Black Hair


Film info

Director: Lee Man-hee
Cast: Moon Jung-suk, Jang Dong-hwi
Cert 18, 105 mins, 1964
Distributed by Korean Film Archive

Yeon-shil is the loyal mistress of gang boss Dong-il. In trying to hide her shame – the fact that she had been raped by a violent drug addict – she only compounds her plight. One of Dong-il’s men shows him a compromising photo of her being again attacked by the man who was blackmailing her. Her punishment is to have a broken bottle slashed across her face. Disfigured and abandoned, Yeon-shil lives with her assailant and sells herself on the streets. A swirl of black hair pulled across her once lovely face struggles to mask the emblem of a shame she never deserved.

A world where it is always night-time, grim men roam dark underpasses and tunnels with violence in mind, and a gang boss broods in a grimy basement storeroom; the Seoul of Lee Man-hee’s noir masterpiece seems partly realistic yet, despite its melodramatic touches, a weirdly abstract subterranean nightmare.