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14 film classics to showcase 50 years of Korean cinema

South Korean films are in vogue today with box-office hits like "Christmas in August", "My Sassy Girl", "My Wife is a Gangster", "Shiri" and "Crazy First Love". Yet Korea's rich cinematic tradition dates back to the silent era.

Presented by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) and curated by Sam Ho, "Looking Back: 50 Years of Korean Films" will showcase 14 classic works produced from the 1950s to the 1990s by renowned Korean directors, including Chung Chang-Wha, Shin Sang-Ok, Kim So-Yong who worked in Hong Kong during the 1960s and 1970s, film masters Yu Hyon-Mok, New Wave directors Im Kwon-Taek, Park Kwang-Su, Jang Sun-Woo and others.

The screenings will take place at the Lecture Hall of the Hong Kong Science Museum and the Cinema of the Hong Kong Film Archive from November 28 to December 15.

A seminar, "Looking Back: 50 Years of Korean Films", will be held at 4.30pm on December 7 at the Lecture Hall of the Hong Kong Science Museum. It will be conducted in English and Cantonese.

South Korean cinema has always been sensitive to the nation's transitions - the liberation from Japan, the Korean War, the economic upheaval of the 1970s and subsequent social change. The first Korean film was produced in 1923, but Korean cinema's glory days arrived in the 1950s and 1960s with a slew of literary art films. So impressive was Korean cinema that the Hong Kong film industry looked to South Korea for inspiration in the 1960s, embarked on co-productions and imported talent like Chung Chang-Wha and Kim Soo-Yong.

The political climate of the 1980s gave rise to the New Wave of Korean cinema, with young filmmakers taking the film world by storm. Action director Chung Chang-Wha is best known in Hong Kong for his martial arts films, "Five Fingers of Death", "Valley of the Fangs" and "Special Agent X-7". But his most accomplished works are found in his Korean works. His "Dangerous Youth" (1966) is the Korean version of James Dean's "Rebel Without a Cause". The sure-handed dramatics provide a vibrant and passionate profile of a Korean society experiencing excruciating growing pains after the devastating civil war.

The stunning "Sunset Over the Sarbin River" (1965) features a Korean soldier in the Japanese army and his complicated love-hate relationship with his subordinates and his Japanese superiors. Chung handles the conflicting concepts of heart and duty, love and hate, with great courage.

Master melodramatist Shin Sang-Ok was a major figure in the 1950s Golden Period and one of the directors invited to direct films for Hong Kong's Shaw Brothers. Not only was he well known for his art films, but also for his collaboration with his actress-wife, Choi Eun-Hee. In "A Flower in Hell" (1958) Choi plays a Korean prostitute and in a relationship with an American soldier.

Urbanisation in the 1960s brought changes to Korea's family structure and this was reflected in new roles for women. Director Kim Ki-Young's masterpiece, "The Housemaid", (1960) is a much earlier version of Hollywood's "Fatal Attraction". It tells the story the relationship between a music teacher and his attractive maid who turns the tables by threatening to reveal their affair. The film received the second highest vote in a poll on the best Korean films in history.

Director Han Hyung-Mo's "A Free Madam" (1956) is an explosive drama depicting the desires of Korean woman, at a time when even a simple kiss was censored on the screen.

"Surrogate Woman" (1986) is a curious work touching on women's issues and erotica. Winner of the Best Actress Award at the Berlin Film Festival, the film together with "Mandala" (1981), won director Im Kwok-Taek international awards and made him Korea's best-known filmmaker.

Kim Soo-Yong is a prolific director with over 100 films to his credit. "Mist" (1967) is one of his best works and among Korea's top melodramas. With handsomely stylised visuals and atmospheric, misty seaside scenes, Kim portrays the tender relationship between a young city man and a village girl. His "Splendid Outing" (1977), on the other hand, is a story about the romantic escapades of a female corporate executive.

Not to be missed is Yu Hyon-Mok's masterpiece, "An Aimless Bullet" (1961), which is considered the Best Korean Film in history. It features a wage-slave accountant struggling to keep together a family on the brink of disintegration.

New Wave directors Park Kwang-Su, Jang Sun-Woo and Lee Myung-Se are familiar to fans of the Hong Kong International Film Festival. Park's "Black Republic" (1990) is about the romance of an activist who hides in a small village to evade government authorities. The signature iconoclasm of Jang Sun-woo is fully reflected in his work "Cinema on the Road" (1995), which provides a personal and imaginative account of the cinema's eventful past. Lee's crime thriller "Nowhere to Hide" (1999) will provide an invigorating experience for film-goers.

All the above-mentioned films are in Korean with English subtitles while "Dangerous Youth" and "Nowhere to Hide" also have Chinese subtitles. Two other films "A Hand of Fate" and "Romance Gray" will only have Chinese subtitles.

Tickets priced at $50 are available at URBTIX outlets. Half-price tickets are available for senior citizens, people with disabilities, full-time students and Comprehensive Social Security Assistance recipients. There will be a 10% discount for each purchase of six to 10 tickets and a 20% discount for each purchase of 11 or more tickets.

For programme information call 2734 2900 or visit . Reservations can be made by phone at 2734 9009 or on the internet at .

Ends/Thursday, November 20, 2003
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