23rd September 2012
College Festival aka Run, Balloon– directed by Kim Eung-cheon. starring Jeon Yeong-rok <as Park Doo-cheol>, Kim Bo-yeon <as Ahn Dal-sook>, Yeo Woon-gye <’Queen Mother’>. Runnning Time: 103 minutes. Release Date November 8, 1980.
There is much fanfare at the train station the day that Doo-cheol is seen off by his rural community. The hard-working young man succeeded in entering the Department of Law at one of Korea’s top universities and most of his village appears to have turned up to see him off. As the train approaches, his proud mother gives him one last piece of advice, “Be careful of the women in Seoul and concentrate on your studies.” This is a piece of advice that the nervous Doo-cheol remembers as he finds the person is the seat next to him is a young lady, also on her way to college. Fortunately, she turns out not to be from Seoul, but from the same southern province as Doo-cheol. Her name is Dal-sook and the pair hit if off instantly but have to separate when they get to Seoul. Doo-cheol turns down numerous rooms because he wants a place where he can concentrate on his studies. He finds one such place run by the landlady the students know affectionately as the Queen Mother and the other students living there are in the same major as Doo-cheol. After passing the drinking test his classmates put him through, Doo-cheol is able to dive into his studies. He makes a positive impression on his professors and proves popular at school. When his university’s spring festival starts, Doo-cheol gets in touch with Dal-sook again and invites her as his date to the festival. The pair seem well matched and even perform a comedic scene from Cyrano de Bergerac together with Dal-sook taking the role of Roxanne. Seeing that she is living in the dorm at a nearby women’s university, Dal-soon has to leave early. The night atmosphere is different from the day and the exciting music leads Doo-cheol to ask someone to dance with him. However, that fact gets back to Dal-sook and this causes the first of bump in their relationship. It is far from the last. Between her parents introducing her to eligible young men, money problems, lack of time that they can meet and just plain, old bad luck, it seems unlikely that the young lovers will wind up together. Will this pure love survive all the temptations and problems of life in Seoul?
Jeon Yeong-rok, the man who would eventually become famous as Dolai, plays the role of earnest Doo-cheol. Still years away from his action-hero, Jeon was already a popular singer and had released three albums by the time this film was released. Although he is not seen to sing in this film, one of the frequent songs on the OST may be him. I am not familar enough with Korean songs of this era to say. Judging by the way they are framed onscreen, I am certain that two of the performances we see at university festival were being performed by singers who were well-known at the time. I have liked Jeon in most movies I have seen him in as he brings a strong, instantly likeable, presence to his films..even if not all the movies he was in are particularly good.
College Festival is not one of the better ones. That is not to say it was bad, but the problem was it was rambling. The film moves along adding lots and lots of padding to fill out its running time but, all-in-all, nothing much really happens. The story loses its focus about half-way through and the story shifts from away from the budding romance, which is fairly interesting, to a subplot about a classmate who cannot pay his tuition and treating the landlady to a trip to Jeju Island. The subplotsand their characters–particularly anything involving the classmates– are not at all interesting. My mind wandered away for this part of the film but was brought back when Doo-cheol and Dal-sook’s story continued. The story would have been better served providing less time on subplots and instead could have given an ending.
We do not see how the film ends. Instead we are given a voice-over as the action freezes. The voice of an uncredited narrator, possibly Director Kim, breaks the fourth wall and asks rhetorically whether it is possible for these two lovers to ever meet eye-to-eye. We are not given a chance to ponder this question as we are provided with a brief answer. And then the movie ends without ever showing us any more of the story unfold onscreen.
The voice-over spoils more than jut denying the viewer the ending. It interrupts the song Run, Balloon from which the film takes its Korean title. The words ‘Run Balloon’ have no meaning in side the story, so the meaning must be found within the lyric of the song. Presumably, viewers at the time would have known the song and the title of the film would be obvious to them. I am not so fortunate. The KMDb lists the English title of this film as Run, Balloon– the direct translation of the Korean title. Daum Movies lists it as College Festival. I preferred the latter title although I can find no historical evidence for it. The original posters and ads for this film show an English title and while it seems to have been released on VHS in ‘84, I can find no image of the cover to see if an English title was assigned at that time.
Whatever it is called, the movie is interesting not because of the story, but because of how it is able to show multiple live performances of a variety of music styles from various artists of that decade and starred one of the most popular singers of the time.