A Day Off

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Film info

Director: Lee Man-hee
Cast: Shin Seong-il, Ji Yun-seong, Kim Seong-ok, Kim Sun-cheol
Film genre: Drama
Cert 15, 74 mins, 1968
Distributed by Daehan Association Film Co., LTD

Seoul. Winter. Sunday. One fairly dodgy-looking young man, one pregnant young woman, and a pack of cigarettes. From this raw material Lee Man-hee, the most imaginative and visually inventive director of Korea’s 1960s and 70s, made a black-and-white masterpiece. In A Day Off he was able to blend lessons learned from Italian neo-realism with his particular tragic vision of melodrama, one displayed eloquently in earlier films such as Full Autumn (1966) and Homebound (1967).

Our young couple meet in wind-blown parks up on Namsan, the great hill south of the city. Down below is Myeongdong neighbourhood - overshadowed by the spire of a grand Cathedral, indifferent to the little lives of the inhabitants.

Back in 1968 the government censors hated the film and its too-realistic vision of life in the nation’s capital. They demanded changes; Lee and colleagues risked their necks by refusing. So the film was not even listed on his official filmography and shelved until its lucky rediscovery by the Korean Film Archive in 2005.