Chunxiang chuan

春香傳 [videorecording] = 춘향전 = Chunhyang - Chunxiang chuan

Ch'unhyang ch'ŏn = Chunhyang

DVD - 2000 | Korean
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Set in 18th century Korea. Mongryong, the son of a governor, falls in love with Chunhyang, the daughter of a proud former courtesan, and they secretly marry out of fear of reprisal. Trouble results when Mongryong is ordered to Seoul to finish his education, and a new, vindictive governor pursues Chunhyang and then imprisons her when she refuses his advances. This movie unfolds through a pʻansori presentation.
Publisher: New York : New Yorker Video, p2000, c2001
ISBN: 9781567302455
Characteristics: 1 videodisc (120 min.) : sd., col. ; 4 3/4 in
Additional Contributors (Original Script): 임권택


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Jun 15, 2018

Yes Kpop has brought a little bit of Korean aesthetic to many countries, but you might want to ask yourself, what fueled this globally commercial feat? This movie, released just as we entered a new century, contains old and new in the form of song, story telling, and of course the emotional affect unforgiving politics has on Korean society. There is a lot of really loud singing, wailing crying, mostly displayed through the plight of the female characters, since they have the most to lose in the political agenda of the more powerful male figures. People’s lifespan back then averaged 30 years, so whatever you were going to do with your life, you had to plan it well.

Feb 04, 2018

Comparisons to Romeo and Juliet don't work; the issue that separates the young lovers isn't rivalry but class. The primary reason this story has held so much weight for over two hundred years is that it shows how fluid class is despite powerful prejudices.

Myongrang Lee is the son of the current governor of Namwon. When he goes to explore the area, he spies Chunhyang. She is the daughter of Wolmae, a courtesan, and a former governor of Namwon. Her father had promised to take mother and child to Seoul with him, but died before he could. To honor the governor's legacy, her mother raised her to be well-accomplished in the arts; amazingly, she could also read and write. Myongrang is even more smitten when she refuses to come to him but instead sends a reply referencing an old poem: if he wants to see her, he must come to her.

When Myongrang does finally sneak away to her, he asks Wolmae for Chunhyang's hand. Mother and daughter reluctantly agree as they feel they can't refuse someone of his class, but Chunhyang soon falls genuinely in love with him as well. They enjoy idyllic nights and days at Wolmae's house until the governor discovers his tryst (but not his marriage). When the governor receives a promotion and is sent to Seoul, he orders Myongrang to accompany him. Myongrang, heeding his mother's words, keeps his marriage a secret for fear that he'll be disowned. However, he promises to return for Chunhyang after he has passed the state exams and received an appointment by the king.

After three years of mourning her husband's departure, Chunhyang is summoned before the new, brutal governor. He chose Namwon because he had heard of Chunhyang's beauty and orders her to serve as his courtesan. When she asserts her status as a married woman and refuses, he scoffs at the idea that a courtesan's daughter could be anything but a courtesan. When she still refuses to submit, he accuses her of treason. When she demands to know what law she has broken, she is struck ten times and then later imprisoned. Her ultimate sentence is to be beaten to death as the governor celebrates his birthday.

Meanwhile in Seoul, Myongrang has been studying obsessively, and after the exam he is revealed to have achieved the highest score. The king appoints him the Ethics Chief, and he is sent to investigate corrruption in...Namwon. There he discovers that Chunhyang is awaiting death for refusing the advances of the governor. He also discovers that the governor and the lords have been exploiting the people. Without revealing his true position, he observes the governor and his corrupt court, then reveals the police forces he has sent for to arrest the governor and his men. After his reunion with Chunhyang, Myongrang confronts the governor, who continues to insist that Chunhyang was the one who did him an injustice because she refused to exceed to the demands of someone of a higher class. To which Myongrang replies: "It wasn't injustice; she was trying to be a human being."

Much has been made about the use of Pansori to narrate this story. While it would have been possible to tell the story without it, doing so not only highlighted the point about class that the film was trying to make, but also deepened the narrative beyond what could have come across as simply a good versus evil fairytale. That's how the story ends, the singer tells the audience, but who knows what happens next? That question isn't rhetorical; it's something we have to ask ourselves any time something has forced us to think.


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