Between the Knees 1984

Between the Knees 1984

Title: Between the Knees (Muleupgwa muleupsa-i)
AKA: Knee to Knee
Year: 1984
Director: Lee Chang-Ho
Cast: Lee Bo-Hee, Ahn Sung-Kee, Lee Hye-Young, Lim Sung-Min

Ja-young is experiencing difficulties navigating the two worlds of her traditional Korean customs and those of the West. Having been scarred by inappropriate contact by an adult as a young girl; she has difficulties distinguishing between right and wrong behavior with young men. Her overbearing mother has driven Ja-young to the point where she can no longer act on her own will and this leads to trouble for her. There is a theme of men fondling and caressing women’s knees in the is film which is the focal point of all male sexual advances towards Ja-Young. Things spiral out of control for not only Ja-Young but her family who has their fair share of issues and skeletons in the closet. We tend to see this film as addressing some of the modern issues that affect the lives of young Koreans in the 1980’s.

Ja-young (Lee Bo-hee) seems to have it together: she majors in flute at a conservatory, and has a respectable boyfriend Jo-bin (Ahn Sung-ki) who studies the traditional Korean flute. But her family is not normal. Her younger brother is obsessed with Michael Jackson, spending all day practicing the moonwalk, and across town she has a half sister Bo-young, the result of her fathers extramarital affair two decades hence. Ja-youngs mother, angry and humiliated at her husbands infidelity, has become relentless about protecting her daughters chastity. Quietly, behind her confident exterior, Ja-young has developed deep complexes about sex.

(1984) was made in an era when Koreas commercial film industry was in shambles, and the governments only response was to relax its oppressive censorship measures with regard to sex (and sex only). The film exhibits the low production values that are typical of that cinematic era, but bad boy director Lee Jang-ho (who over a decade later would help to launch PiFan) adds unexpected flourishes to his loosely constructed narrative. As a psychologically realistic depiction of a womans inner struggle with sexual issues, the film leaves something to be desired. But what is expressed more successfully is a sense of a society fraught with complexes, bored and unsure what to do with itself in the stifling atmosphere of the time.

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