Friday, April 29, 2016

First joint Korean-U.S. film "Northeast of Seoul" aka "Seoul Affair" aka "Katherine's Escape" to screen Saturday

On  October 3, 1970, James Wade's Korea Times column "Scouting the City" (written under the pen name Alf Racketts) revealed that an international film production - Korea's first - was about to start filming under the name "Seoul Affair" (or "Northeast of Seoul"):

Alan Heyman (more about whom is here) wrote a score for the film, but it was never used.

On October 6, 1970, the Donga Ilbo reported that actress (or, as they put it, "glamour fox") Anita Ekberg, best known for her role in the Federico Fellini film "La Dolce Vita" (not yet released in Korea), was in Seoul for a joint American-Korean production titled "The Seoul Affair," set to start filming with director David Rich and actors John Ireland, Jon Buono, and Sin Yeong-gyun and Choe Ji-hui on October 15.

The Kyunghyang Sinmun, on the same day, in an article titled "Seoul’s autumn is very cold," also reported on Anita Ekberg (a 39 year-old "sexy fox" with the measurements 42-28-40 wearing a skirt that ended 30cm above the knees), saying that she was best known to Korean fans for the omnibus film "Boccaccio '70."

On October 10 the Joongang Ilbo published an article about the production. On October 24, in an article titled "Film like water...", the Maeil Gyeongje reported that local directors seeing the progress of David Rich's film "Seoul Affair" were astonished at his unconventional way of directing the film. While local directors would use 9000자 of film (I'm not sure what that measures) to make a movie, David Rich wanted to use 70,000자, which made his staff turn pale in shock. From their point of view, the director was using too much film, doing seven takes and only using one shot, and wasting precious film like water.

On November 7, the Donga Ilbo reported on possible other joint projects with an Italian director but nothing seems to have come of these (perhaps not a bad thing - did we really need a "Nazi gold hidden in Korea" story? Well, maybe...).

On December 21 the Kyunghyang Sinmun showed this photo of Anita Ekberg with co-star Sin Yeong-gyun:

But then that was that. At least in Korea. IMDB has '1972' written next to it, and posters such as the one below can be found, but it's not clear if it was released in the U.S. or not (only a 1990 German release is recorded).

In Korea, however, years went by with no mention of this film, as James Wade notes in this March 16, 1974 column:

Two weeks later, however, on April 2, 1974, the Maeil Gyeongje announced that a joint Korean-American production titled "캐서린의 탈출" ("Katherine’s Escape"), was to open soon. This was, indeed, a renamed "Seoul Affair," as this poster from the April 4, 1974 Donga Ilbo reveals:

On April 9, 1974, the Maeil Gyeongje stated the nation’s first American-Korean joint production had been playing at the Scala Theater since April 5.

On April 13, James Wade weighed in with a review of the film:

Though he wasn't impressed, a week later, on April 16, the Maeil Gyeongje reported that it had brought in 34,000 viewers in the ten days between April 5 and April 14. Just to compare, it reports that a movie titled "Yu Kwan-sun" (about the national heroine of the Samil Protests in 1919 had brought in only 7,676 people in the same time period, while over 46 days the "Poseidon Adventure" had attracted 120,000 viewers. One wonders if this is correct, considering the Korean Film archive records there having been 31,291 viewers. Unfortunately, the Maeil Gyeongje's film listings section doesn't seem to be a regular feature, so nothing more is said about it.

Should you be curious to see the film, this Saturday, April 30, at 3pm, the Royal Asiatic Society Cinema Club and Seoul Film Society will have a free screening of the film at Seoul Global Center's Haechi Hall, on the 5th Floor of M Plaza in Myeong-dong.

Directions to Seoul Global Center's Haechi Hall can be found here and here, and more information about the film and screening is here.

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