January 28, 2009

Straits of Chosun: The Language of the Oppressor

The prodigal son (Nam Seung-min) returns only to be rejected at home for reasons unspoken. Let the symbolism begin. Director Park Ki-chae's Straits of Chosum was shot during the Japanese occupation and it's hard not to interpret the evasive dialogue, the missed connections, and the extended silences as the freaky byproducts of a culture of paranoia. Made in Korea but recorded in Japanese, this all-but-forgotten film is truly about a psychopolitical schism. Women dress in ancestral garb; men wear pin-stripe suits. An obstinate father forsakes his child for breaking from tradition then celebrates his joining the conqueror's militia. The young, abandoned wife runs through the crowd hoping to show her husband their baby but he's being such the good soldier his eyes never drift towards the crowd. No wonder this same mother faints from exhaustion while manning an old black sewing machine labeled Brother. You can't stitch a life together under such conditions, sweat as you might to do so. And while there's plenty of flag-waving for the Land of the Rising Sun, you'd hardly call this a patriotic movie for either country. Although the images are black and white, the movie's message is awfully gray.

No comments:

Post a Comment