Seen in Jeonju

Short Reviews of 4 Films from the 60s

9th January 2010

old potterOriginally posted June 20, 2009–Just because I have been busy with the end of the semester for the past couple of weeks does not meet that I haven’t been watching movies. I just haven’t had time to write about them.  Recently I watched four older films from the 60s. Keep Quiet When Leaving and The Apron (not pictured), both from 1964, How’s Your Wife (1966) and The Old Potter (1969).   All of these are VERY melodramatic but I enjoyed most of them–the exception being How Is Your Wife for reasons I will get to.

The Old Potter was directed by Choi Ha-won. Previously I was not a fan of Choi having only seen his 1981 film The Invited Ones. That movie, about the persecution of Christian missionaries and converts in 18th Century Korea was far too heavy-handed in its Christian imagery and seems to have been made with the idea of converting viewers.  However, I found The Old Potter to be very enjoyable. The title character is played by the talented Hwang Hae whose film career stretched from 1959 to 1990.  Much of the pain the character goes through is conveyed through the eyes and Hwang’s experience in acting is put to good use  in many close ups of his face. There are no surprises in this film–you can guess how the movie will end as soon as the enormous, crumbling, clay kiln makes its appearance–but it was completely enjoyable.

The Apron was directed by Lee Bong-rae and featured some of the top actors of the time, most notably Kim Seung-ho and Jo Mi-ryeong. The appeared in many films together such as 1960s The Coachman where they had roles similar to what they play here–an older couple with possible romantic interest unsure whether they should actually persue their feelings or live how society expects them to live. Kim plays a retired widower named Kang who lives with his three children and housemaid. The eldest daughter, Myeong-hee (played by Uhm Aeng-ran), senses a relationship developing between her father and the maid but she is very oppposed to this and worries what people would think if their feelings became public. However, what Myeong-hee does not realize is that she is adopted and the housemaid whom she treats like dirt is actually her mother. Good acting all around and fun appearances by Twist Kim and a very young Ahn Sung-ki.

Keep Quiet While Leaving is pure melodrama and could have easily been a Rock Hudson/Doris Day film from the 1950s.  This movie also starred Uhm Aeng-ran along with the man who would become her real-life husband, Shin Seong-il.  In the film, they play Mi-yeong and Myeong-su.  Mi-yeong is the only daughter of a wealthy man (Kim Seung-ho) who falls in love with a student working his way through university. Mi-yeong’s parents are horrified by her taste in men especially when she has the chance to marry her long time friend and social equal. In defiance of her parents, Mi-yeong leaves home to live with Myeong-su and soon becomes pregnant. As they do not have enough money and another mouth to feed, Mi-yeong starts a business making baby clothes with the help of her friend. But Myeong-su is jealous of their relationship and feels he has failed as a man. He takes out his frustrations on his wife, locking both she and their infant baby out of the house on a rainy night. Mi-yeong makes her way to her parents house but, althought the infant survives the experience, Mi-yeong succombs to illness and dies begging her parents to forgive Myeong-su as ‘he is not a bad man.’  Her parents do not agree and raise their granddaughter for the next three or four years until Myeong-su shows up, now with a job in foreign affairs, wanting to take the child with him to the USA. It is an odd ending with the grandparents making a decision I found hard to believe but otherwise it was a good movie–no deep meaning but interesting to watch.  This movie was directed by Kim Ki-deok.

How’s Your Wife was my least favorite of the foursome I watched. It was the story of Jeong-sook (Kim Ji-mi) who for the past thirteen years has been a dutiful wife to her unnamed husband played by Kim Jin-gyu. But when day her friend introduces her to a dance hall targeting a slightly older clientelle.  She soon becomes a regular there in part because of gigalo Jae-seok (Shin Seong-il).  Jae-seok falls in love with her even though he was originally operating a blackmail scheme with his friend (played by Kim Soon-cheol). The plan was to take pictures of Jeong-sook in a compromising position and then force her to pay money to prevent her husband from finding out. Even though Jeong-sook was prepared to sleep with Jae-seok, she has a change of heart and feels guilty about her actions. However, Jae-seok’s friend still manages to get a shot of the pair together that would certainly spell the end of her marriage. The story continues and director Lee Seong-gu spares no effort in punishing Jeong-sook for her emotional, if not physical, affair and the film ends with her in a mental hospital after a suicide attempt with her children crying for their mother outside. That, however, is not the problem I had with the film. The complaint I have involves an unfortunate bit of ‘comedy’ involving a minor character played by Choi Nam-hyeon (NOT known for his comedic films).  In it, he plays a man who goes to the dance hall and shyly tries to ask women to dance–until he runs into his wife dancing to a jive tune with another man. He then drags her to a back room and “comically’ beats her. It is a disturbing double-standard that ruined the entire movie for me.

Hmmm..I thought I didn’t have enought to say about these films to give them each their own posts, but I guess I could have..this post ran longer than I thought it would…

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