The Korean peninsula is in the spotlight as the Festival du nouveau cinéma shows three films made by South Koreans, four made by North Koreans and one documentary shot (mostly) in North Korea by a British company with an American subject (Dennis Rodman) and an Irish narrator.
Some of the films being shown at the Festival du nouveau cinéma will go into general release here in Montreal within the next few days weeks or months. But others fall into the “now-or-never” category. Unless you are a cinema scholar or have good connections, chances are you won’t be able to see them again. The Tale of Chun Hyang, being shown just once, on Saturday Oct.10, 2015, is one of these “now-or-never” films.
The Tale of Chun Hyang is a Korean folk tale that has been put on film many, many times. (Two thousand times according to the FNC program!) So far, I’ve only seen the one directed by Im Kwon Taek, in 2000. (Guess I’m a slacker!)
But the version being shown at FNC was made in 1980, in North Korea. While that country makes many films, we can’t see them very often.
Im’s film was visually stunning, so I’m wondering how this North Korean version, directed by Yun Ryong-gu and Yu Won-jun will play out.
The Romeo and Juliet story is often invoked when describing The Tale of Chun Hyang to Westerners. It’s only a rough approximation though. (SPOILER: Chun Yang has a much happier ending.) The conflict here is not so much between families as between classes. Many nobles and officials do what they please with the country, its assets and the people lower down on the social scale than they are. And women have the worst deal of all, as happens so often in fairy tales. See The Tale of Chun Hyang with your friends and you could probably have some interesting arty and political discussions afterwards.
Chun Hyang is the beautiful daughter of a woman who became the second wife of an official.
Mongryong, the young, handsome, honest decent son of an official falls in love with her and marries her in secret. Then he has to go away to study for his career advancement and he cannot take Chun Hyang with him. She suffers greatly in his absence. When she refuses to become the mistress of a newly arrived official, she is thrown into prison and threatened with execution, but she values her love and loyalty more than she values her own life. (A topic for further discusion, as well.)
The Tale of Chun Hyang
Directed by: Yun Ryong-gu and Yu Won-jun
Screenplay: Kim Sung-Gu, Paek In-Jun
Cast: Kim Yong-Suk, Choe Sun-Gyu, Yong Suk-Kim
In Korean with French subtitles.
Saturday, Oct.10, 2015, 5 p.m
Salle Fernand Seguin of the Cinémathèque Québécoise, 355 de Maisonneuve Blvd. E.
Click to read more about The Tale of Chun Hyang on the FNC web site.