Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Korean Movie : Norigae (노리개)

My Thoughts:

At first I don't even put any interest on this movie, well I'm like almost all of you out there... I prefer Gong Yoo than Ma Dong Seok so when the poster came out I don't even try to take a glimpse on it well need to blame it on the A list actors coz almost every one of them look 'hot' kekeke~. 

I only started put an interest on it because of my curiosity on the movie title, Norigae (노리개) means "Korean traditional ornaments worn by women". That curiosity brings me to this movie and later realize that the story line remind me of Jang Ja Yeon. Since I've been following her suicide case which has stir the Korean entertainment for some time. 

Watching it just remind me of how brutal the industry, and how women discriminated. For me this movie is just like a door which lead us someway we thought we knew and ignore it, and it's about time for us to open the door, take a look and listen. I don't know if this movie might change how people view on the case, or maybe take a little bit concern on how women have been treated instead of pretending to be blind, deaf and ignorance.

I've quoted a review from cliqueasia which I can relate to and agree with it.

"Although sort of an open secret, sex bribes within the South Korean entertainment industry have more recently become an indictment, not just on the industry as a whole, but on South Korea's treatment of women in general, particularly those in showbiz. How entertainment, and the desire for fame by the young, are unconsciously entwined with the power structures of big business and politics still seems, at least from a non-Korean perspective, to be a last vestige of one the misuses of Confucian morality. However, little seems to have changed for women's rights with the exposure of the issue, with sex scandals and first hand accounts of abuse popping up constantly. The latest was the Open World Entertainment scandal, in which the CEO of the company was arrested on alleged charges of sexual assault of his performers, two of them underage, and even using his power to intimidate the male singers employed by his company to assault female trainees. It seems only natural, then, that there would be filmmakers ready to ruminate on this sensitive issue with the local audience.

The director for the film Norigae, Choi Seung-ho, claims that he drew inspiration from the Jang Ja-yeon scandal of 2009. Jang Ja-yeon was a popular actress from TV, starring in the show Boys Over Flowers. She had just embarked on, what many believe would have been, a productive film career, when she was found hanged on a railing inside her apartment complex. While this was perhaps not a rare decision for women in her profession, the key comparative difference in her case was that she had a clear wish to haunt her persecutors from the grave. She did this by keeping a seven page journal with names and dates of all those involved in her abuse. (Note: The journal has since been judged as a forgery by the courts of South Korea). The journal alleged that she was forced by her manager to provide sexual services to studio execs, directors and CEOs in return for the promise of future career advancement. In Norigae's narrative, Jang Ja-yeon is represented by Jeong Ji-hee (Min Ji-hyun). Most of the story takes place in court, where prosecutor Kim Mi-hyeon (Lee Seung-yeon) brings claims against Jeong Ji-hee's agent, director and their CEO, with allegations that Jeong Ji-hee was forcibly brought to meet the CEO by her agent to perform these 'services' and was subsequently groped. Initially, Mi-hyeon gets nowhere as witnesses willing to support a dead woman's account are hard to find. The entire prosecution, therefore, relies on the existence of the diary of Jeong Ji-hee, which no-one seems be able to find or, for the authorities covering up after themselves, claim didn't exist at all. Lee Jang-ho (Ma dong-seok) enters the story at this point as the key player in the whole saga, being the only reporter dogged enough to hunt down the diary. Of course, the plot is helped along by the fact that, having been acrimoniously fired from his post with a popular newspaper and relegated to an online news company with few staff or viewers, Jang-ho can't sink much further down the social ladder of South Korea, where status is everything.

Despite the claim of being merely 'inspired' by the Jang Ja-yeon scandal, which includes the great lengths the opening credits go to leave no doubt that the film is entirely fictional and the characters are in no way related to real people, the script ends up being a carbon copy of how the story played out in the media. This is the first problem with the film. Even one with a cursory knowledge of the issue will be able to predict and comprehend in advance the roles of each of the characters. Bad guys over here, good guys over there. This is a surmountable problem but, unfortunately, the one dimensional characters never take the viewer anywhere unexpected. Although the treatment of Jeong Ji-hee is reprehensible and many instances of abuse and bullying are shown, we are given no other answer to the questions posed by the actions of the individuals themselves. The perpetrator's actions are not really explained with any real depth, other than the fact these men are cretins and seem to be able to get away with their behaviour. The fact that the why of their actions is not discussed, leaving us with a simple story of abuse of authority and criminality, means the director fails at his attempt at resonance with social reality that he must have sought in the first place. This renders the film inert and rather boring to watch during stages one would expect to be riled up, intrigued, informed or braced by any other emotion that would keep them motivated enough to keep watching. The second, related problem, is that of the intermingling of flashbacks with the courtroom proceedings of the present. For the most part, the flashbacks do not help build tension or add insight but pull the viewer out of the events and any explanation behind the motives of all of the key players. For example, one of the key perpetrators, her agent Cha Jeong-hyeok (Hwang Tae-gwang) is meticulously descriptive in his dialogue in the flashbacks. It's almost like he is narrating the course of his future court proceedings from the point of view of the prosecutor. The flashback containing the CEO and his S&M session with Jeong Ji-hee surpasses this ridiculousness. Presumedly, this was done for shock value, to bring to light the real perverseness of the ones with the most power and how they are able to hide themselves from any responsibility. The scene, however, felt like it was spliced from another movie. Worst of all, through this blatant eroticism, the audience becomes complicit in the torture by the fact that it gives no license to the viewer's imagination or to ruminate on their own personal values. Not only that, it detracted from the real substance of the movie; Kim Mi-hyeon's struggle to bring the abusers to justice. This is perhaps the only compelling feature of the narrative.

Making a film that is a mere reanactment of the actual life of a specific victim and not giving an analysis of what lead to the characters actions, or at least an interpretation of what kind of a society would deem it permissible to function in this particular way, disempowers the director for whatever he wanted to say with this movie. The only advantage that a movie like this has is that it broaches the issue as it is still relatively fresh in the media and has a chance to reach a receptive audience. But is that done for the benefit of the victims or someone else? Any proper analysis would take years of research and hard work in committing this social reality to film. This film only appears to be cashing in on the hardships of the real victims. There is plenty of need for a film dealing with this aspect of South Korean society. Sadly, this is not it and one could only hope that other film makers would have the courage to approach this issue with more sensitivity and less sensationalism.

The film ends with the perfunctory images of angry women with placards as some sort of indication that the issue will carry on in the hearts of the victim's families and those with a stake in the righteous cause of female equality. By that stage, however, all good will is already lost on the filmmakers part. It is lost because, as was said before, the film merely captures the rage of a particular, specific incident but not the rage of those abused then and still today. Just before the credits, statistics from a recent survey by The Korean Women’s Development Institute are shown. One of them was this: 60.2% of the actresses surveyed agreed to the statement “I received a request for sexual bribery or to sit in for drinking parties.” Facts can always be a launching pad for great film. Upon seeing this, in retrospect, one could be forgiven for feeling like the movie had just started, since this simple statistic is far more revealing than the rest of the movie that preceded it."

Credit Source: cliqueasia