An accomplished director and producer, Shin Sang-ok, nicknamed the "Prince of Korean Cinema", was one of a handful of directors who were instrumental in making the 1950s and '60s a golden age for Korean cinema. The Hong Kong Film Archive (HKFA)'s "Restored Treasures" series in October and November will screen two of his masterpieces. The two selected films were also the first and third restored treasures of the Korean Film Archive (KOFA).
One of the films is the historical drama "Prince Yeonsan" (1961), which was crowned the "Hamlet of Korea" by foreign critics and won Best Film at the 1st Daejongang Film Festival in 1962. "Bound by Chastity Rules" (1962) was awarded Best Film, Best Film Editing and Best Actor at the 2nd Daejongang Film Festival and was screened at the 13th Berlin International Film Festival. The two films will be shown on October 2 and November 6 respectively at 2pm at the Cinema of the HKFA.
Two post-screening talks, conducted in Cantonese, will feature discussions with film critics Mr Shum Longtin and Ms Kinnia Yau.
Shin's life was larger than movies. In 1978, he and his ex-wife, actress diva Choi Eun-hee, were kidnapped by now North Korean leader Kim Jong-il to help produce better films for the communist half of the divided nation. They were imprisoned and forced to make seven films before successfully escaping after eight years. Shin continued to participate in the film industry after returning to South Korea in 1994.
There is also a Hong Kong connection for Shin. He was involved in early border-crossing co-productions in the 1960s and '70s, such as "The International Secret Agents" (1967), "The Goddess of Mercy" (1967) and "The Ghost Lovers" (1974). The abduction of the couple took place in Hong Kong, then a hub of international intrigue during the Cold War.
Under pressure to meet a New Year release date, Shin made "Prince Yeonsan" in haste. Although the film received an enthusiastic response when it was screened in 1961, the director hated the film and declared his intention to burn the film's original negatives together with its sequel, "Tyrant Yeonsan" (1962). The film tells of a young prince who wants to restore the honour of his mother, who has been killed on the orders of the King - the prince's father. His efforts are blunted and the prince is haunted by his failure to comfort his mother's spirit.
"Bound by Chastity Rules" is a variation of Shin's early film "Mother and a Guest" (1961). Things get complicated when a young widow, played by Choi, falls in love with a young worker from the city. She has no choice in the matter, however, and is pressured to sacrifice her love under the arch of chastity.
Restoration of the two films was carried out by the KOFA in collaboration with the Hfr-Lab, a lab that specialises in digital intermediate technology. Scratches, dust and other blemishes were removed. "Prince Yeonsan" also underwent colour grading. In honour of Shin's wishes, the restoration was based on the 133-minute version re-edited by the director (the version screened in 1961 was a 147-minute cut). For "Bound by Chastity Rules", restoration included compiling the best image and sound from each available print, and the whole restoration process took four months to accomplish.
Both films are in Korean with English subtitles.
Tickets priced at $50 are available at URBTIX outlets. Half-price concessionary tickets are available for senior citizens aged 60 and above, people with disabilities, full-time students and Comprehensive Social Security Assistance recipients. There is a 10 per cent discount for each purchase of tickets for both screenings. Credit card bookings can be made on 2111 5999, or on the Internet at www.urbtix.hk.
Detailed programme information can be found in the "ProFolio 59" leaflet distributed at all performing venues of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department. For enquiries, please call 2739 2139 or 2734 2900, or browse the webpage www.lcsd.gov.hk/CE/CulturalService/filmprog/english/2011rt3/2011rt3_film.html.
Ends/Monday, September 26, 2011
A film still from "Bound by Chastity Rules" (1962).