masterly master lee

a home for forgotten and famous korean pulp, its heroes, its heroines, and its pulpeteers

If You Want 그대원하면 1987 review

ifyouwant1.jpgIf you’re looking for 80s pulp, look no further. It’s all here: the strange, scrawny hairdo’s, big leather belts with holes big enough to put your arm through, tight leggings, colors that scream “Mismatch!” and that inimitably dark feeling of doom from movies like The Class Of ‘84: the world is a rotten place and the people in it are bad at their best. And of course the uncomfortable violence of 80s movies; theatrical and badly acted, but unnervingly real and close at the same time. Violent paranoia in a jacket with padded shoulders and tucked up sleeves; that’s the dark underbelly of the 80s right there for you. If You Want is a prototypical 80s paranoid, feel bad movie with roots going back to the mid-70s dramatic teen violence movies that flooded the cinema’s then and were unbeatable in terms of popularity. Director Mun Yeosong 문여송 made a career out of these movies, gradually moving into adult territory in the 80s, growing with his demographic, I guess. The story of If You Want is not that different from other gangster movies except for a few typically 80s ingredients. A teenage girl flees home after her stepbrother has tried to rape her. Innocent and naive, she heads for Seoul and on her way there takes up with a gang of female pickpockets. This whole episode seems to have been inserted before the main story starts to give the director a legitimate chance at showing naked young women, the supposed dangers (and attractions) of lesbianism (“Don’t do that, do you want toifyouwant3.jpg contract AIDS?”; a funny remark since in 1987 the existence of AIDS in South Korea was still strenuously denied) and the corruption of youth. Our heroine Miok 미옥 finally ends up being kidnapped and raped by three thugs, only to be belatedly rescued by Beon’gae 번개 (“Lightning”), a gangster boss who puts her up in his appartment. For a moment, Master Lee thought that there the 80s spell of doom would be broken, but alas, far from a knight in shining armor, Beon’gae forces Miok into prostitution. Then she becomes the lover of one of her new and very rich clients. The sexual violence scenes are almost laughably bad and look anything but realistic, but still manage to convey the feeling that this could happen anytime, anywhere and to anyone. In that sense, the director probably realized his goals, playing into the fears of 80s teenagers (and adults) living through a period of severe oppression.ifyouwant4.jpgIf You Want is a truly 80s movie, but it is indebted to the gangster genre. The arrival of Miok in Seoul in front of that cultural icon and historical landmark, Seoul Station is reminiscent of other gangster movies, in particular when Miok is immediately physically confronted with the different way Seoulites deal with one another. Her initiation into the female gang also follows a familiar pattern; the only difference with earlier movies is that the gender roles are reversed. And finally, to signify beyond any doubt that gangster live in a different world, truly an underworld, the bartender at the bar Beon’gae and his gang patronize, is gay. So gay, in fact, that it avoids turning into parody by the narrowest of margins.ifyouwant12.jpgThis is a most uncomfortable movie. Its mix of teens, gangsters, violence and sex is a typically 80s mix. Like more 80s films in this vein, If You Want hardly looks realistic, but still feels real. The consistent way in which our heroine has adopted girlish mannerisms and speaks in a girlish voice all through the movie, looking for a father figure/lover doesn’t exactly help. It gives you the feeling you’re intruding upon a private tragedy. In a sustained attempt to distract people from what was really going on, the military government invested much in the policy of the three S’s during the 80s: Sekseu 섹스, Seupojeu 스포즈, Sul 술, i.e. Sex (as in adulty movies), sports (the ‘88 Olympics) and alcohol (which meant keeping the prizes low; you can still get embarrassingly drunk for a few bucks). If You Want falls into the sex(/violence) category, but at the same time it is a dark and grim reminder to its audience what happened to the youths who didn’t get to participate in the economic miracle on the Han River. The 80s after all were also the time of the double digit growth of the South Korean economy.How this all ends, you’ll have to see for yourself. Master Lee is getting too depressed to continue writing. He never was one for padded shoulders anyway, possessing a pair of impressively broad shoulders himself. As for his final judgment on this movie: it’s pulp, alright, it’s even well-known, almost famous pulp. It is certainly not worse than other gangster movies, but it is more than a wee bit depressing. Master Lee is going to watch one of his favorite movies again to break this mood of doom: will it be Arahan or Shadowless Sword?


No comments yet»

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: