Brief festival film review: Eoh Woo Dong

by Robert Cottingham on 11 November, 2016

in Event reports and reviews, Film reviews and comment, Lee Jang-ho, London Korean Film Festival

Lee Chang-ho (이장호) Eoh Woo Dong (어우동, 1985, 110 mins).
Review by Robert Cottingham.

Eoh Woo Dong

Eoh Woo Dong translates as “entertainer,” a rough approximation of the duties of 14th-century Korean courtesan Eoh Yoon Chang. After a lifetime “in service,” Eoh Yoon Chang retires to a faraway village. Meanwhile, her powerful father, ashamed of his daughter’s lifestyle, dispatches an assassin to do her in. Eoh Yoon Chang is protected by her faithful deaf-mute bodyguard, but only up to a point. (Via IMDB)

They can be fun, movies about the Joseon dynasty. This one is not just a dry history lesson.

Eoh Woo Dong posterStrict Confucian rules regarding female conduct meant that women were restricted from remarriage whilst men could remarry without excuse. Women were divorced for minor infractions and their only duty was to serve their husbands. It was, as the film informs us, the hardest time to be a woman in Korea’s history.

We follow an assassin (Ahn Sung-ki) who has been sent to kill a fallen woman from the Chang family (Lee Bo-hee) who has committed “treason”. Only every time he comes close to carrying out the deed, he is too stunned by her beauty to continue.

I loved the landscapes of this film, from the mountains to lush open fields. Early, pre-Hallyu films have a different aesthetic about them. This one is slow and deliberately paced. A title at the end tells us that the memory of Eoh Yoon Chang lives on in the lives of Korean women today. It’s a sign that women will always find a way around the restrictive rules that are placed on them.

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