Thursday, June 02, 2011

Digging into old Korean films

The Korea Times reported last week that Kim Ki-young's first film, 'The Boxes of Death,' had been rediscovered. Kim is best known for his 1960 film 'The Housemaid,' which was remade last year by Im Sang-soo.
“The Boxes of Death” opened in local theaters in 1955 but went missing like many of the works from the period following the Korean War (1950-53).

In 2009, Kim Han-sang, a visiting fellow at the Harvard-Yenching Institute, discovered a copy of the film at the National Archives and Records Administration in Maryland, and the Korean Film Archive spent 24 million won to create a 35-millimeter replica of the print.

The version revealed here is unfortunately incomplete, a silent film with a misplaced audio track. [...]

The Korean Film Archive is hosting a retrospective of Kim’s early works until June 19. Fans will be able to watch not only “The Boxes of Death” but also films he made for the U.S. Information Agency, including “I Am a Truck” (1954) and “Diary of Three Sailors” (undated). The latter is in English.
One wonders if there would be Korean subtitles (if the script survived). According to KOFA's website, 'The Boxes of Death' plays Saturday June 5 at 1:00pm and June 9 at 2:00pm. The films he made for the U.S. Information Agency will screen June 9 at 4:30pm. (The English language schedule leaves the latter films out for some reason).

Six of Kim Ki-young's 23 surviving films can be found on dvd, including 4 in this box set, The Housemaid, and the 1955 film Yangsan-do. While the Korean Film Archive has been releasing classic Korean films on DVD for several years now, there's still a lot to cover. One option would be to catch the films on tv, which is apparently where some of the movies listed here came from (each decade is a single torrent, and - surprise! - the site does not require a Korean ID to sign up). There are a few of Kim Ki-young's films there, including 'Woman of fire' and 'Transgression.' The latter is perhaps notable for being the debut of Im Ye-jin, then 14, who played a Buddhist nun. Let's just say that I was a little surprised that the biggest teen film star of the late 70s got her start in a Kim Ki-young film sporting a shaved head and, in one scene, nothing else.

That site has a ton of movies from the 50s to the 80s, with some of them coming from DVDs and the rest apparently from TV or VHS. They range from martial arts films like "The Five Fingers of Death"(1972) to movies I'd never heard of (like this), to classics I've tried to find for years, like Declaration of Fools (1983), which I finally caught a screening of at KOFA back in February (and had my mind blown). Only two films by 'Declaration of Fools' director Lee Jang-ho have been released on DVD - 'Between the Knees' (1984) and 'Eoudong' (1985), which is really too bad, as the films I've seen have been well worth watching. The three above films, his debut "Heavenly Homecoming of Stars" (1974 (and there must be a better translation of 별들의 고향)) and 1980's Pleasant Windy Day can be found here. His debut broke box office records and introduced his style, which still seems pretty damn cool today. The music for the film was done by Lee Jang-hee (both he and Lee Jang-ho would see their careers put on hold after being arrested for pot in 1975 and 1976), whose music is showcased in this scene from the film:

I've also been delving into the Lee Man-hee box set, but I'll save that for another day.

It isn't related to old movies, but this video is pretty amazing.


Intraman said...

This Korean torrent archive is HUGE... thank you so much for the link, now I just need a new hard drive to store all of these movies

ssdacey4 said...