. However, age has its own beauty.  I think Meryl Streep’s wrinkles are beautiful, but not my own. If I had a calmer life, I would have taken better care of my skin.  But I am more interested in people referring to me as a good actress rather than a pretty face.

So are you going to continue acting?  Of course I will. I don’t think of myself as a star but while I was away from acting, fans kept asking when I would return.  I really appreciated that.  I appreciate all the love people have shown me and I am repaying that love by returning to acting.  However, I won’t rush into it and I will pursue it at my own pace.

Posted in Actors, Interviews | 3 Comments »

Korean Box Office: November 27-29

29th November 2009


2012 is still doing quite well here in Korea where it has remained at the top of the box office charts for the past three weeks.  Jeong “Rain” Ji-hoon must be feeling satisfied that his film landed at number two despite some heavy competition, not only from 2012, but also from Hong’s Family Business.  I have to wonder a little about the distributors of Christmas Carol.  True, I have read absolutely horrible things about that movie but, even so, I am sure they could have done a little better if they had opened a little closer to Christmas. NOBODY (except the Baskin Robbins tv ads) is thinking about Christmas at this point.  There is no ‘Black Friday’ here where people suddenly start Christmas shopping following the US Thanksgiving.

New Moon had a rather large test screening last weekend.  It opened on four dozen screens which is about 4 times more than usual tests.  It officially opens this coming weekend with the other films listed below. There are several interesting films opening including Song Il-gon’s new movie Dance of Time. Because it is a documentary, I do not expect it to have much impact on the box office howeve I expect it to be quite good.


A.  After the Banquet (kr)– d. Kim Yoon-cheol, starring Shin Seong-woon, Ye Ji-woon

B. Book of Blood (uk)– d. John Harrison, starring Sophie Ward, Jonas Armstrong

C. Countess (ger)– d. Julie Delpy, starring Julie Stelpy, William Hurt

D. Dance of Time (kr)– d. Song Il-gon, starring Bang Joon-seok, Chae Soo-jin <documentary>

E. Dread (uk)– d. Anthony DiBlasi, starring Jackson Rathbone, Shaun Evans

F. Evangelion 2.0 (jp)– d. Masayuki, starring Mejumi Ogata, Kotono Mitsuishi

G. Into Great Silence (fr)– d. Philip Groning, starring Philip Groning, Michael Busch

H. Julie (fr)– d. Erick Zonca, starring Tilda Swinton, Saul Runinek

I. Matrimony (ch)– d. Hua Tao Teng, starring Leon Lai, Rene Liu Re Ying

J. New Moon (us)– d. Chris Weitz, starring Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart

K. Secret (kr)– d. Yoon Jae-goo, starring Cha Seung-won, Song Yoon-ah

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Pure Love (1968)

28th November 2009

pure loveA far better title for this film would have been ‘Pure Melodrama’.  Even in 1968, the plot of this film must have felt old but watching it in 2009 it was absolutely ancient and 100 percent predictable.  I did get a kind of perverse enjoyment watching the characters onscreen getting themselves into a totally preventable mess. However, that is not the reason I watched the film to its conclusion.  It was because the acting was rather good and director Nam Sang-jin managed to add some interesting scenes.  Although these scenes falied to inspire any deep emotions in me, some of them were quite nice to look at.

The story revolved around the apparently irrestible Prof. Jang.  Happily married, Jang would never, ever consider cheating on his wife.  Even when the poor woman is taken mysteriously ill, Jang’s devotion is unwavering and he vows to write to her everyday that she is in the hospital.  However, Jang’s charm is so great that he has forever ruined young Soo-jeong’s hope of ever meeting his equal.  She is infatuated with him after just one meeting and will not look at another man–not even smile—until she can be in his arms.

Soo-jeong’s friend, a cabaret owner and an aquaintence of  Jang’s conspires to have Soo-jeong meet Jang again and take advantage of the fact that Jang is lonely while his wife is away. After being lured to the cabaret on an exceptionally slow night, Jang and Soo-jeong are soon dancing close together.  In a clever bit, we are given a view of each of their private thoughts.  The radient Soo-jeong is thinking of flowers, spring and Jang while Jang is imagining that he is dancing with his wife.

Realizing how dangerously close he is to succumbing to Soo-jeong, Jang beats a hasty retreat and flees into the rainy night–only to realize he forgot his umbrella.  Soo-jeong comes to his rescue with an umbrella built for two and he has no choice but to walk home with her and share her bed. One night of illicit passion leads to several more and Jang realizes that he has fallen in love with Soo-jeong.  So, when his wife is released from the hospital, he does managed to spare a thought for Soo-jeong.  Of course, it doesn’t mean that he will call her again.  He just stops showing up at her house.

The movie might have ended there it Soo-jeong did not turn out to be pregnant.  Jang meets her one more time and gives her a wad of money hoping that will be the end of the situation.  Soo-jeong eventually gives birth to Jae-man and is perfectly content to raise him alone, but her friend, the cabaret owner, is furious that Jang is escaping parental duties.  She introduces Jang to his infant son and, as she planned, Jang is overjoyed.  He starts to split his nights between his own house and Soo-jeong’s house–until his wife finds out.

You might think a catfight would break out between Jang’s two families, but then you weren’t paying attention to the title.  Both women love Jang purely.  After first his wife demands he come home—but as soon as she sees the helpless baby wailing for his father, she relents and offers to freely give up Jang for the sake of his son.  When Soo-jeong sees the sacrifice Jang’s wife is about to make, she does one better.  Realizing she was at fault all along, Soo-jeong abandons her infant on the doorstep of Jang’s house and staggers away into the night–forever to live alone.

As you can see–there is nothing particularly special about this film.  The final scene–with Soo-jeong walking slowly away dressed in mourning white is well done.  But for the most part it is hard to identify with ANY of the characters—except perhaps the cabaret owner.  Veteran actors  take all the major roles in the film.  Prof. Jang is played by Shin Yeong-gyun while Choi Yoon-hee plays Soon-jeong and Ko Eun-ah plays his wife. Between them they led the casts of literally hundreds of films throughout the sixties and seventies.

I doubt this film will ever make its way to DVD which is why I revealed the end.  The far superior I Hate You But Once Again series is a much better example of Korean melodramas of the late sixties with a similar plot but more believable motivations.

Posted in 1960s, Review | Comments Off

Director Yoon Baek-nam

27th November 2009

yoon baek-namOriginally posted October 31, 2007—Yoon Baek-nam has often been called the Father of Korean Cinema despite evidence pointing to the fact that the release of his first known film, The Vow Made Below The Moon, was preceded by Kim Do-san’s first true movie, The Border, by three months.  However, While Kim Do-san was certainly very active in the world of theater and kinodramas–producing, directing and appearing in three in 1919 alone–he was less active in the world of film (mostly likely because of his early death in 1921).

Yoon Baek-nam was born in Seoul on October 4, 1888 as Yoon Gyo-joong. It would not be until much later that he would adopt the pen name ‘Baek-nam’. From an early age he and his two brothers were schooled by their father in traditional Chinese literature and Korean history. He enjoyed studying and, while attending school in Seoul, he developed a passion for journalism and foreign languages, proving especially adept at Japanese.  His dream of furthering his studies seemed likely to come to an end in 1902 when, at just 14 years old, Yoon was compelled to enter into a marriage arranged by his parents years earlier. 

Although he complied with his parents and went through with the ceremony, Yoon was unwilling to give up the education he passionately wanted. Not long after his wedding, Yoon secretly stowed away on a ship to Japan. Without tuition and without his parents’ knowledge, he found a way to enrol in a school in Fukushima. The following spring, he heard that is older cousin had arrived in Tokyo to study engineering. They met and his cousin agreed to support Yoon’s continuing education. He co-signed a grant that Yoon believed would allow him to enter Waseda University as a Political Science major.

Unfortunately, that was not to be. The grant Yoon received did not allow him to study Political Science and he was forced to transfer to the Hitosubashi School of Business. Although it must have seemed like a huge setback at the time, it was the best thing that could have happened for Korean cinema because it was there that Yoon met a man who would assist him greatly in getting started in movies, his life-long friend Koichi Mori.  The two kept in close contact after they graduated and Yoon returned to Korea in 1909. It was on Mori’s recommendation that Yoon secured his first job in a management position at Shiksan Bank. He could not keep that job for long though because, just prior to the annexation of Korea by Japan, the Korean bank employess were forced to give up their jobs. Yoon took another job as a reporter for the Maeil Daily Newspaper.

In 1912, Yoon became involved with some other people who had studied in Japan and who were creating a group of theater players. They dubbed themselves The Munsuseong Troupe and worked on translating Japanese literature and scripting their first play, Bulyeogwi, which they performed on March 31, 1912. This was rapidly followed by three other plays. However Yoon and writer Jo Il-je (whose later works would frequently be made into movies in the early days of Korean cinema) became increasingly interested in the newly emerging styles of theater and art. They left Munsuseong Troupe together in 1914 to return to Japan to study. The troupe disbanded after their departure.  When Yoon returned to Korea, he took a job as a reporter at Donga News and started working on his life in the theater with gusto, translating Chinese and Japanese literature and plays for the Korean stage. Eventually, he published his own dram, Destiny, in 1921 and it was performed for audiences by the Minjoong Players. Several other of his plays were performed publically as well.

About the same time, Yoon became interested in finding a way to make a movie. The Shiksan Bank had some money put aside as part of an investment plan with the sole purpose of financing a movie-picture. Koichi Mori once again assisted his friend and secured the funds for him to make a film. Yoon’s contemporary, the famous director Ahn Jeong-hwa, mentions in his book, The History of Korean Film (1962, Chunchaguk Publishers, p.57) that Yoon Baek-nam mobilized the Minjoong Players and together they produced a light comedic drama. However, no other written record of this film exists and even the name of this film remains unknown. 

The earliest confirmed film made by Yoon therefore remains The Vow Made Below The Moon which, with Mori assistance, was allowed by the authorities to be screened. That was all the start Yoon Baek-nam needed. In 1925, he directed two more films, this time for the Fusan (now Busan) Chosun Kinema. These were The Story of Woon-yeong, a tragedy about a lady of the King’s court who falls in love with a poet, and an action movie called The Hero of a Small Village.  Yoon also established the Yoon Baeknam Production Company and funded director Kim Kyeong-son’s The Story of Shim Cheong that same year.

He directed his last film in 1930 called Justice Wins and later that same year he wrote the screenplay of The Challenge which was directed by Kim So-bong.  However, in 1933, as the oppression of the Korean people grew, Yoon Baek-nam left Korea to live in Manchuria where he remained until Korean independence was achieved.

When he returned in 1946, he became a professor at Gukmin University. Later, at the outbreak of the Korean War, Yoon went to serve as a lieutenant in the Navy where he was made the section chief of press reports and public information.  After the war, he returned to education, this time as the first president of the Sarabul Arts School in 1953.

Yoon Baek-nam passed away on September 9, 1954.

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A Car That Runs On Water (1974)

26th November 2009

car that runs on water Originally posted December 7, 2007–The 1970s saw an increase in the number of films released for a younger audience. High school students in particular were the target of filmmakers  in an effort to lure people into theaters. The entire movie industry was suffering for a variety of reasons but most importantly because of the wider availabilty of television.   During this period, Yalgae, a Highschool Joker  and its sequels and the Im Ye-jin’s trilolgy of  I Really, Really Like You, I Really Really Hate You and Really Really Don’t Forget  were made and became very popular.  Another movie.  A Car That Runs on Water, directed by Lee Hyeong-pyo, follows along this vein of films.  I found it to be worlds better that the Highschool Jokers movies–overacted yes, but with a genuine sense of fun.

The story is about two sets of roommates living across the street from one another, the first set, three young women, move into a plush rental and quickly establish themselves as ‘the brainy one’, the artistic/tomboy, and the musician.  Their neighbors from across the road are three young men..a brainy wanabee inventor, an athlete and a musician. Even before we see their interactions, we can guess with certainty who will end up with whom. 

As is standard in this kind of film, their first meeting of these soon-to-be couples is antagonistic.  They get into a war over which house can make the most noise to disturb the other after the girls have mocked the boys’ pasttimes.  However, it is not long before they have a mutual admiration society started and they are all falling in love.

There is an out of place subplot that is pure melodrama that was added in to perhaps give the film some form of drama or suspense. It involves ‘the athlete’ who has been working as a bodyguard for a wealthy divorcee. She has been trying her hardest to seduce him while he stoicly refuses to respond to her advances though never making a move to decidely escape them for fear of being fired. ‘Artistic/tomboy’ gets a job in the same house as a tutor to the wealthy woman’s daughter only to witness and misinterpret a situation occuring in the master bedroom. All in all, it is a minor subplot that is unimportant to the rest of the film

Lee Hyeong-pyo does an excellent job capturing the exuberance of his young characters and he would take on another youthful drama/comedy with his film Mi-In in 1975.

Posted in 1970s, Review | 2 Comments »

Korean Box Office: November 20-22

22nd November 2009


2012 once again pulled in more than 60 percent of this weekend’s box office take leaving the rest of the films pick up the scraps. Even so, both Walking the White Night and the comic Fortune Salon are managing to do fairly well considering what they are up against.  The Hong’s Family Business (working title) is expected to do well next weekend.  It was tested on just 8 screens nationwide and managed to rank ninth this week. It will be opening along with Ninja Assassin starring Jeong Ji-hoon who has threatened not to work in Korea again if his movie fails here.  I seem to remember similar threats from both Kim Ki-duk and Shim Hyeong-rae…  These, and the other movies being released this week, are listed below.


A. Christmas Carol (us)– d. Robert Zemeckis, starring Jim Carrey, Gary Oldman

B. Hong’s Family Business (kr)– d. Jeong Yong-gi, starring Lee Beom-soo, Kim Soo-ra

C. I Am Happy (kr)– d. Yoon Jong-chan, starring Hyeon Bin, Lee Bo-yeong

D. Moon (uk)– d. Duncan Jones, starring Sam Rockwell, Kevin Spacey

E. Ninja Assassin (us)– d. James McTeigue, starring Jeong Ji-hoon, Naomie Harris

F. Paradise (kr)– d. Lee Jang-soo, starring Kim Ha-neul, Ji Jin-hee

G. Saw 6 (us)– d. Kevin Greutert, starring Tobin Bell, Costas Mandylor

H. Shared Streets (kr)– d. Tae Joon-shik, starring Kim Jin-il, Ahn Seong-min  <documentary>

I. Wish (kr)– d. Lee Seong-han, starring Jeong Woo, Hwang Jeong-eum

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The Pot (2009)

22nd November 2009

potTo begin with, The Pot was not the film that I thought I would be reviewing today.  Yesterday I had eagerly sat myself down and popped in Song Yeong-su’s 1988 film The Wolf’s Curiosity Stole the Pigeon which had recently been released on DVD.  I should have realized that the movie was going to be a little iffy when I saw the original title does not match what the film is now being called.  In English on the original posters, The Wolf’s Curiosity is called Lassie and the Horny Guy.  That should have been a warning.  I wound up turning off the film after just thirty minutes.  I had said to myself that if the girl was raped one more time, I would turn off the DVD player.  Lo and behold, she gets into the car of yet another stranger and is raped.  I gave up and decided to watch something else.

The movie I decided to watch was The Pot a low-budget horror film from new director Kim Tae-gon.  I had heard many good things about the film, including from’s own Q , and I wanted to see it for myself.  The title of the film takes a little time to comprehend.  The Korean word ‘Dok’ can mean both ‘pot’ and ‘poison’–so why was pot chosen? Dok is a certain type of pot–not the kind used to boil water.  Instead, it is a large clay pot with a lid often in the back of old Korean houses.  It is important for fermenting kimchi, soy sauce and bean paste.  ‘To ferment’ is a tasteful way to say ‘to rot’.  And that is exactly what is happening to the seemingly happy family at the center of the film.

This family consisting of a father, a very pregnant mother, and their daughter.  However we can immediately see that their is something straining at their relationship.  The father, named Hyeong-gook, seems to be barely speaking to his wife Yeong-ae. And their daughter’s disrespect of her mother grows throughout the movie.  Besides the strain of a new job, the family must deal some odd new neighbors who thrust their religious beliefs on them and show an unnatural interest in the couple’s daugher Mi-ae.

As you watch the movie, a mystery begins to unfold and the secret guilt the characters hide manifests itself frequently in the form of water.  Water plays a key plot point in the film and the water in small family’s new apartment becomes increasingly rotten and foul. From the single drop of blood in the fishtank and its continuingly cloudy water, the the disgusting sludge that spews from the drain, to odd drop of water that drips from the old woman on the stairs (yes, it was only water–Hyeong-gook sniffs at it and doesn’t react in disgust)

Director Kim does an excellent job in building up atmosphere however, the movie doesn’t really ’scare’ in the way we’ve come to expect horror films in recent years..even during some very unnatural dream sequences. My only real complaint comes from the lighting.  I realize that when there are no lights, it should be dark and the director opted from this realistic approach.  However, it makes it very difficult to see what is going on onscreen much of the time.  Even when there are lights are lit, they appear to get dimmer as the movie progresses.

The Pot is not a horror film that keep you up all night. But it is one that will keep you thinking as the reason behind the strange events becomes clear.

Posted in 2000s, Review | Comments Off

Director Song Yeong-su

22nd November 2009

song yeong-suOriginally posted July 24, 2008–Director Song Yeong-su was born in Seoul in 1942. He attended Hanyang University majoring in Theater and Film. He was a pupil of such great directors as Lee Jang-ho, Ko Yeong-nam and Jo Moon-jin. He worked under them and other directors for a decade as an assistant director starting in 1969 with Director Jo’s film Young Women to 1976 with Choi In-ho’s movie Run, Don’t Walk.

In 1977,  Song finally had a chance to make his own film called Butterfly Maiden.  It was a fairly standard melodrama for its time about a college student who comes to the aid of a young woman who had collapsed in front of him. They share an appreciation of music, art and nature and with his help she is able to enrol in college. Of course, what the hero does not know is that she is dying of a rare disease…

Afterwards, Song directed ten more films: An Embrace in the Night (1981), Forbidden Love (1982), Jamsu Brideg Outside the Window (1985), Saturdays With No Nights (1986), We Are Going to Geneva Now (1987), The Wolf’s Curiosity Stole the Pigeons (1988), Reality (1988), A Story Inside a Handbag (1991), The Emperor of Cash (1992), and Boating Dance (1993).  Among these, his most critically acclaimed films is We Are Going to Geneva Now which was the story of a Vietnam vet is not readjusting well to life after the war and a young woman who keeps popping sleeping pills during their long train journey in an attempt to kill herself.

Song Yeong-su can be seen in a handful of movies as well. He had cameo appearances in Mist Whispers Like a Woman (1982), Scoundrels Below Zero (1982) and Age of Seduction (1986) and he has a fairly major role in 1984’s The Fire of Tandra.  However, his career was cut tragically short in 1996 when he passed away at just 54 years old.

Posted in Directors | 1 Comment »

Another Time Another Place (2008)

22nd November 2009

another time another placeoriginally posted March 29, 2009–Another Time Another Place is an independent film directed by Kim Yeong-hye. It has not received a general release in theaters  but, sponsered by KOFIC , it was  recently put on DVD and shown in a few art theaters. The story is excellent but requires quite a bit of thought afterwards to get the full implications and meanings of what is happening. If you are just hoping to sit down, turn off your mind, and just watch a movie, then this is not for you. If you like being handed bits and pieces of a puzzle and enjoy patching them together to get a whole picture, then you will love this film like I did.  The story is divided into three chapters looking at different times in the life of one man named Sang-woo. In the first chapter, Sang-woo is about eight years old. He learns that his father has left his group of friends on Chiri Mountain and should have been home by now. When his dad still hasn’t arrived by daybreak, Sang-woo decides to set out on his own to search for him which will ultimately enable himself and his brother Byeong-woo to go on a family picnic.

Along the way, he encounters and easily avoids the vague threat of a stranger who offers him a ride. The driver did not insist the boy get in the car and his offer could have been out of the goodness of his heart, but it seems odd and slightly unsettling which sets the tone for the rest of the journey. His next meets an unusual old man who shows him a method of harmlessly (?) stringing locusts onto a blade of grass which the delighted boy plans to give as a gift to his father. But then a sudden sun-shower forces him to take refuge under the awning of a strange wooden door in the middle of a field.  He falls asleep while waiting for the rain to stop but is rudely awakened when two of the guardians painted on the door come to life and force him through the door to the other side. They warn him that anyone who enters can never return. They lead him to a boat and begin to row acroos the river calling to mind images of the River Styx. Furthering this image is a funeral procession on the shore. The boy calls out to small group, “Father! I caught some locusts!” But he receives no answer. Sang-woo himself thinks that it is odd that he would call out for his father at that time.  Peering over the side of the boat, he can see his house in the water below.

Suddenly, Sang-woo wakes up. Believing he had been dreaming, he continues on the road to search for his father. He soon becomes thirsty and asks a girl about his age for some water. She takes him into her run down house and he soon tells her his story. She offers to help find his father and dons full shaman robes to commune with the mountain spirits. Offering his precious locusts to the mountain gods, the boy learns that if he continues on the road, he will meet his father again. Since he can not take back his gift to the spirits, the girl presents him with a bright red feather to give to his dad when he finds him. The boy accepts her present but when he turns to thank her, he finds her gone.

There are two more chapters, one where Sang-woo has recently graduated from college and breaks up with his girlfriend only to dream of a mysterious woman in the river and observe a ’spirit wedding’ in a sudden sun-shower and another a few years after that where he drives to Chiri Mountain to pick up a shaman ’spirit dancer’ to perform in a folk festival he is organizing. Each of these chapters feature strange dreamlike scenarios that may just be visions or be actually happening. I would lean towards the vision theory myself except after each supernatural encounter, Sang-woo brings back something red–the feather, a blood stain, and a red talisman. The ’supernatural’ aspects of the encounters are left intentionally vague–the girl shaman may have simply gone inside (Sang-woo) does not go back to look, the woman he meets on the bank of the river may have been a drunken dream as he had been drinking heavily after breaking up with his girlfriend, nor does he search the final house well after the older shaman gives him the talisman and warns him against getting lost before also disappearing.

The implication is that the two shamans, child and adult, are the same woman as well as being the woman he meets by the water in the second chapter. The spirit wedding he witnesses drives home that he is still somehow in the world of spirits as the guardians warned him even though he is living in the physical world and he and the shaman are closely connected. This led me to question if the shaman was a spirit the entire time. Certainly she seemed to disappear quickly in each encounter and spirit wedding were a custom of marrying the living with the dead (as seen in Epitaph and Woman With Half a Soul). She is seen performing in one of Sang-woo’s festivals ‘two months later’ at the end of the film, but this does not guarantee that she is not a spirit. In fact, her movements are so fluid and graceful that they seemed eerily unnatural. I was wondering if the actress (Jo Ha-na) was on wheels or if she was really that good at dancing the traditional ’spirit dance’.

It was interesting how all the chapters eventually connect but I must fault the film on one point. I was confused at first by the final chapter when it appears as if Sang-woo is going to drown himself in a lake. He swims through his house the lake but is called back from death when he hears himself call out ‘Father!’ and seizes the red feather. The whole sequence did not make sense to me until the end credits when I saw that, although it was the same actor, it was not Sang-woo. Rather it is Sang-woo’s father who had left his group on the mountain to kill himself but is saved by a vision of his son (during the latter’s dream in the first chapter). Only then did the whole puzzle fall into place. However, if I had not watched the credits, I never would have figured it out. Using another actor would have made the situation clear.

However, overall, Another Time Another Place is a wonderful film experience. It is on DVD from Taewon Entertainment, but i have not seen it for sale anywhere. I received my copy as a gift from director Kim. However, I suspect that if one is interested in finding it, the DVD could be purchased through KOFIC.

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Im Kwon-Taek’s 101st Film

18th November 2009

im's new movieDirector Im Kwon-taek announced today that he will begin shooting his 101st movie which will be screened at the Jeonju International Film Festival next year. Im, now 75, was a prolific director during the 1960s and 70s but is best know for his works from more recent decades including Seopyeongje (1993), the Son of the General trilogy (1990-92) and, most recently, Beyond the Years (2006).  His current project Dalbit Gileo Olrigi, does not yet have an English title.  It will be the first film Im has shot in a digital format. Cast for the film are Park Joong-hoon, a staple among Korean actors since the 1980s who most recently appeared in the summer blockbuster Haeundae, and actress Kang Su-yeon. Kang and Im have previously worked together on some of the directors best films such as Come Come Come Upwards (1989) and The Surrogate Womb (1986). She and Park had co-starred together in the 1987 film The Springtime of Mimi and Cheol-soo directed by Lee Gyu-hyeong.  Shooting of this film will begin shortly in Jeonju.

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