On Thursday I went down to the CGV Yongsan cinema to check out one of the biggest hits of the year. 워낭소리 (Old Partner) is a documentary about a husband, a wife and their ox. All of them have reached the end of their lives and are coming to terms with what that means, the husband is 80, the wife is 77 and the ox is 40 years old. The director brings us into their lives and gives us a glimpse at the joy and sadness that they suffer through. It can be a hard watch at times and there are a couple of moments of animal cruelty that may upset some audience members, but it is a film that deserves seeing and here are the five reasons why:
1. The film gives us a chance to see a Korea which may be wholly unfamiliar. For those of us living in Seoul, we never see what life is like outside the metropolis and while we may see the elderly at markets, on buses or around the city, we may never get a chance to see how they live. This film focusses on one couple, but can bring a wealth of understanding about the elderly community and their place in a rapidly changing society. As well as showing the suffering they have endured to ensure their children's success in life.
2. Watching this film on dvd at home is incomparable to the experience of watching it in the cinema with an audience. I was surrounded by ajummas and ajosshis, who talked all the way through the film (which on other occasions I would have been annoyed by) and it was fascinating to see how they reacted to the story unfolding on screen and how their reactions compared to my own. For the short duration of the film I felt a common bond with the audience and felt a little closer to understanding older Koreans.
3. Support independent and documentary film-makers. Korea has its good and its bad when it comes to film, but more often than not unfunny comedies and sappy love stories get the big bucks and the big publicity, while more interesting projects are left to rot. This is a country where the award winning 지구를 지겨라! (Save The Green Planet!) was shunned, yet 조폭 마누라 (My Wife Is A Gangster) got the funding for two appalling sequels. Stand up for interesting cinema and make sure that we never have to watch 아유레디 2.
4. Support english subtitling for Korean language films. If we're lucky we get a chance to see one or two subtitled films at the cinema every year (the most recent being "The Good, The Bad and The Weird"), but if foreign crowds don't flock to these screenings then maybe we won't get any more. I for one, am very eager to see 박찬욱's (Park Chan-wook) new film 박쥐, but I'd much prefer it if the lovely people at CGV Yongsan put out a subtitled version.
5. It's a very good film. If you're a fan of tragic love stories or you enjoy documentaries or you have a secret passion for oxen then this is the movie for you. This is the best documentary I've seen in the past year and it deserves an audience.
So if you are in Seoul and interested in catching a glimpse of rural Korea then head on down to Yongsan for a subtitled screening of Old Partner. Thanks to Korean Pop Wars for highlighting the screenings.
According to Naver.com screenings for Sunday 1st March are at: 0910, 1100, 1250, 1440, 1625, 1810, 2005, 2200, 2350.
For Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday (2, 3, 4 March) times are: 0850, 1040, 1230, 1420, 1610, 1800, 2000, 2155, 2345.
There are no further listings, but new times for the week are generally released every Wednesday.