Classics Revisited: Lee Chang-ho Retrospective
1980. Directed by Lee Chang-ho , starring Lee Yeong-ho, Ahn Sung-ki, Kim Seong-chan, Lim Ye-jin , 113 mins.
Three young men leave the countryside and head for Seoul. There they encounter tough times and young women a bit more complicated than the ones back home. They also come face to face with the economic inequalities of urban Korea, where the nouveau riche treat them like trash. However, like the character Deok-bae floored by his boxing coach but bouncing back for one more go, the film manages to leave us optimistic about the future. As the theme song has it, there will be fine windy days ahead.
A film regarded as a landmark in making youth culture central to cinema, and offering some hope in the bleak, bloody early days of the Chun Doo-hwan regime. The acting may have dated, like the fashion of those years, but Lee’s comeback film was the beginning of his best work.
Close-up Film Centre, 08 Nov 16 8:00 pm
1985. Directed by Lee Chang-ho , starring Lee Bo-hee, Ahn Sung-ki, Kim Myung-kon , 110 mins.
A young noble woman marries into an even higher family. Her self-important husband can’t manage to get her pregnant, so the family boots her out, and her own father won't take her back. After a failed suicide, Eoh Wu-dong becomes a famous courtesan, eventually making her way to the king’s bed. Elite yangban society, including her own father, is outraged and plots to kill her. Alongside runs a story about her childhood and puppy-love with a low-caste boy– that boy was castrated by her father. He comes back into her life, first as potential assassin, then as protector.
Based on a historical figure, the film made full use of the new openness about sexual imagery. Lee’s Eoh Wu-dong is clearly focused on showing Confucian social codes in all their brutality. Lee Bo-hui, Lee’s most important female collaborator, is stunning as the brazenly fallen woman. Much criticized for being exploitative, the film is quite tame compared to more recent big-budget soft-porn re-imaginings of the Korean past.
Close-up Film Centre, 10 Nov 16 8:00 pm
1987. Directed by , starring Lee Bo-hee, Kim Myung-kon, Ko Seol-bong, Chu Seok-yang , 104 mins.
A gloomy man wanders the wintry eastern sea coast bearing the ashes of his wife. She had come from northern Korea, he feels somehow compelled to scatter her remains somewhere in the North despite the division of the nations and their heavily fortified border. On his journey he will encounter three women all seemingly marked by the shadow of his wife’s death.
This complex, beautiful film is Lee’s most accomplished literary adaptation, transforming the uncanny fiction of Lee Je-ha into a visually haunting classic. Lee Bo-hee plays the wife, in flashbacks, then reappears as a prostitute and also a nurse taking a dying old man on his own impossible trajectory North. A very Korean – therefore universal - story.
Close-up Film Centre, 09 Nov 16 8:00 pm