May 23, 2008
For some, the idea of watching a foreign film induces enough cringing to warrant medical attention. There seems to be this prevailing attitude that if a movie is either silent, or shot in black and white, or is in any language other than English, it is for the highbrow crowd.
But keep in mind that there are a limited number of plot lines circling the globe—anywhere between one and 36, depending on whom you ask—so in spite of language barriers, every story has a universal quality at its core. The joy of foreign film is experiencing a different culture’s spin on the “same old, same old.”
Not long ago, the Freer Gallery of Art screened Dasepo Naughty Girls, a film adaptation of a popular Korean online-only comic strip, Multi-Cell Girl, that details the sex-capades of some rather naughty high school kids. (Sadly, this blogger could not access the Web site because he did not know enough Korean to be able to verify that he’s over the age of 19.)
Just as every nation has a Cinderella story, Dasepo makes one seriously wonder if the teenage sex comedy has more global cultural significance. Of greater interest is the film’s movie-musical format and how it riffs on this quintessentially American art form. However, a new twist for the Korean version; whenever a character burst into song, the lyrics appeared onscreen, karaoke-style.
If only we Americans had the temerity to unabashedly sing along in public with movie musicals. Sadly, the audience at the Freer didn’t go for it, not even for the obnoxiously catchy—though lyrically nonsensical—opening number. Dasepo is an empty calorie confection, a guilty, campy pleasure completely lacking in pretension—just like most mainstream American films.
And sorry, Charlie, it’s not currently available on Region 1 DVD, so chances are good that the only place you are ever going to see films like Dasepo is at cultural institutions like the Smithsonian.
The Freer’s Korean Film Festival wraps up with the animated feature Empress Chung on June 3. A listing of past Korean films shown at the Freer, as well as other Asian film programs running through the summer, can be found here.
(Image courtesy of the Freer Gallery of Art)
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