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The specifically Korean tradition that is reclaimed in Sopyonje is the type of folk-song known as pansori, described as a musical sublimation of South-West Korea's collective grief and suffering - in other words, a kind of blues. The film's three central characters are itinerant pansori singers in the 1950s, a time when many aspects of Korean culture came under siege from Japanese and western influences. The story unfolds through flashbacks. A man named Dong-ho is roaming the rural hinterlands, ostensibly to find rare herbal medicines for his employer back in Seoul, but actually in search of Song-hwa, the woman he grew up with. Orphans, they were both apprenticed to the pansori master Yu-bong who pressured them to sacrifice everything for the art. Dong-ho rebelled and ran away, to become the man he is now. Song-hwa stayed, lost her sight, and outlived Yu-bong. Rumor has it that she is still traveling and still singing pansori... The tale has one truly shocking twist, but the overall ... Written by
Jay Lee <firstname.lastname@example.org>
This is one of the best films about the Blues that I have ever seen. I defy you to find a member of the Hoary Tarnation of Blues, Delta, Mississippi, USA, that wouldn't spit, squint up at you and say, "Dang! That is the Blues!" Verdad! And while I'm exclaiming away, I swear to you that as I sat in our little local art house theater the audience just let the tears stream when they must with complete abandon. With no shame. Now there is some eastern magic.
The film begins in an interesting way. The style is clearly modern and places the story distant from a medieval or fantasy era. The young actor's (Kyu-chul Kim) style however hearkens to the older traditions in Korean Theater. And soon his search fades into the story of his emotional roots. The film doesn't make an obvious judgment about the 'life' of these three people or their domination by their father-mentor. Yet the film challenges you to decide if his assumption to rule these growing children is culturally acceptable or extraordinary even in their world at large.
There is a scene in a pension when the song master (Myung-gon Kim) becomes very drunk and garrulous. It is at once hilarious, tense and pathetic. Another, when the itinerants are walking with back packs in the middle of nowhere and begin a spontaneous dancing walk as they go along their way. These are glowing moments in cinema. The productions values are good and keep you placed always on the edge of the wild.
And then the music! This is the blues. Truly, I can say no more.
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