April 22, 2009

Seong Chun-hyang: Hey Sweetheart! It's Easier to Die for Love

I think you could safely call Seong Chun-hyang a tragedy. For while the title character (played by Choi Eun-hie) does end up with the governor's son (Kim Jin-kyu), she nevertheless suffers through a number of brutal beatings and more than a few days in the stocks before she gets him. Her final reunion with the careerist husband who deserted her doesn't feel romantic. It feels like a marginal improvement over the decapitation she would have undergone if he hadn't come back to town. As happily ever afters go, Shin Sang-ok's paean to purity conforms strictly on superficial grounds. She sacrifices selflessly for him; he comes across as a self-absorbed jerk. This imbalance allows the director to take a sadistic pleasure in documenting the price that comes with living a virtuous life—made especially difficult since her mom's a locally famous whore. It's a theme Shin and screenwriter Lim Hee-jae would visit again (and more effectively) in My Mother and Her Guest. That's not to say Seong Chun-hyang isn't good. It is. Very much so. And with its gorgeous costumes in eye-popping yellows, pinks and greens and lighting effects in even more-lurid shades, Seong Chun-yang is never dull to watch. Someone should turn it into a musical.

1 comment:

  1. And, as you know by now, someone (Im Kwon-taek) did. Not a Hollywood music, a pansori musical.