Declaration of Idiot (Baboseon-eon) (1983)|
Director : Lee Jang-Ho
Production Company : Hwa Chun Trading Co., Ltd
Date of Rate : 1983-08-11
Date of Theatrical Release : 1984-03-01
Running Time : 97 min.
Opening Theater : Dan Seong Sa Theater
Genre : Social Drama
Writer : Lee Dong-Cheol
Screenplay(Adaptation) : Yoon Simon
Producer : Park Jong-Chan
Director of PhotoGraphy : Seo Jeong-Min
Gaffer : Kim Kang-Il
Music : Kim Jeong-Kil
Lee Bo-Hee, Kim Myeong-Kon, Lee Hee-Seong, Kim Ji-Young
Dim witted Dong-chul (Kim Myeong-kon) roams the streets of downtown Seoul wearing the clothes and watch left behind by a film director (Lee Jang-ho) who committed suicide. One day, he sees a pretty college student named Hye-young (Lee Bo-hee). He conspires with auto mechanic Yuk-deok (Lee Hee-seong) to kidnap her, only to discover that she is not a college student but a prostitute. After the taxi Yuk-deok snuck out of the shop is stolen, he and Dong-chul starve for a while, then manage to earn their meals by running errands in the red light district where Hye-young lives. But they are kicked out again when they are caught trying to help a new girl from the country escape. Hye-young sets out after Dong-chul and Yuk-deok, and the three of them enjoy a pleasant time at a seaside resort before Hye-young goes on her way. While working as waiters at a saloon in Seoul, Dong-chul and Yuk-deok run into Hye-young, who is there as a companion for one of the guests. During the ensuing party, Hye-young becomes the plaything of the upper-class men in attendance and eventually loses her life. Dong-chul and Yuk-deok deck her out in fineries and carry her out on their shoulders to bury her.
"If there were one truly postmodernist film in Korean cinematic history, that honor would go to director Lee Jang-ho's Declaration of Idiot." (Chung Sung-il)
Declaration of Idiot is a film of social critique that lambastes 1980s Korean society using humor and satire. Abandoning the realist mode in favor of a bold and intuitive imagination, Lee Jang-ho's film sharply indicts the suffocating social atmosphere that prevailed under the military regime, as well as the vulgarity born of Korea's precipitate plunge into capitalism. This spirit of critique is clearly manifested from the beginning of the film. Declaration of Idiot opens with the suicide of a movie director, played by Lee Jang-ho himself. The moment his body hits the ground, a roar of excitement from a sports stadium bursts into the air. The sequence simultaneously expresses the military regime's intention to tame the public with sports, the loss of a foothold for movies in this social atmosphere, and Lee Jang-ho's resistance to and lamentation of such a state of affairs.
The movie then turns its spotlight onto the festering wounds of Korean society through its choice of protagonists: people who live utterly marginalized, rock-bottom lives. The movie's critical spirit reaches its culmination in the scene where Hye-young meets her end after being made sport of by bourgeois men. The target of this righteous anger is revealed dramatically when Dong-chul and Yuk-deok turn their gaze upon the National Assembly Hall. Even while rigorously adhering to its critical standpoint, Declaration of Idiot spares no effort in attempting bold and ingenious formal innovations. Indeed, the movie draws on none of the elements of film grammar generally expected from realist works. It unfolds its story in an improvisational manner, boldly omits spoken lines, uses narration infused with a child's sense of irony, employs low-speed cinematography from the era of the silent film, and features exaggerated and satiric performances all of which contribute to composing frames of startling visual innovation. The most remarkable of these attempts is the film's experiments with sound: Declaration of Idiot achieves an ironic effect by incorporating video game sound effects, Buddhist chants, and even traditional pansori singing. Creating an allegorical space by means of distortion and sarcasm, Lee Jang ho's film is well worthy of being characterized, whether in terms of its social commentary or its formal experimentation, as the first of such attempts in Korean cinematic history and a film that represents the 1980s (Kwon Eun-sun). Declaration of Idiot also gave Kim Myeong-kon, who acted on the stage until debuting in Lee Jang-ho's previous film The Green Pine Tree(Ilsongjeong pureunsoleun), his first lead role in a feature film.
- Director's commentary: "I don't claim to have made Declaration of Idiot: it was created by Korea's dictatorial regime at the time. When I started work on the film, I resolved to give up moviemaking entirely, or even leave the industry altogether."
- Lee Jang-ho had originally intended to make a sequel to his Children of Darkness Part 1 (Eodum-ui jasigdeul). But when the screenplay failed to clear advance censorship for the reason that it was "too dark" and too intent on "exposing only the darker aspects of society," he embarked on "an exemplary and sycophantic revision." Upon learning that the original title, Children of Darkness Part 2, was rejected, Lee provided over 20 different titles for the censors to pick and choose from, and eventually registered the film under the simpler moniker, Declaration of Idiot. Once the screenplay was approved, Lee pitched right into production. But he could not get a clear handle on the direction, and ended up shooting documentary-style the scenery outside the women's college which provides one of the film's backdrops.
Director Bio: Lee Jang-ho (1945- )
Lee Jang-ho is one of the most significant directors of the 70s and 80s who made movies that were socially relevant and commercially successful. He was an assistant to director Shin Sang-ok and was thrust into stardom with the smashing success of Heavenly homecoming to stars (Byeoldeul-ui gohyang) (1974), the movie with which he made his directorial debut. He founded the film production group, "Visual Age" with Ha Kil-jong and Kim Ho-seon. He portrayed the oppression, hypocrisy, poverty and wealth of the society of his times and opened the "Age of the Youthful Writers." He used spectacular experimental visual techniques in Declaration of Idiot (Baboseon-eon) (1983) and A Wanderer Never Stops on the Road (Nageuneneun gil-e-seodo swiji An-neunda) (1987) and portrayed Korean society and its contrasting wealth and poverty in Good Windy Day (Balambul-eo joh-eun nal) (1980). He also directed popular commercial movies such as Between the Knees (Muleupgwa muleupsa-i) (1984), Eoh Wu-dong (Eo Udong) (1985) and Lee Jang-ho's Baseball Team (Lee Jang-ho-ui oeingudan) (1986). During the 90s, he produced Myong-Ja Akiko Sonia (Myeongja Akkikko Ssonya) (1992) and Declaration of Genius (Cheonjaeseone-eon) (1995). Currently, he is teaching students and is on the board of directors for the Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival.