Friday, March 18, 2011

Story of Oh: Revival of Madame Freedom at KAFFNY 2011

Madame Freedom (1956) - Han

Context is everything. Picture this, this film was made only three years after the end of the Korean War which devastated the country. The literal translation of the title- Madame Freedom doesn't really carry the sexual connotation of the Korean one. This domestic melodrama of a comely housewife of a stoic professor having (an) extramarital affair(s) has no nudity, not much sexual innuendo (unless you count skate waltz as one) and only some well orchestrated smooches, but this was the fifties in Korea! Scandalous!

Swooping dolly shots and crane shots are pretty impressive actually, comparable to any Japanese film in that era. there are some delicious dance numbers at the dance hall. Kim Jeong-rim's Mrs. Oh, with her wide face with tiny features is the typical Korean beauty and fits well in the role of conflicted naive woman of changing times. This simple morality tale was surprisingly progressive and quite good.

It's a pity because Madame Freedom showed the great potential of the Korean cinema to come (there are similarities with Japanese New Wave) in the 60s through 80s . If it wasn't for military government's censorship, the Korean cinema in that era could've produced world class cinema. Too bad.

*This was the KAFFNY 2011's Opening Night Selection with live score by DJ Spooky with cellist Okkyung Lee, violinist Sean Lee and electric violinist Eugene Park. Interesting experiment commissioned by Korean digital art center Nabi.

For more information, please check out KAFFNY website

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