Chunhyang on the Big Screen (and Online)

Some nice news for anyone who likes movies and has some spare time this winter break: In December, the Korean Film Archive (한국영상자료원) has made available Im Kwon-taek’s pansori-movie Chunhyang (춘향뎐, 2000, IMDB) on their Youtube-Channel. You can watch the movie for free, with English subtitles by Google (autotranslated?). This is the (French) trailer:

Arguably the most famous and successful movie about pansori is Seopyeonje (서편제, 1993, IMDB), likewise directed by Im Kwon-taek (and also available on Youtube, thanks to KOFA). While Seopyeonje tells the story of a family of itinerant pansori singers in the years following the Korean War, Chunhyang is the adaptation of the most famous traditional pansori piece.

Poster of Chunhyang (dir. Im Kwon-taek, South Korea 2000)

Poster of Chunhyang (dir. Im Kwon-taek, South Korea 2000)

But with a special twist: The plot is framed by scenes set in a contemporary theatre. The movie begins with some young spectators taking a seat and awaiting the – supposedly – boring and long performance. Soon after the performance by singer Cho Sang-hyun (조상현), supported by drummer Kim Myung-hwan (김명환) has begun, the the scene fades into a period piece that tells the well-known love story between Chunhyang and Mongryong. Apart from brief cut-backs and the final scene, the film visually remains in the bucolic setting of the story. While long parts are just regular dialogue, in some key scenes the pansori-singer’s voice returns on the soundtrack. A quite interesting experiment of “multi-medial” narrative and a great introduction to one of the most famous traditional stories from Korea.

If you’d like another interpretation of the story, the 1961 movie Seong Chun-hyang (성춘향, Seong is the heroine’s familiy name) by Sin Sang-ok (신상옥) is also available. Although pansori legend Kim So-hui (김소희) provides songs, too, the movie begins – after the opening credits – with an orchestral ouverture…

(See also Jeongwon Joe’s paper “Korean Opera-film Chunhyang and the Trans-cultural Politics of the Voice,” Muzikologija: Journal of the Institute of Musicology of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts 5 (May 2005): 181–93. PDF)

– 14 Dec. 2015 (月)

About Jan Creutzenberg

Jan Creutzenberg, friend of theatre, music, and cinema, comments on his performative experiences in Seoul and elsewhere.
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