Saturday, 6 June 2009

1950s Korean Cinema at the Cinematheque

Upcoming at the Seoul Cinematheque, June 9th-18th, is a program of Korean films from the 1950s. So far, six of the thirteen films are listed as having English sub-titles. The films are:

Yangsan-do (Yangsan Island) (Kim Ki-young, 1955) (90 minutes)
Piagol (Pia Village) (Lee Kang Cheon, 1955) (106 minutes)
Chongchun Ssanggogseon (Han Hyeong-mo, 1956) (100 minutes)
Jayu Buin (Madame Freedom) (Han Hyeong-mo, 1956) (124 minutes)
Muyeong-tab (Pagoda of No Shadows) (Shin Sang-ok, 1957) (117 minutes)
Jiokhwa (Flower in Hell) (Shin Sang-ok, 1958) (86 minutes)

Probably the most well-known of these films are Madame Freedom and Flower in Hell, both of which are discussed at length in the Korean Film Archive's A History of Korean Cinema. As can be guessed by the titles, both are melodramas. Yi Hyo-In devotes a section of his overview of 1950s Korean cinema on Madame Freedom with the title, "Madame Freedom, the Application of the Modern Thinking into a Film and the Repulsion Against It." Flower in Hell is of interest in both its subject matter (one of the lead characters is a prostitute servicing American GIs) and its apparent mixture of genres and styles. And Yangsan Island is the second film of the acclaimed Kim Ki-young. I know little else about the other films, although all appear to be from the melodrama era except for Pia Village, which I think is part of the war cycle and deals with a group of communist guerillas.

The cinemathque website has the times and listings, but not the translation of the titles, so go by the year and running time. I've also linked each film to its imdb page.


Dan Dredger said...

Thanks for the heads up.

I think I'll check out the 자유부인 screening on Thursday (6/11) at 8.

Marc Raymond said...

I'll probably be at that screening as well. I checked out your profile and blog, good luck with your plans for KNUA. If you want to sit in on the American cinema course I teach there in the Fall you'd be more than welcome.

Dan Dredger said...

Thanks very much for the invite. Would absolutely love to sit in on the course; any idea yet on the day and time?

Do many foreigners (Korean Americans aside) apply to the KNUA? Seems a bit of a stretch in my case due to the language requirement, but it's something I feel I've got to work toward. I've been working in film as a cinematographer for almost a decade now; the language thing is a more recent endeavor.

I spent six months at Yonsei University's Korean Language Institute and another year at my university in the States studying Korean. I'm resuming classes at Yonsei in September; hope to be ready for the TOPIK by April 2010. We'll see what happens. I keep telling myself it's a test like any other; it requires certain attainable skills, it's not insurmountable.

How's your Korean, by the way? How'd you end up out here?

Marc Raymond said...

There are a few foreigners at KNUA, and not just Korean-Americans, so give it a try, I don't think you need perfect Korean and lots of people there speak some English, especially in the filmmaking section.

The course will probably be Thursday evening (5:00-8:00), starting in September, but not sure yet. If you want to email me about the course later on in the summer, you can reach me at

My Korean is still very bad, unfortunately, I rely too much on my wife. Speaking and listening almost none, although I can read a little.

Might see you around the cinematheque on Thursday.

Dan Dredger said...

Flower In Hell (Wednesday @ 8)
Pia Village (Thursday @ 8)

Time permitting, I'm going to try to make it to both screenings. Really looking forward to Flower In Hell (my first Shin Sang-ok, I'm sort of embarassed to say).

You missed a great screening last week!

Marc Raymond said...

Glad you got to some of the films, I've been too busy with the end of term unfortunately. Can never see everything. Be interested in hearing your thoughts on the films.