Classics Revisited: Bae Chang-ho Retrospective
1982. Directed by Bae Chang-ho , starring Kim Bo-yeon, Ahn Sung-ki, Kim Hee-ra, Cert 18 , 108 mins.
A shantytown miles south of Seoul has collected poor people and misfits from all over the country into its twisting alleyways and scruffy landscape. Myeong-suk, a fading beauty among the tough women there, is known as ‘black glove’: she wears that glove on a hand badly burnt in saving her baby boy from a horrible injury. Myeong-suk tries to raise her son, keep one step ahead of her dodgy husband and run a small grocery shop. But her ex-husband is out of jail, again, and drives his nice green taxi cab right back into her already complicated life.
For his debut film Bae planted a love triangle inside a Korean neo-realist setting where poverty pokes sharp elbows into the basic decency of ordinary people. The film’s success launched him into a career as the most popular director of the 1980s.
Close-up Film Centre, 01 Nov 17 8:00 pm
1984. Directed by Bae Chang-ho , starring Ahn Sung-ki, Kim Soo-chul, Lee Mi-sook, Cert 12A , 112 mins.
Byeong-tae can’t do anything right. Physically weak, disastrous as a student, scorned several times over by the girl he fancies, he almost ends up in jail. To his rescue comes the ‘professional beggar’ Min-wu. The older man, a walking monument to scruffy resourcefulness, drags him off to a brothel where the innocent Chun-ja holds out against her fate. The two men smuggle her away from a brutal boss, and off they travel, by hook and often by crook, through the wintery landscape. They vow to return Chun-ja to her mother down south, but the boss and his henchmen are in pursuit.
The best loved of all South Korean road movies. Two-guys, usually misfits, and a girl, often a prostitute, wander a snowy landscape: the formula was invented in the mid 1970s in Lee Man-hee’s The Road to Sampo. Bae would use it again but never more movingly.
Close-up Film Centre, 02 Nov 17 8:00 pm
1990. Directed by Bae Chang-ho , starring Ahn Sung-ki, Hwang Cine, Cert 18 , 93 mins.
Once upon a time back in the era of the Shilla Dynasty when Buddhism was the religion of peasants and kings, there lived a young monk named Jo-shin. Of all of the temples in all of the kingdom, Dal-lae had to walk into his. Ten years of studying and training melt from him at the sight of the beautiful young woman. Jo-shin manages to have his way with her, then this unlikely couple flee the temple, proper society and Dal-lae’s enraged fiancé. Passion cools, and their lives are soon full of hardships they never imagined.
A modern story by Yi Kwang-su provided a literary original. The outlines of the tale go back to earlier narratives as old as the Shilla era itself, in particular the tale of ‘Jo-shin’s Dream’. Tales and film all grow from a tradition of dream-vision narratives in both Korean and Chinese literature. Bae’s second period film, after the stunning Hwang Jin-i (1986).
Close-up Film Centre, 03 Nov 17 8:00 pm