Friday, June 29, 2012

Oasis (오아시스): Korean Movie Review

Oasis, the movie directed by Lee Chang-dong, is an incredible piece of work where you can see a very acute and tactful observation of the human condition. The kind that is brought on by the people in society who are forgotten and at the very end of the line. Scenery within the movie evokes emotions ranging from rage to sympathy, and yet you don't want to stop watching. 

The story focuses on the retarded character Jong-du who was recently released from prison, and finds himself back at home amongst family who doesn't want him. Scenes show how as outcasted from family and society, not just for the way he acts but also his reputation. The crime in which he was involved (sort of) takes him to the victim's family, where he meets the physically disabled Gong-ju (Korean name for Princess). 
source (I didn't know this but apparently after you get of prison your suppose to eat a block of fresh tofu.)

What happens is they fall in love, but their relationship is of course not favored. However, you can't help but feel your heart swell when he makes the poor girl happy and imagine that she isn't disabled. 

There is a lot intertwined in the plot of this movie and you realize that the misfit of the film is really just a victim of his family's shameful actions, along with the girl whose family takes advantage of her disability. 

I don't want to give too much away, because not knowing key elements of the film, I feel are important to thoroughly enjoying this movie. That is why I highly recommend accessing it and giving it a try. It's not going to be a blockbuster-blow-your tv out, sort of movie. But will give you insight into the fringe side of Korea. Here's the trailer to get you ready:

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Changgyeongung Palace: A small oasis in the city

Although I've been living near the Hyehwa area for over a year now, it never really occurred to me to visit the place. Until recently, when I discovered that this area is greatly known for it's theaters and also has a palace nearby.

It's called the Changgyeonggung Palace and like many other of it's kind has beautiful architecture and many cultural assets. What I liked most about the palace was how it integrated itself within the natural setting, but also it's sort of dark history during the Japanese occupation. It was a zoo during that time period, and also a rice field was turned into a pond. All of which, can be enjoyed alongside winding paths amongst tree-lined forests.

When entering the palace you are first greeted by the long stone path to the Myeongjeongjan or Hall. Apparently, because this hall faces east it is quite irregular from the usual Joseon pattern, but was done so due to the areas natural elements.

Above is a view of the interior, where the throne was placed. The windows around the structure are made with lattice work.

Heading around the Hall, one is greeting with the gate Binyangmun, which made for an interesting frame around the scenery.

Passing trough the gate one enters a courtyard with several structures. I looked around and headed up towards a Hall one could rest in.

Those characters up there were written by a King, giving this space a stately feel to it although it was rebuilt over many times.

Leaving this area I headed towards the pond and forest-path section of the grounds. One walked by small monuments, vending machines in a forest and a green pond with ducks and other life in it.

The pond area would make a great spot for a picnic or just some place to generally kick back in the city. After you pass the pond you come upon the Greenhouse, which looked splendid amongst the scenery.

The interior housed various plants and trees, and it wasn't too humid inside. It was a pleasant structure to walk through.

All together, I would recommend coming out to the Changgyeonggung Palace because it isn't too crowded, and there is a lot of greenery to be enjoyed. I think it is one way to enjoy the historical relics of Seoul, but without all the Seoul-ness in it. Meaning, it has enough ground to cover that you can feel like your in an oasis in the city.

How to get here? 

To reach Changgyeonggung, one option is to enter through a back gate within Changdeokgung Palace (main gate near Exit 3 of Anguk Station, Line 3). The famous “rear garden” (huwon) can also be entered here. If you wish to avoid buying a ticket for Changdeokgung, you can simply follow its outer wall until you reach Changgyeonggung, since they are side by side. Alternatively, you can come out of Exit 4 of Hyewha Station (Line 4). Just walk along the street to the end, turn left and walk until you spy the main entrance across the main road.
 It's also just 1,000 Won to enter, which is such a deal!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Seussical at the Haeachi Hall in Myeongdong

A good friend of mine, that I don't see very often, invited me to see Seussical the musical with her and her two sons. This would be my first theatre performance I saw (outside of school field trips) in Seoul, so I was excited.

If you don't know the stories by Dr. Seuss then maybe you ought to crawl out of that rock your living under. Actually, I don't know that many by him and mostly the more common ones. The show I saw mostly used the plot from Horton Hears a Who to weave together other stories from the Dr. Seuss collection.

The production of Seussical was put on by the members of the Camarata Music Company (CMC). An international group, with members ranging from 35 countries and having the "vision" to give high quality performances. Ryan Goessl is the general director and the cast included members with years of experience to those just having their first show.

All together it was a fun and whimsical production, and one that was especially amusing to the young folks in the crowd. It took place at the Seoul Global Culture & Tourism Center in Myeongdong. Tickets were from 15,000 to 25,000 depending on when you reserved them.

Watching the play I was suddenly reminded of the feeling one gets when seeing live theatre. There's a lot to take in from the costumes, set and voices of the actors on stage. Since the play was in English, there was a small strip above the stage displaying Korean subtitles. Otherwise, I actually found it kind of difficult to hear what the actors were saying as their mics often didn't work, or the live orchestra was too loud. However, the live music made the play have more of an authentic feel.

Act 1 was setting up the story about young JoJo and Horton discovering each other, but Horton was being teased by local jungle mates for talking to a plant. It weaved in many other Seuss stories, however I didn't really find myself familiar with them. It was mainly a story about keeping your beliefs and staying loyal to friends.

I have to say I enjoyed the second act more, mostly because it felt like the scenes were less of a tease and more pulled together.

It was an all together fun play to watch, and the kids in the audience had a good time. I think they could have tried a bit harder on the set decorations, but the usage of fun and comical props here and there were adequate. Costumes were bright and lively, yet maybe could have been more exaggerated in tone, since this was a Dr. Seuss inspired piece of work. There were times when they were singing in groups and the pair in front were so tightly packed next to each other that I couldn't really see the other actors behind them.

As having worked at a theatre camp in the catskills of New York, I can recall what it is like to learn and perform in a play. It's a lot of hard work and I'm sure these members had regular jobs to accompany this play.

In the end, the audience was pleased (including the little girl you see there) and that's what matters. That everyone has a good time.

Unfortunately I watched their last performance, but you can still catch other happenings by this group. Future events include, Chamber Singers, and other orchestral concerts. Or in general you can find other happenings going on at the Seoul Center.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

New Postcard Series

After that trip to the Korea Design Museum, I was inspired to make some new works. I took away the red outline from some of the postcards I saw and went with it. The first one there just going from my imagination then having a swell time creating the vibrant red border.

I expanded from there in my sketchbook by referencing an old photo from my collection, then finding text from a Korean sign board. A continuation of the use of Hangul in my previous works, where I used Google street view.

I moved onto watercolor, again using an old photo for reference. I like that the landscape is all mostly tonal and old looking. I'm really enjoying making these. The words on top are some what referential, but the point really is to have them not be.

That is the last one I created, and the photo is of a place I went to recently (go through my archive). I want to make more and more, as they seem to just flow out of me. Work has gotten me really busy with the end of the semester stuff, but I shouldn't let that stop me.

Would you like one?
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