Korea’s oldest film unearthed
Korea’s oldest film has been discovered.
The Korean Film Archive announced earlier this week that Crossroads of Youth [청춘의 십자로], a black-and-white silent movie made in 1934 and considered a historical asset, has spent the last eight months in restoration. It predates the work previously known as Korea’s oldest existing film, 1936’s Delusion or Mimong [미몽], by two years.
Directed by Ahn Jong Hwa, the story involves a rural village young man and woman who come to Seoul, face adventures, and encounter love. The film features a detailed look at Seoul Station, and the characters drink beer and play golf, depicting trappings of upper-class life. The actors include some famous names of the time, such as Shin Il Seon, Na Woon Kyu, action star Lee Won Yong, and Kim Yeon Shil.
Crossroads of Youth will have a special screening on May 9 at a film festival commemorating the Korea Film Archive’s opening.
What always strikes me about old movies is how much some aspects of life have changed, but others not at all. And that image of the woman smoking in a hanbok? Totally incongruous to my tendency to think of old films as belonging to a more innocent time (noir and pre-Code films notwithstanding).
Purely for curiosity’s sake, I did a little cross-checking: The first ever American film is listed as being Monkeyshines, No. 1, made in 1890. Argentina had La Bandera Argentina of 1897, Germany has six films listed in 1895, Spain lists two in 1897. Reports of Korea’s first movie also date back to 1897, although many films were lost during the Korean War; Crossroads of Youth is the oldest currently existing film.