"Chunhyang" is living art. Narrated in the Korean tradition of Pansori in which a story is told through sung verse, it's the timeless classic tale of two young people who fall in love at first sight, are separated through adversity, and come together again.
Chunhyang is the daughter of a courtesan, and in the ancient Korean class system she is therefore considered a courtesan herself, and Mongryong is the son of an upper-class nobleman; they meet, fall in love, and marry secretly. Mongryong's father, however, has plans for his son that don't include marrying a courtesan's daughter, and the couple has to split up while Mongryong prepares for a state examination. Chunhyang spends the three years of their separation fighting off the advances of a venal provincial governor; she's about to die for her resistance when her long-lost husband returns to save her. Virtue has its rewards.
The film succeeds on every count. The cinematography is splendid, the two young lead actors, both of them teenagers, are excellent, and the haunting tones of the Pansori singer draw us into the film and make us a part of it. Unlike those reviewers who felt that the singing distracted from the movie, I thought it helped to underscore the ancient tradition of story-telling, a part of so many cultures, in which a tale is narrated through song and verse as well as prose. We not only enjoy "Chunhyang" as a brilliant example of Korean film making, we feel it on a fundamental level as a love story anyone can relate to. It's a great movie that deserves a much wider audience.