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February 6 - 28, 2005

Korean Cinema

This introduction to the world of Korean cinema focuses on the diverse aesthetic strategies of prominent Korean filmmakers. Drawing examples from horror films that allegorize the disintegration of masculinity and patriarchy in the 1970s, emotional exploitations of human relationships in the 1980s, and brutally painful portraits of degraded intellectuals in the 1990s, this semester-long series presents a compelling cross-section of an increasingly vital national cinema.

Series curated by Gina Kim. Special thanks to Kyung Hyun Kim. Program notes adapted from Film Society Lincoln Center.


February 6 (Sunday) 7 pm -- Director Kim Hong-Jun in Person

After working as an assistant to veteran director Im Kwon-Taek, Kim Hong-Jun has moved on to establish himself as a leading figure in Korean film culture. In addition to his provocative film work, he has programmed film festivals, served as head of the Korean Film Commission, and became a recognizable televison personality, introducting classic Korean films, which served as the basis for My Korean Cinema.

Jungle Story

Directed by Kim Hong-Jun
South Korea, 1996, color, 87 min.
With Do-Hyun Yun, Chang-wan Kim, Min-Soo Kim
Korean with English subtitles

An archetypal story of a rock band on the rise, Jungle Story recounts the early years of the fictitious, underground group, the Yun Do-Hyun Band (led by real-life rock star Do-Hyun Yun). Do-Hyun drops out of school to search for success in the music business, but becomes frustrated when the recording of his album is put on hold because it is not considered commercial enough by record executives. Kim Hong-Jun avoids the trappings of the familiar music business narrative by remaining honest to his subject and using a compelling visual style to present the musician’s performances.

La Vie en Rose

Directed by Kim Hong-Jun
South Korea, 1996, color, 87 min.
With Do-Hyun Yun, Chang-wan Kim, Min-Soo Kim
Korean with English subtitles

A hoodlum Dongpal (Jae-Sung Choi), a labor union activist Keeyoung (Cha) and an amateur writer Yujin (Jee-Hyung Lee) are three fugitives who stumble upon a hiding place at a comic book rental shop in a working-class district in Seoul. Run by a beautiful shop owner named “Madam” (Choi), the place serves as a shelter for people who cannot afford to stay at a hotel, as long as they can pay a “midnight charge.” As the days go by, an intricate web of relationships develops among the guests leading to explosive results.

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February 7 (Monday) 6:30 pm -- Director in Person

My Korean Cinema

Directed by Kim Hong-Jun
South Korea, 2002, color, 60 min.
Korean with English subtitles

In the vein of Martin Scorsese’s warmly received recollections of Hollywood and Italian cinema comes Kim Hong-Jun’s overview of forty years of Korean film history. Culled from his televison presentations, the film features the director’s reflections on the work of Im Kwon-Taek, Yu Hyon-Mok, Kim Ki-Young and Shin Sang-ok, as well as many others whose work has gone largely undocumented. A funny and moving ode to a life of cinephilia, the film draws on Kim’s experience as a filmmaker as well as film commissioner and festival director to inform this nostalgic journey.

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February 14 (Monday) 7 pm

The Houseguest and My Mother (Sarangbang sonnim-kwa omoni)

Directed by Shin Sang-ok
South Korea, 1961, color, 103 min.
With Eun-hi Choe, Yoeng-seon Jeon, Jin Kyu Kim
Korean with English subtitles

Three women live in the country under the same roof: a young widow, her daughter, and her mother-in-law. One day, a painter from Seoul comes to stay with them, claiming to be a good friend of the widow’s late husband. The child quickly forms a strong bond with the painter. Warm feelings begin to grow between him and the widow but her mother-in-law does not share these sentiments. This wonderfully touching film features a terrific performance by Eun-hi Choe as the widow. Shin finds just the right tone for his story, playing down the social criticism to emphasize instead an elegiac portrait of people for whom happiness is so near and yet finally so far away.

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February 28 (Monday) 7 pm

The Housemaid (Hanyo)

Directed by Kim Ki-young
South Korea, 1960, color, 107 min.
With Eun-shim Lee, Jeung-nyeo Ju, Jin Kyu Kim
Korean with English subtitles

A composer teaches music to women working in factories while his wife toils at home as a seamstress to earn her family a few extra dollars. When she collapses from exhaustion, the composer decides to hire a maid who catches his eye and proceeds to turn his seemingly stable family life upside-down. After its initial success, the film remained largely unnoticed until a 1997 retrospective at the Pusan International Film Festival. The Housemaid inspired Cahiers du cinéma critic Jean-Michel Frodon to declare “the discovery of a film like The Housemaid…is a marvelous feeling - marvelous not just because one finds in writer-director Kim Ki-young a truly extraordinary image-maker, but in his film such an utterly unpredictable work. So Luis Buñuel had a Korean brother!”

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