Starring: Kim Myung-Kon, Oh Jung-Hae
Director: Im Kwon-Taek
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About This DVD
The story of a family of roaming pansori (a sort of Korean folk opera) singers'
struggles in postwar Korea, "Sopyonje" was an unlikely hit even in Korea, where
audiences flock to see the same big-studio blockbusters that are popular here.
While it might not top "Jurassic Park" at the box office, "Sopyonje" has been filling theaters in Korea since its opening in April, setting a new attendance record for a Korean film. It's also been a critical favorite, winning six Grand Bell Awards, the Korean counterpart to the Academy Awards, and six Korean Film Critics' Awards.
Internationally, "Sopyonje" took the prizes for best director and best actress at this year's Shanghai International Film Festival and drew 40,000 people for a three-week run in Los Angeles. Such plaudits prompted the Korean press to coin a term for the film's runaway popularity: "Sopyonje" syndrome.
The praise is nothing new for Im. Several of his earlier works, including the 1981 "Mandala and the Surrogate Mother," released in 1986, were hits with critics and on the film festival circuit.
Like those of Zhang Yimou, the Chinese director of "Ju Dou" and "Red Sorghum," Im's films are rooted in traditional culture but set in modern times. "Sopyonje" begins in the confusing period just after the Korean War and continues into the 1960s.
Korea then was facing an identity crisis stemming from the end of 35 years as a Japanese colony, followed by the country's division at the hands of the United States and Soviet Union. Part of the film's appeal might be that Korea is still going through major social upheavals as it settles into an industrialized democracy after years as a Third World dictatorship.
Yubong, a pansori master obsessed with his art, is relegated to a nomad's life. With the two adopted children he hopes will follow in his footsteps, Yubong walks from village to village, squatting in war-abandoned houses and practicing pansori constantly.
Their travails are an allegory of the intrusion of foreign influences into Korean culture. Pansori is a centuries-old art that was performed in both rural villages and the royal palace until the Japanese occupation in 1910, and many of its librettos are based on the most well-known Korean folk tales.
But in postwar Korea, Yubong and his children use their art to drum up business for medicine shows and to entertain in restaurants.
None of these travails deter Yubong, who sees the family's struggles as building han, a bitterness that can be channeled into sublime singing. It's a belief not unlike the jazz and blues musicians' adage: "If you haven't lived it, you can't blow it out of your horn."
Yubong's dedication becomes obsessive, however, when his son runs away and his daughter loses her desire to sing. Thinking that she just needs an extra dose of han, he feeds her a drug that makes her go blind.
The cast studied with some of Korea's top pansori singers and performs most of the film's pansori renditions. Indeed, those performances have been a large part of the film's appeal. They make "Sopyonje" a good introduction to an art form bewildering to the uninitiated.
|Audio Format:||DD 2.0 Stereo|
|Video Format:||Widescreen 1.85:1 (Anamorphic)|
|Subtitles:||English, Japanese, Korean|
|Special Features:||- HD Telecine Remastered
- Original Poster
- Photo Gallery
|Availability:||Usually ships in 5-10 days|