Rediscovering ‘Love with an Alien’ on KOFA’s 40th Anniversary

By Korea Herald
  • Published : May 26, 2014 - 20:22
  • Updated : May 26, 2014 - 20:22
The Korean Film Archive celebrated its 40th anniversary with a film festival that began last Thursday with the screening of a joint Hong Kong and Korean film, “Love with an Alien” (1958).

It was the first-ever film jointly produced by Korea and Hong Kong, and also the oldest surviving color film archived in Korea. When the film was first rediscovered, the sound was lost and the picture was severely damaged. KOFA restored the picture and recreated the sound with live music and performances, creating the unique genre of the “cinemusical.”

Codirected by Jeon Chang-geun of Korea and Shanghai-born, Hong Kong-based Tu Gwang-qi and set in Hong Kong in the 1950s, “Love with an Alien” depicts the forbidden love between a Hong Kong singer and a Korean composer.
The event poster for “Love with an Alien,” screened at the opening ceremony of the Korean Film Archive’s 40th Anniversary Film Festival

Their romance begins when young, beautiful Hong Kong singer Bang-eum (Lucilla Yu Ming) falls in love with Korean composer Su-pyeong (Kim Jin-kyu) when he visits Hong Kong. However, their happy life lasts only for a short time before they find out that Bang-eum’s mother has family secrets that will break their relationship.

The movie seems to follow a typical Asian plot marked by myriads of family secrets and a twist of fate. It also shows the audience what Hong Kong looked like in the 1950s, when it was the darling of Asia known as the “Pearl of the Orient.” Its economy was vibrant and rapidly developing, with an influx of Western liberal thoughts flourishing, streets taking the form of exotic scenery, women’s fashion putting on the ritz and the notion of love at first sight gaining traction.

The silent film creates a compelling experience as six actors and actresses sing out the lyrics and speak the narratives on the stage live. The sounds of footsteps, the opening of a car door, a train leaving the station, keys jingling and telephones ringing are all made on the stage by an actor using his own feet and utensils like chains, door knobs and glass bottles.

The opening ceremony’s guests, who came from many countries, are active in the film industry, including directors Im Kwon-taek and Kim Ki-duk and actor Ahn Sung-ki.

“I have directed over 100 films. If it wasn’t for KOFA’s collection, I would not have been able to keep all the movies I made and go back to them,” Im said in a speech during the opening ceremony.

“Especially during the Japanese colonial rule, many film materials were lost so we could not see them anymore. But through the Archive’s work, I look forward to seeing many good old movies being unearthed and screened to the public.”

“We saw the tragic Sewol ferry incident happen recently,” Im added. “I hope movies play a role in helping humanity heal and recover.”

The KOFA’s 40th Anniversary Film Festival will run for 43 days until July 3 at the headquarters of the archive in Sangam-dong, Seoul. During the festival, 53 Korean and foreign films will be screened, along with a display of the archive’s history in parallel with Korea’s film history. For details, visit www.koreafilm.or.kr or call (02) 3153-2075.

By Ahn Sung-mi (sahn@heraldcorp.com)