My Sister is a Tomboy
Director: Han Hyeong -mo
AKA - My Sister is a Hussy
Watched from the Korean Classical Film Archive on YouTube
This 1961 Korean comedy drama film is an interesting look backwards at the
expected societal relationship of men and women. I wonder if at the time
of its release it was considered progressive in its attitudes towards women
or very traditional. I expect the latter though it disguises itself for much
of the film. It has two plot lines that we have seen before - the younger
sister who isn't allowed to marry until her elder sister has been wedded
and a version of The Taming of the Shrew.
The theme of The Taming of the Shrew is by its nature very misogynistic and
regressive but since Shakespeare various interpretations of the main theme
- a man taming a woman who lives outside the boundaries of expected behavior
and forces her to accept her traditional role which she happily accepts finally
- has been put on and accepted. That to a large degree describes this film
and it grates on our modern sensibilities even if you are male I would think
- and I wonder how women reacted to it back then. The men come across here
as basically dicks but probably not so much in 1961 and you still come across
this male behavior in Korean films today.
Sun-ae (Moon Jung-suk) is an independent woman in her late-20's who has no
intention of marrying. "Even thinking about them makes me sick". Her father
runs a dojo and has taught her judo which she loves. If this wasn't 1961,
one might suspect that her sexual interests lay elsewhere but of course there
were no lesbians in Korean in 1961. She and her younger very docile traditional
sister Seon-hui (Um Aing-ran) are out walking when they are accosted by two
wannabe lotharios and when they won't leave them alone Sun-ae uses her judo
skills and knocks them silly.
Seon-hui is in love with Mr. Noh but her father won't allow them to get married
till Sun-ae does and he tells his daughter that he will be ashamed to meet
his dead wife in heaven if she isn't married. Talk about a guilt trip! The
father arranges a number of men to visit credentials in hand but Sun-ae humorously
rejects one suitor after another who have come to court her. So Mr. Noh talks
his friend Nah Ju-o (Kim Jin-kyu) to try and help him out by dating Sun-ae.
Turns out that he had already had a run in with her sharp tongue but he sees
it as a challenge and creepily after forcing her to kiss him in a waterfall,
all four of them get married (with male guests on one side and females on
the other). But she isn't tamed yet - that takes some slapping which she
objects to, a royal beating by her father and a thief to accomplish. And
then she is a good Stepford wife in traditional clothing saying good bye
to her husband with a peck on the cheek. No doubt this was considered a happy
ending back then but now you sort of cringe.
Taking the sexual politics and patriarchy out of the film - I mean how much
different is it from many Hollywood films from long ago - well I don't recall
many when the father beat the crap out of his daughter to get her in line
- it is a sweet film - some funny moments and good performances. Both actresses
are very well-known. Moon Jung-suk was already a star and Um Aing-ran was
on the verge of becoming a popular star and married a huge star, Shin Seong-il.
The film was shot in Cinemascope but you can't imagine why they would bother
as most of it takes place indoors.