Seen in Jeonju

Angry Young Men (1976)

19th September 2012

Anrgy Young Men.  aka Angry Apple.  Director: Park Ho-tae. Starring Lee Deok-hwa <as Cheong>, Im Ye-jin <as Ah-mi> and Jang Dong-hwi <as Mr. Kang>. Release Date: February 18, 1977. Running TIme: 108 minutes.

76-069~3Left alone after his mother’s untimely death, recent high school graduate Cheong goes off in search of his father whom he learned was alive after a lifetime of believing himself to be fatherless. He tracks his father down to the countryside where he owns an expansive apple orchard. Cheekily jumping the gate when the old caretaker proves to be too slow answering his knocks, Cheong introduces himself to his long-lost parent with high hopes of acceptance and making a new life for himself.  However, suddenly appearing in the living room of a person, claiming to be their son from a relationship nearly two decades in the past is probably not the best way to get started. Cheong father, Mr. Kang, reacts with disbelief and shock.. and not a little bit of fear as he worries how his wife and legitimate son, Jin-woo will react. However, he is convinced that Cheong is telling the truth based on a strong resemblence to a woman Kang had loved long ago, so instead of throwing the boy out onto the street he takes him on as a laborer and asks him to help with the harvest. Cheong is understandably not happy with his small shelter among the apple trees and feels as if he has been rejected and abandoned..and resentment starts to build within him from the moment he first spies his step-brother driving up in a new, red convertible with his soon-to-be bride on his arm. Jin-woo does not know he has a brother and takes an instant dislike to the handsome newcomer, especially when his girlfriend, Ah-mi, seems to be interested in getting to know Cheong better.  After the pair take Jin-woo’s car without his permission, the priviledged young man lashes out and soundly pummels Cheong.  This is not the only time Cheong is beaten up in the few days that he is on the orchard. The foreman does not like him either as he is popular with all the female apple-pluckers and seems to have developed a special bond with Seon, the girl the foreman has been unsuccessfully courting. To complicate matters, Seon was the former lover of Jin-woo from when they were both in high school. After he had gone to Seoul, he changed into a more wordly man and abandoned country-bumpkin Seon in favor of the sophisticated Ah-mi. With all of the injustices Cheong sees around him– a wealthy life of ease with a loving family that he should be a part of, his brother’s callous treatment of women, his unfilled yet growing love for Ah-mi– is it any wonder that Cheong eventually snaps with devesating results for the family at which his anger is directed.

In Korean, the title of this film is shared by another, earlier movie directed by Kim Mook in 1963 and starring Shin Seong-il. The two movies also share the same plot and I had hoped I would be watching the 60s version as I am a Shin fan.  However, a little research would have shown me that the Kim Mook’s film is among those lost at the present and I would be watching the 70s remake. Seeing the cast eased my initial disappointment as this movie starred the fantastic duo of Lee Deok-hwa and Im Ye-jin. This pair led the cast of half of the “Really, Really…” films of the mid-70s. The “Really, Really..” series were among the best of the high-teen dramas and had titles like I Really, Really Like You, I’m Really, Really Sorry, Really, Really Don’t Forget and I Really, Really Have a Dream.  But after the beginning of the movie and Cheong is supposed to have bitterness eating at his very being, I realized that Lee Deok-hwa was not pulling off the role. His image was too positive, too wholesome. Shin Seong-il could take his romantic behavior and good looks and turn himself into a believable monster bent of vengence. The role of Cheong was clearly made for him, not for boyish, innocent Lee Deok-hwa. 

Im Ye-jin was not necessarily miscast in this movie. However, she was wasted in the part of Ah-mi. Ah-mi is merely an accessory who has remarkably few lines.  Had she not been at the height of her popularity when this movie was released, I doubt she would have received second billing. Im was at her best when she was allowed to flash her easy smile and many of her previous characters could simply be described as charming and sweet without being saccharine.  Ah-mi does not have enough character to warrent a description. She allows a man she just met to get beat up twice in her presence for her.. not his actions. She is the one who convinced him to take Jin-woo’s car and she sought Cheong out in the orchard causing the foreman to attack the hapless young man. However, she barely raises an ounce of protest. The character was dull and not worthy of Im.

Unfortunately, the same could be said for this film. Some movies are harder to get through than others..and this one was hard. I am used to Korean melodramas from earlier eras and I have a high tolerance for the occasionally bogged down pacing, but I found it impossible to concentrate on this movie.  It may be because that, once  I knew the actors, I was hoping for something lighter like in their high-teen pairings. Rather than just awkwardly remaking the material of a different decade, director Park should have added something of his stars’ specialty into the script to keep up with the times. As it was, Angry Young Men feels dated and stagnant, making it impossible to recommend should it ever become available.

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