February 1, 2009

Spring in the Korean Peninsula: Moviemaking Made Unmoving

I thought the tonsilectomy that I had in my early thirties had completely cured me of snoring but apparently not because twice the sound of just that woke me up at MoMA's matinee screening of Spring in the Korean Peninsula. During my conscious moments, I concluded that there is a good reason that Lee Byeong-il's backstage romance was "lost" for over half a century: No one really cared to look for it. On paper, the movie has all the makings of a respectable soap opera. An aspiring actress comes to town and lands a prime role when the filmmaker's ex-girlfriend drops out and takes a job at a bar. (Odd career move, admittedly.) Afterwards, he embezzles money from his day job to fund the production then gets caught and jailed (after catching a nasty cold) then is bailed out by his ex who nurses him to health in secret as his new leading lady grows sick herself with worry while fending off the overtures of the boss who put her Svengali in the slammer. Despite all the longing and wronging, Spring in the Korean Peninsula isn't particularly dramatic. The main source of tension for the viewer comes from the pro-Japanese propaganda tagged on at the end.

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