Byongtae and Youngja
(Byeongtae-wa Yeongja)

Screening on Film
Directed by Ha Gil-Jong.
With Sohn Jeong-Hwan, Lee Young-Ok, Han Jin-Hui.
South Korea, 1979, 35mm, color, 115 min.
Korean with English subtitles.
Print source: Korean Film Archive

Ha’s final film predicted a possible new direction, a deliberate melding of commercial genre and art cinema that, in fact, many of his Young Sang Sidae colleagues would later follow. A sequel to March of Fools centered around the lovers united then separated in that film’s iconic ending, Byongtae and Younja uses the wavering course of their unsteady romance to explore the extreme social pressures placed upon college graduates. A philosophy graduate unable to find work or meaning as a professional, Byongtae instead channels his energies into his love for Younja with a blind determination that results in the extended cliffhanger ending, a race against a rival lover to the “engagement hall” where the bride-to-be awaits. Although directed with a gentler touch than Ha’s other films, Byongtae and Younja affirms his deep sympathy for those resigned and almost certainly defeated heroes who represent the struggle of Korea’s new generation. Ha once again quoted provocatively, and with pointed irony, from iconic art cinema: here, Mike Nichols’ The Graduate (1967).

The screening will be followed by a roundtable discussion with HFA Director Haden Guest; Ji-Eun Lee, Visiting Associate Professor, Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Harvard and Associate Professor of Korean Language and Literature, Washington University in St. Louis; Soon-Mi Yoo, Associate Professor (Film/Video), Massachusetts College of Art and Design; and Alexander Zahlten, Associate Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations.

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