March of Fools
(Babodeul-ui haengjin)

Screening on Film
Directed by Ha Gil-Jong.
With Yun Mun-Seop, Ha Jae-Young, Lee Young-Ok.
South Korea, 1975, 35mm, color, 117 min.
Korean with English subtitles.
Print source: Korean Film Archive

A beloved classic of Seventies Korean cinema, March of Fools offers a poignant yet cutting portrait of wayward university students and a vivid document of youth culture during the final years of the Park Chung-Hee dictatorship. Based on a popular serialized novel by Choi In-Ho, March of Fools shifts gently between picaresque comedy and melancholy lyricism as it follows two college friends’ frustrated search for love and meaning in a world that seems to have no place for them. Ha’s extensive research in classrooms and Shinchon college bars results in a rich, detailed authenticity: the bell-bottom jeans, draft beer, electric guitars and Western-style ballads that were icons of Seventies Korean youth and its seemingly futile resistance to the dominant regime. Central to Ha’s direct appeal to youth audiences was his striking use of contemporary music throughout the film, including now-classic songs composed for the film by folk singer Song Chang-Sik and promptly excised and banned outright by the censors. Defying the censorship of a full thirty minutes from his final cut, Ha reinserted the removed footage in a clandestine screening unfortunately raided by the authorities, who seized the print and destroyed the controversial footage.

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