Madam White Snake
Director: Shin Sang-okl
The legend of a snake transforming itself into
a beautiful young woman and seducing an innocent likely virginal man goes
back a long ways and is well-known all over Asia. This along with foxes turning
themselves into females were probably meant as morality lessons to men -
women are dangerous, they are seductive, they will get you into trouble -
so stay away from them unless a woman has been approved by the family who
knows her family. Don't go falling for just some strange woman you come upon
who wiggles her hips and gives you come hither looks. Especially if her hands
are cold. This legend has not surprisingly found its way into many films
with beautiful actresses taking on the role of a snake - Maggie Cheung, Joey
Wong, Jade Leung, Linda Lin Dai, Sridevi, Reena Roy and Shirley Yamaguchi
to name a few that I know of.
Well, here is another such tale from Korea starring Choi Eun-hee as a white
snake. A lonely snake who has lived in a dark cave for one thousand years.
It is no wonder that she wants a little company, some love, romance, the
touch of a warm body. All she has to do is take on human form along with
her servant - a blue snake - and find a willing man. With her looks that
will not prove difficult. One sunny day along comes Heo Seon (Shin Seong-il)
taking a ride on a wooden boat when it is waved over by two women when it
suddenly starts to rain. He is introduced, lends them his umbrella to get
home and promises to pick it up the next day. When she comes out to meet
him undulating and dancing like a spinning sultry top, all is lost - he is
bedazzled and becomes her bedmate. This leads to all sorts of problems -
jail, banishment, almost being beheaded, murder, jail again etc - but he
loves her. It reminded me of the Hong Kong film He's a Woman, She's a Man
when Leslie Cheung says "I don't care if you are a woman or a man. I just
know I love you". Or a snake in this case. Snake sex must be amazing.
I quite enjoyed this - a very simple tale of a unique kind of love that isn't
at all splashy - with only a few special effects that are quite primitive
- and reaches a nice climax. One could also interpret films like this and
Green Snake from Hong Kong as a critical look at the way society and particularly
religion forces individuals not to step out of bounds or the weight of society
will come crashing down on you.
Choi Eun-hee is lovely though her paramour is quite stiff and formal. This
is directed by Shin Sang-ok and he has quite an interesting story to tell.
Shin Sang-ok was born in 1926 and was directing by the early 1950's and was
fairly prolific and so popular that he was called The Prince of South Korean
Cinema. As a Prince in 1954 he married the lead in this film Choi Eun-hee,
who was a star in her own right. They were divorced in 1976 though.
Then later the crazy stuff happens. When Choi was visiting Hong Kong because
of a phony offer to direct in 1978 she was kidnapped by the North Koreans
by order of Kim Jong-Il, who was a huge movie buff (so was Stalin co-incidentally)
and brought to North Korea. Shin then goes to Hong Kong to look for his ex-wife
and gets kidnapped too! Holy shit. Kim thought North Korean films needed
an upgrade and what could be simpler than kidnapping two famous people in
the business. In North Korea Shin holds out for 2 years but is then forced
to direct seven films - one being Pulgasari, a monster movie. In 1986 Kim
allows the couple - oh he made them remarry - to go to a film festival in
Vienna and they escaped to the American Embassy and they are allowed to go
to Hollywood! Where he directs or produces the three 3 Ninja movies which
I think are about Ninja kids in America? What the hell. Eventually, he goes
back to live in South Korea when he is assured he won't be arrested. And
This film can be found up on You Tube in the Korean Film Archive section.
All with subtitles.