Seen in Jeonju

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.

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