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[HanCinema's Film Review] "Yangsan Province" + Full Movie

2020/04/25

Kim Ki-young may have been internationally known for "The Housemaid - 1960" (and on a secondary level "Insect Woman" and "Io Island") but his contribution to Korean cinema and his successes in the local box office were numerous and quite significant. "Yangsan Province" falls mostly under the second category.

The story revolves around a love triangle. Soo-dong and Ok-ran were promised to each other even before they were born, but nevertheless, they found themselves attracted to each other as they reach adolescence. However, Ok-ran's mother is not very keen to give her daughter to Soo-dong, due to his low class, despite the different opinion of her husband. Right before the two youths get married, Moo-ryeong, the son of the local magistrate and a true spoiled bully returns from Seoul, and immediately sets his eyes on Ok-ran. Ok-ran's mother takes his side, against her husband, while Moo-ryeong's actions, who even proceeds on trying to rape Ok-ran (and failing due to Soo-dong's intervention), result in a series of events that split the village in half, eventually. Violence ensues inevitably and repeatedly, particularly between the two men, which leads Soo-dong to run way from the village to escape the law. Moo-ryeong's cunningness and resources, however, have no limits.

The most obvious aspect of the film is that the intensely melodramatic story goes too far with the various occurrences and episodes that take place, to the point that the narrative becomes chaotic if not completely illogical after a while. On the other hand, Kim Ki-young seems to thrive in this chaos, at least in terms of entertainment, with his sense of humor, the subtle eroticism and the various rituals that are presented repeatedly in the film allowing it to be quite entertaining. Particularly the masked dances are very impressive, through a combination of ominousness and hilarity, also adding an element of presenting rural life, which also extends to various rituals, attitudes, and beliefs, as the ones revolving around the moon.

However, the element that truly makes the narrative thrive is the tension created by the premises of the story, with the pressure the couple feel due to Ok-ran's mother, Moo-ryeong and the general circumstances of the era being quite well communicated to the viewer. Furthermore, the fact that this tension is repeatedly defused through a number of fighting scenes, occasionally involving a number of actors, also works quite well for the film, additionally highlighting Kim's directorial and editing abilities. The root of their attitude, which seems to be the obsession with what they want and a total neglect for what the rest want, as exhibited by almost every character in the film, provides a rather eloquent comment about human nature, and the blights of any kind of obsession.

The cinematography by Shin Hyeon-ho is also quite good, with him highlighting the rural setting in perfect resonance with the narrative, occasionally as idyllic, occasionally as a place of torment.

The acting is also on a quite high level. Cho Yong-soo as Soo-dong highlights his character's initial timidity and later resourcefulness convincingly. Kim Sam-hwa as Ok-ran is equally good when she is playful and happy or sad and despaired. The one who steals the show, though, is Park Am as Moo-ryeong, who makes a great villain, acting as an evil, constantly calculating caricature, with gusto.

"Yangsan Province" has its issues, and the logic of the story would not stand against any kind of questioning, but through the tension, the action, the various folklore elements and the convincing acting, Kim Ki-young manages to create a rather entertaining spectacle, which justifies the success the film had in the box office.

Review by Panos Kotzathanasis

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"Yangsan Province" is directed by Kim Ki-young, and features Kim Sam-hwa, Cho Yong-soo, Kim Seung-ho-I, Park Am, Go Seon-ae, Ko Seol-bong. Release date in Korea: 1955/10/13.

 

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