Monthly Archives: January 2006

opening salvo

There are several competing threads in the best of contemporary Korean cinema: genuine, sincere family films (The Way Home), art film introspection meets Buddhist introspection (the films of Kim Ki-duk), faux art-film genre thrillers inspired by Seven and Tarantino (Oldboy, Memories of Murder), and Im Kwon-Taek’s genre, the period drama rethought. Chunhyang is based an ancient Korean folk tale usually delivered in a mesmerizing performance of stops, starts, and screams, the Korean two-man operatic form known as pansori. Im weaves pieces of a pansori performed by Sang-hyun Cho with his own version of the story, breathtakingly realized, of a courtesan’s daughter who marries a prince in secret, then suffers for her fidelity to him while he’s away. You’ve never seen anything like the heroine’s improvisation of a poem as she is being beaten for refusing to sleep with the local governor — she counts off the lashes, and each number reminds her of a Confucian principle the governor has violated.
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