Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Rule 2 - Shadows in the Palace

As I mentioned in my previous post on the Liz Warren Rule for motion pictures, a surprising number of films that pass the Rule's criteria come from such conservative places as South Korea. (For a recap of the Rule and its requirements, see the first few paragraphs of that posting.) Here's a report on another Korean film I saw recently, that passes the Rule's criteria with flying colors, 2007's Shadows in the Palace. That it does so isn't all that surprising when you consider that not only the director, Kim Mi-jeong, the producer, executive producer, and much of the crew, but most of the characters are women. I picked up the DVD in Korea on the strength of Darcy Paquet's review at his Koreanfilm.org website, but only watched it a week or two ago.
Two women talk to each other in Shadows in the Palace, set in late 18th-century Korea. On the left is Chunryung, physician to the Women's House in King Jeongjo's court; on the right is Ok-jin, a court maid whose roommate was found hanged in their room. Was it suicide as everyone else prefers to believe, or murder as Chunryung suspects? They are talking mostly about another woman in this scene. (image credit)

But almost all the interaction in the film takes place between women, so much of the dialogue occurs between women talking about something other than a man. And it's a strong film, though at times it has trouble deciding whether it's a murder mystery or a ghost story. The cast are good, and though it was shot on a low budget, it looks great. (A lot of money was saved by using the sets for another costume drama, the immensely popular The King and the Clown.)

Shadows in the Palace is the kind of film which should get a US DVD release at least -- palace intrigue, a fair amount of violence and creepiness, and a couple of torture scenes would recommend it to distributors of "extreme" Asian cinema for American geekboys -- but apparently that's not in the works. Too bad; there should be an audience here for such a stylish, intelligent movie; the difficulty is getting it to them.

(image credit)