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March 4 - 7, 2005

Im Kwon-taek: Three Films

With a body of work that spans the past thirty-five years, filmmaker Im Kwon-taek has become recognized internationally recognized as a leading force in Korean Cinema. Although he received numerous awards and accolades home, it was not until the 1990s when the rest of the world began to take notice of his impressive and distinct film style. This mini-retrospective provides a brief overview of some of his most recent work highlighted by a rare U.S. appearance by the director himself.


Director Im Kwon-taek in Person
Screening on March 4 (Friday) 7 pm
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Chunhyang

Directed by Im Kwon-taek
South Korea, 2002, color, 117 min.
With With Min-sik Choi, Sung-kee Ahn, Ho-jeong Yu
Korean with English subtitles

One of the most ravishing films in recent years, Im Kwon-taek's great triumph is both soul-satisfying and deliriously fun. Set in the 18th century, this romantic epic traces the passionate, outlawed love between Chunhyang, the beautiful daughter of a former courtesan, and Mongryong, the haughty (and equally beautiful) son of the provincial governor. When Mongryong is sent away to finish his studies, he unwittingly leaves his lover vulnerable to the sadistic designs of the district's new governor, a man for whom every woman is prey. Thrillingly narrated by a pansori singer, with great guttural whoops and an emotional register to rival that of Maria Callas, Chunhyang finds a master director working at the top of his form in a film that exalts a Korean theatrical tradition even as it vividly recalls the more modest legacy of the Hollywood musical.

Chihwaseon

Directed by Im Kwon-taek
South Korea, 2000, color, 120 min.
With With Hyo-jeong Lee, Seung-woo Cho, Sung-nyu Kim
Korean with English subtitles

Winner of the Cannes Film Festival’s Best Director award, Chihwaseon is a vivid portrait of the turbulent life and times of Korea’s greatest artist. As remarkably embodied by Choi Min-sik, the temperamental, passionate brush master Jang Seung-up paints with a martial artist’s fervor while indulging a rock star’s single-minded lust for life. Amidst the tumult and destruction of nineteenth century Korea, “Ohwon,” as he comes to be called, fights to escape both the rigid artistic boundaries and the social fetters that would deny his low-born, unschooled genius. Im Kwon-taek elegantly portrays both the near apocalyptic upheaval of turn-of-the-century Korea and the intimate interior battle between Ohwon's creative and libidinous desires.

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March 7 (Monday) 7 pm

Sopyonje

Directed by Im Kwon-taek
South Korea, 1993, color, 112 min.
With Myung-gon Kim, Jung-hae Oh, Kyu-chul Kim
Korean with English subtitles

With a modest budget, this film generated the biggest box office receipts in the history of Korean cinema, reaffirming Im Kwon-taek’s commercial and artistic reputation. Yu-bong leads a family troupe of traveling musicians who pursue the traditional music of pansori despite its waning popularity in contemporary society. When his son also decides to leave the family tradition behind in favor of Western music, Yu is pushed to commit a sin that is both unforgivable and unforgettable. Sopyonje explores the director’s trademark themes such as the humanist discourse, the search for national identity and the tensions between modernity and tradition.

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