CHUNHYANG

Updating a Korean Folktale

Content -3
Quality
None Light Moderate Heavy
Language        
Violence        
Sex        
Nudity        

Release Date: December 29, 2000

Starring: Lee Hyo Jeong, Cho Seung Woo, Kim Sung Nyu, Lee Jung Hun, & Kim Hak Yong

Genre: Historical Romance

Audience: Older teenagers & adults

Rating: Not rated

Runtime: 120 minutes

Address Comments To:

Jeff & Scott Lipsky
Lot 47 Films
Web Page: www.lot47.com
Email: jeff@lot47.com

Content:

(PaPa, B, L, VV, SS, NN, A, M) Pagan worldview (including prayer to pagan deities) mitigated by some moral elements; several mild obscenities; some violence & brutality, such as evil governor has woman’s legs beaten with sticks to force her to renounce her husband & troops arrest & club corrupt officials; implied & depicted sex between married couple; upper & rear nudity; alcohol use; and, governmental tyranny, class system separates married couple & gambling.

Summary:

CHUNHYANG updates a wonderful traditional Korean folktale by including a dash of sex, nudity and quirky humor. It also has a crucial scene where a prayer to pagan deities is answered.

Review:

CHUNHYANG updates a traditional Korean folktale by including a dash of sex, nudity and quirky humor.

In the story, Lee, the young son of a provincial governor, falls in love and secretly marries Chunhyang, the daughter of a courtesan or prostitute who serves the wealthy upper classes. At the same time, Lee is studying for the state exam that can propel him into the highest reaches of Korea’s feudal bureaucracy. When the emperor summons Lee’s father to Seoul to become a minister, Lee’s mother implores him to leave Chunhyang behind, lest he spoil his chances for taking the exam.

When the new governor finally arrives in Chunhyang’s province, however, he orders her to appear with the rest of the young courtesans, even though she lives as a free, married woman. When she refuses to become his courtesan because she is married, the new governor has her beaten severely. With each strike of the thin club upon her legs, Chunhyang’s defiance grows. A wife cannot serve two men, she says, nor a governor two kings, nor a servant two masters. Some time later, the new governor decides that he will execute Chunhyang after his birthday feast. Will Lee, who has by now passed the exam, remember his sacred vow in time to stop her execution?

CHUNHYANG is slow going at first because the movie includes a traditional sing-song presentation of the story by performer Cho Sang Hyun, who appears onstage in front of a live audience. Cho’s musical presentation is called pansori. At times, it adds a unique flavor to the movie, but at other times it becomes intrusive, especially when the subtitles include descriptive lyrics of things that the camera is already showing to viewers up there on the screen. This is a violation of Filmmaking 101. The movie has a huge emotional impact, however, when Chunhyang refuses to renounce her marriage, despite her beating. In the end, justice triumphs and goodness prevails. Also, it was fun to watch the little bits of humor that the director uses to enliven the story.

It’s hard to give this movie a negative rating. It has so many wonderful moments in it. Despite the traditional, uplifting arc of the story, however, the director chooses to include a depicted sex scene between a naked Lee and Chunhyang on their marriage bed. Also in the story, Chunhyang’s mother receives an answer to her prayer to the Korean gods, which gives the movie a strong pagan worldview, something that the Bible thoroughly condemns. Those who take the Bible seriously will find such content very disturbing, for good reason.

In Brief:

CHUNHYANG updates a traditional Korean folktale by including a dash of sex, nudity and quirky humor. In the story, Lee, the young son of a provincial governor, falls in love and secretly marries Chunhyang, the daughter of a courtesan or prostitute who serves the wealthy upper classes. Circumstances separate the married couple. When the new governor demands that Chunhyang become his own courtesan, she refuses, holding to her marriage vows despite a terrible beating. Will Lee remember his own vow to her in time to stop her execution? In the end, justice triumphs and goodness prevails.

CHUNHYANG has many wonderful moments in it. Despite the traditional, uplifting arc of the story, however, the director chooses to include a depicted sex scene between a naked Lee and Chunhyang on their marriage bed. Also, Chunhyang’s mother receives an answer to her prayer to the Korean gods, which gives the movie a strong pagan worldview, something that the Bible condemns. Those who take the Bible seriously will find such content very disturbing. Finally, CHUNHYANG is slow going at first because the movie includes a traditional sing-song presentation of the story by performer Cho Sang Hyun.