[K-FILM REVIEWS] 분홍신 (The Red Shoes)

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[K-FILM REVIEWS] 분홍신 (The Red Shoes)

(The Red Shoes - KOREA 2005)
BunhongShin (lit. Pink Shoes)

103 (108 DVD-Only) Minutes - 35mm Cinemascope 2.35:1 - Colour
Produced by: 청년필름 (Thousand Year Films)
Distributed By: 쇼박스 (Showbox)
International Sales: Cineclick Asia
Opening Day: 06/30/2005
Box Office: 1,369,598 admissions nationwide (368,080 Seoul)

DVD (Korean Version)

Official Website
Movie Stills/Posters
Theatrical Trailer (Streaming, Real Media)
Teaser Trailer (Streaming, Real Media)
Music Video (Streaming, 700k, Windows Media) [I.D. - 날 버린 널 버리네]

Note: The review contains spoilers.


Director - 감독: 김용균 (Kim Yong-Gyun)
[와니와 준하 (Wanee and Junha, 2001)]

Executive Producer - 제작: 김광수 (Kim Kwang-Soo)
Producer: 신창길 (Shin Chang-Gil) and 김도혜 (Kim Do-Hye)
Writer - 각본: 마상렬 (Ma Sang-Ryeol) and 김용균 (Kim Yong-Gyun)
Cinematography - 촬영: 김태경 (Kim Tae-Kyung)
Lighting - 조명: 박건우 (Park Geon-Woo)
Music - 음악: 이병우 (Lee Byung-Woo)

Editor - 편집: 신민경 (Shin Min-Kyung)
Art Director - 미술: 임형태 (Im Hyung-Tae) and 장박하 (Jang Bak-Ha)
Assistant Director - 조감독: 권경업 (Kwon Kyung-Eop)

김혜수 (Kim Hye-Soo) as Seon-Jae, 김성수 (Kim Sung-Soo) as In-Cheol, 박연아 (Park Yeon-Ah) as Tae-Soo, 고수희 (Go Soo-Hee) as Mi-Hee, 이얼 (Lee Eol) as Sung-Joon, 서하림 (Seo Ha-Rim) as Ok, 김지은 (Kim Ji-Eun) as Keiko, 손세광 (Son Se-Kwang) as Ha-Seop


A nice, trendy apartment in Gangnam; a luxurious imported car, a rich husband who loves her beautiful daughter. The perfect marriage life? Far from it. Seon-Jae is living a lie, like millions of other women in Korea. The intimacy she had with her husband Sung-Joon ended the moment Tae-Soo was born. It all became a vicious circle of slow, painful, almost unbearable detachment. She used to be a successful eye doctor, but her life turned into a daily routine of housewife chores. She's not Seon-Jae anymore, she's just Sung-Joon's wife and Tae-Soo's mother. And that all changes when she discovers her 'perfect' marriage was tainted by adultery. Now alone with her six year old daughter, Seon-Jae has to face society and its prejudices. She has to raise someone in a society which marginalizes divorced women with kids. Still haunted by the spell society put on her life, she keeps buying extravagant shoes, items she only exhibits, and never wears. A toy she looks at whenever she's reminded of how pitiful her situation has become, something to play with to make her forget she can't get her freedom back. Those wild, colourful shoes represent her will to be accepted as simply what she is: a woman; someone to be loved, mentally and physically, maybe even someone to feel jealous about. Not the equivalent of a baby-sitting, dishwashing soulless machine. But then she sees those pink shoes. Those shiny, flamboyant shoes, so different from the fake beauty of what she used to buy. What she doesn't know is that the pair of pink shoes she picks up on a subway train will change her life, to the point of no return.

Many works have used Hans Christian Andersen's 'De røde Skoe' (The Red Shoes) as a foundation, including Pressburger's 1948 film version. But for Korea, the 'red' shoes were always 'pink'. People say it's because the film was released in 1954, just one year after the end of the Korean War: people had seen enough carnage and blood, and so the distributors changed the title to a lighter, more comfortable colour. Why pink? Because those shoes have a simple, old fashioned yet bizarre nuance to them. They might not look as shiny as the newest shoes in the town, but there's a certain familiar beauty and appeal to them. They're just shoes, not something having to follow canons of style, beauty or fashion. And that's what women would like to be... just women, with their unique charms and peculiar character flaws. The moment she wears those shoes, Seon-Jae feels like a new person, a sexy, independent, free woman. Someone who can go out and do whatever she pleases, live well, be respected as a person and not an object. But she's not alone. Her daughter Tae-Soo might not be mature enough to feel the need for emancipation and freedom. Wearing those shoes, she just fulfills her primal desires: to become the best at her ballet school, to feel like a grown up for the first time.

Just where Kim Yong-Gyun's 분홍신 (The Red Shoes) exactly positions itself, in the jungle full of different species that make the Korean horror film emisphere, is not quite an easy knot to untie, but its style is inevitably tied to the historical development of Korean horror films. Although horror films appeared in Korean Cinema right from the post war, they were never able to establish themselves as a popular genre. Through literature and 만화 (graphic novels), culture such as that of the 처녀귀신 (Virgin Ghost) permeated horror stories in Korea (just like in neighbouring Japan), but they were rarely represented with success on the big screen. Even during the Golden Age of Korean Cinema in the 60s, while some elements of the genre were used in other films by great filmmakers like Kim Ki-Young, there were only a handful of directors making 'real' horror films, like Lee Yong-Min. When 전설의 고향 (Hometown of Legend) was shown on TV in the 80s, it became a landmark for the genre, finally giving a voice to the Virgin Ghost culture Koreans were so familiar with. Running for years, the show scared generations of viewers, but Chungmuro kept avoiding the genre, focusing on the age old popularity of Melodramas, social realist films and comedies. But something changed in the late 90s, when 여고괴담 (Whispering Corridors) arrived on the scene. Combining the kind of high school ghost stories people of all generations were accustomed to with a strong critique of the Korean education system became the beginning of a successful formula. 'Whispering Corridors' was a big hit, creating the foundation for three following 'sequels.' But from the beginning, those high school stories mixed traditional horror elements with social commentary and culturally-specific ghost stories. If we ignore for a moment the silly string of late 90s/early 00s horror films 'inspired' by American teen slashers, the genre took new paths from 2002 on.

Sure, the emergence of Virgin Ghost-themed horror films in Korea had nothing to do with Nakata Hideo's リング (Ring) (other than sharing similar culturally-based foundations), but once the Japanese smash hit started raising a few eyebrows in the west, even in Chungmuro they started following a similar trend. Even if the long haired girl with white robe had been part of their culture for generations, films like 폰 (Phone) bashed in the same kind of 'Asian Horror' familiarity people in the west were starting to discover. Take a deadly McGuffin (phone, tape, webpage, ouija board, wig...), add 'scary' horror techniques, stir a little, serve cold. And, to add that touch of exoticism, add the Virgin Ghost and an incredibly silly final swerve for decoration. But those films sold relatively well in Korea, and still do, albeit only with a target demographic - female teenagers - which is starting to slowly lose its influence in Korean theaters, replaced by a more diversified audience. So producers keep pushing those films, even 'guiding' directors' choices in creating their works. Mind you, some of those films can be quite watchable, but at heart they're all the same story over and over. The real strength of Korean 'horror' films was building in other directions though, perhaps finding its roots in the fact Koreans never really enjoyed your average horror flick.

While different cultures all have their own scary ghost stories, one thing is universal all over the world. There's something much scarier than any Virgin Ghost, vampire or drooling ogre: human nature. Yes, men and women, when awaking their primal instincts, are what we should really be afraid of. And the best Korean horror films of the last decade follow that path, instead of losing themselves in the technicalities of the genre. From 여고괴담 두번쩨 이야기 (Memento Mori) to 소름 (Sorum); from 사인용 식탁 (The Uninvited) to 장화, 홍련 (A Tale of Two Sisters), those films are only horror in theory, being closer to psychological thrillers. They aim a little higher than simply scaring us with cheap trills and scary ghosts. They show the horror in the ordinary, in the fragile shades of the human condition. This duality between the cheap trill 'Asian Horror' and the sophisticated psychological thriller repeats itself on this DVD edition of 'The Red Shoes.'

Yes, repeats, because as you probably know, an additional 'DVD-Only', 18-rated version was specially produced for this release. When it was announced this new version would feature a new ending but only five minutes of added footage, people must have thought: that's it, only 5 Minutes? But those few moments completely change 'The Red Shoes', making it a different, new film. And, sadly for those who can't understand Korean, the DVD-only version is actually better than the Theatrical cut, because it essentially follows the same path as those aforementioned psychological thrillers. And no, I don't want to say that kind of film is better than straightforward horror films. Just that Koreans seem to cover that aspect of the genre a little better than what they do with the tropes of your good ole horror flicks.

The Theatrical Cut is not a bad film, but it seems like inside it two completely different forces are fighting each other to emerge as the winner. It's like when Tae-Soo and her mother fight over the pink shoes, which in this case would represent audience satisfaction. Just as they're not mother and daughter anymore, but a young woman fighting for the same thing with a mature one, these two parts alternate with irritating frequency. One moment you seem to get some insight into Seon-Jae's psychological state of mind, and then a strange girl pops inside an elevator, for no apparent reason other than making 15 year old girls in the audience jump. The good acting of Kim Hye-Soo, Kim Sung-Soo, Go Soo-Hee and Park Yeon-Ah feels chopped up to allow time for the scary scenes. And then, in the second half, we even get a full explanation of just who that old woman is, what happened to her in the past, how she's connected to the pink shoes and even how that involves the other characters as well. With a flashback set in the Colonial period - beautifully staged and with great cinematography, but essentially quite silly - and the final shock swerve served on a gold plate, here's your Asian Horror, specially packaged for those big suits in Hollywood who are ready to sign remake contracts only at the sight of a synopsis like that; full of all those things Korean teenagers going to the theaters love, like quick scares, and a nearly incomprehensible story which ties together with one scapegoat at the end: the swerve. Oh... so it was all because of that. Or was it?

But then there's another side of the coin, the DVD Version. It abandons any pretense of being a straightforward horror, and the shoes stop being the deadly McGuffin they become in the Theatrical Cut, once the madness human greed and desire create on women like Seon-Jae hits full force in the film's second half. The pacing is quicker, the soundtrack (another excellent work by Lee Byung-Woo, mixing organs, atmospheric synth guitar riffs that make some part of the film sound like Jim Jarmusch's 'Dead Man', and strange electronic sounds) is more focused on creating a subtle atmosphere rather than providing cheap scary tricks, and the finale is in line with the theme of the film, letting Kim Hye-Soo's powerful performance reach its catharsis. Of course you could say one is an interesting, stunningly shot and well directed misfire and the other not a horror film. But then you'd have to say the same about 'A Tale of Two Sisters', 'Sorum', 'Memento Mori' and all those films. Then again, that will eliminate any expectation you might have about genres. I think I said it before, but the strength of the best Korean movies is in merging, morphing, bending the rules of the genres they seem to follow, using elements they need from each and every single one of them, escaping with a product which is not 'genre', but just Cinema. Pretty damn good one at that, just like the DVD Version of 'The Red Shoes.'


Subtitles are fine. Translation is quite solid, with signs and notes getting subtitled, a nice font, and no serious grammar mistakes. They also avoid making big changes to the meaning of the dialogue, and while they're not 100% literal, this is a good job.

Presentation is good, although not exceptional. Because of the bleach bypass (and olive green tone from the DI process), skin tones are not completely realistic, but that's no fault of the transfer. Again, because of the digital corrections, the film tends to be even darker and colder than you'd expect, especially towards the end. The print is free from blemishes, but the amount of film grain and noise is a little high. But at least no compression artifacts. Only problem of note, although is not completing annoying, is a slight green vertical tint on the right corner of the screen, only visible during the last 5 minutes or so. You probably wouldn't recognize it without looking specifically for it (didn't notice it on first viewing), but it's there. As for audio, I think 'A Tale of Two Sisters' was one of the DVD able to use the surround system to its advantage - something important for horror films. Yes, especially for the DTS track the surround gets a decent workout, but it's all too repetitive and redundant towards the end. But dialogue is clear, and Lee Byung-Woo's soundtrack comes off well, especially in the DVD cut.


AUDIO COMMENTARY with Director Kim Yong-Gyun, Kim Hye-Soo, Producer Shin Chang-Gil

Pretty interesting commentary. If you've read any of her interviews, or seen them on TV or DVD extra features, Kim Hye-Soo is a very eloquent speaker, always talking about deeper aspects of what she does, telling many anecdotes from the past and the like. You could feel she'd make a good director, just like Bang Eun-Jin. I would have preferred if Music Director Lee Byung-Woo chimed in to comment, since his score is quite good and essential to the film, and then again Producer Shin doesn't have much to say. But all in all, a satisfying and informative track. Here's some of the things they discussed:

- After commenting how the pipe organs fit really well with the opening credits, the three compliment the actress who plays the first student. She's actually a friend of the director, and had to play a teenager even though she's in her early 20s. Still, Kim Hye-Soo was impressed by her acting, even when she looked at the audition.
- They talked about how colours were a little different from what they saw in theaters - that's because of the DI (Digital Intermediate) process - and that the colour of the shoes looked a little warmer in theaters.
- Kim Hye-Soo jokes that this is the first horror film she's been able to sit through from start to finish. She did star in other horror films, like Kim Jee-woon's part of the omnibus 쓰리 (Three), but she couldn't watch it all in one setting. She also says that 'The Red Shoes' sort of rekindled her interest in horror films, to a degree.
- The director comments that, since this was his first horror film, his first scene with particularly 'horror-like' moments was a big burden to him, both because it was something he never tried, and there's always some kind of expectations when dealing with scenes like that. He also introduced the work of the DP, with the out of focus style we see in the overpass scene: basically, they kept out of focus everything they weren't interested in. So, in a way, you'd pay attention only to what they wanted you to.
- They joked that the film goes from a beautiful young girl dancing on stage to an ajumma cutting meat, but the director wanted to say something with that. The first few scenes of Seon-Jae's family life, even if quite short, highlight the relationship she has with her husband, when even if the meat looks tasty he complains anyway. Director Kim thinks at the foundation of horror films is a certain range of primal instincts and feelings, amongst which desire and selfishness are the focus of this film. He also comments how this film shows Kim Hye-Soo in a new light. Not so much because of the role or what she does, but the kind of facial expression and acting she showcases. It's a sort of upgrade for the actress, he thinks. Also, concerning Lee Eol's small but effective role, he wanted him to add a different feel to his character, compared to Kim Hye-Soo's natural acting. The two emphasize the fact she realizes everything about her husband's love affair when she comes back home and sees a pair of unfamiliar shoes (again, the shoe as a metaphor for something like desire and the position of women in society is used).
- Director Kim commented that in situations like that (a love affair discovered by the wife or husband), many films and novels resort to murders, but he wanted to focus on something else. While writing the scenario, he was inspired by one of Tolstoy's short stories, 'Wedding'. In the story, a man who's having an affair, even knowing she's doing the same, starts daydreaming about killing his wife, and falls right into that kind of imagination. He used a woman instead of a man, but the instincts are similar.
- They commented how horror films usually leave character development at bay to focus on the horror techniques, but the director wanted to focus on the characters more than the tricks. And Kim Hye-Soo is thankful to him for allowing her that space to let her character grow. She says the most important thing for her, and also the biggest burden, was finding the true Seon-Jae, instead of just playing a horror version of herself, even though the character had elements you could find in many other women. And they also wanted to use costumes to their advantage when doing that, using very muted colours, which would convey the kind of psychological state she's in.
- They talk about Go Soo-Hee, who has a small role but leaves an impression. Kim Hye-Soo watched a lot of her plays in theater, and comments she's an actress with a really broad range and spectrum. They also comment they like Kim Sung-Soo's character, and how he looks on camera. Kim Hye-Soo jokes that she's not short at all, but she looked like a young kid next to Kim Sung-Soo, which was a little weird for her.
- They once again mention the DI effects that highlight the colour of the shoes, creating a sort of CG-like visuals around them. The director comments that while the film starts as a horror film, he wanted to make it morph into something a little different, a fantasy which could feature both horror-specific traits and showcase the psychological state of the characters.
- About the fact the ballerina story connects with the fact Tae-Soo goes to a Dance Academy, the three talk about the fact a lot of acting schools nowadays use phantomime and dancing to create a foundation, a basis which will help improve the range of the actors-in-the-making.
- Kim Sung-Soo's character of In-Cheol didn't have much time to develop, since they had a lot of time constraints and had to cut some scenes involving him. But they wanted to convey his personality quickly, so that of the grotesque eyes founds in his work, and the pigeon scene (which wasn't in the script originally) were emphasized over other deleted scenes.
- Kim Hye-Soo liked a lot the image of a young girl walking inside an adult woman's shoes. She praises Park Yeon-Ah (who plays Tae-Soo) not so much because she was a perfect actor, but because she looked the part, and acted like a kid would. The director was surprised the girl is a horror fan, and often talked about it with the crew. Again, in the scene with Tae-Soo and Seon-Jae sharing the bathtub, they didn't want to portray a mother and her daughter taking a bath together, but just a young woman and a mature one. Which is why the kid caresses her mother's body like that. Later, Kim Hye-Soo was the one who proposed the idea of having Seon-Jae talk like a kid in the bathroom.
- For those who were wondering why the pigeon from a few scenes earlier ends up dead in the bathroom, that's the start of Seon-Jae's nightmare. If you remember, there's the dinner scene with all three in the middle, when Tae-Soo fights with her mother because she doesn't seem to like In-Cheol. That dead pigeon was Tae-Soo's 'revenge' (as Seon-Jae imagines in the nightmare) for going out with In-Cheol. They comment how horror always starts from a nightmare, and involves the unconscious. That's always the difficult thing for a director making a horror film, finding the way to showcase that imagination, via camera tricks, CG, sound, and everything else they can use.
- As for the scene in In-Cheol's 'home', they searched that location for a long time, and the art team worked hard on it for several days. Since it was summer, the sound of insects and frogs coming from outside was really loud.
- Kim Hye-Soo talked about her relationship with little Park Yeon-Ah as they acted. She thinks they worked really well together. In the scene where they have to fight each other for possession of the shoes, she explained to her the situation before the shoot, afraid she'd hurt her or things like that. But just like Kim, when the director started shooting, the little girl fell into character and acted strongly for the entire scene. Removing that kind of burden, of being afraid to hurt her, Kim was able to focus even more on the acting. Even the director was surprised about it.
- When Go Soo-Hee's characters gets killed, some people didn't understand the meaning of the wedding dress. Wearing the pink shoes for the first time, she feels more beautiful, she doesn't feel overweight, so a kind of complex starts inside her head the moment she wears those shoes. A kind of desire, to escape her situation, wear that wedding dress and feel as if she looked like every other average girl. That kind of basic complex is similar to what Seon-Jae feels when wearing the shoes, feeling like a free woman men can be interested in, even though she has to take them from the person she loves the most, her daughter Tae-Soo. The director could have shot a simple CG scene like at the beginning, cutting her ankles on the street, but he thought that image of the wedding dress - which reappears after the murder - was much more intense and conveyed the kind of psychological state the shoes created on its victims.
- They joked a lot of people talked about a male character who meets a woman, sleeps with her after a day, and starts talking 반말 (plain tone, opposed to polite tone people who barely know each other should use), but the director wanted that kind of character. The comfortable type, the one who appeals to women who want to be free. In a way, this character could be seen as a sort of female fantasy. There even was a scene where Seon-Jae tells him not to use plain tone with him, but it only survived in the DVD-only version.
- They talked about how imagining what can be scary while writing a script for a horror film can be really hard. That's where a DP can help, visualizing what can be scary for people. He in fact was the one who suggested they added the scene in the elevator and a few others. The scene in the mortuary wasn't a set, but a real place, where they also shot 복수는 나의 것 (Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance).
- Kim Hye-Soo talks about the scene with Tae-Soo and all the blood. She talked with her before it started, saying yes, it was fake blood, but it could have been scary for the little girl. But all she did was ask if she could scream.
- The actress who plays the character at the publishing company was actually the one who plays one of the characters in 강원도의 힘 (The Power of Kangwon Province), and they all praised her acting for being really natural. The website with the image of the ballerina holding the red shoes was created by Jo Hwa-Sung, the production designer. They also talked about Kim Sung-Soo's role, and the fact many scenes involving his character had to be cut. The producer says that with a little work on his pronunciation, he could become a really great actor, but he certainly has already shown his talent in the last few years.
- While the scene when all the blood comes from above might look like something you can only shoot once, they had to do it twice. The first time they had some problems with timing, and the flow of fake blood coming down wasn't fitting with the kind of rhythm the director wanted. So they had to clean everything, and shoot once again.
- The director admits the ballet might feel a little awkward, a little disjointed from the plot of the main film (if not for the fact it reveals important hints about one of the characters), but he also wanted to show it to the people anyway. Kim Hye-Soo commented it had a weird Communist-like feeling.
- The scene where Seon-Jae and Tae-Soo fight for the shoes is, as the director says, the climax before the real climax. Kim Hye-Soo says something important: that what Seon-Jae is seeing at that moment isn't her daughter Tae-Soo, but her own sub-conscious showing up to haunt her in the form of that missing shoe. She joked that while running after Yeon-Ah in the parking lot she looked a little like the 'Girl Cyborg' from Terminator 2 (and I thought I was the only one thinking that... her facial expression is a carbon copy!).
- They last commented about the finale, and for how long they shot it, to find the right tone. With the two alternating images, the director wanted to show Seon-Jae as a desperate mother looking for her daughter, with the other an equally desperate woman eager to find her shoes. Finally, the music director used broken instruments for the ending credits song.


DVD-Only 18-rated version

Since news that this version of the film on DVD wouldn't have English subtitles, we promised some kind of translation or explanation. The choices were many: I first thought of just talking about the differences between the two films, simply watching one after the another. But then there was a problem: I'm not exactly a monster when it comes to memory, so I probably would have missed half the things I saw. Which brought me to the second option: subtitles. Yes, we even planned to make an entire subtitle track for this DVD, in English, so that you could just pop the DVD into your PC, turn on one a subtitling software, and enjoy the film. But that created other problems: first it was a very lengthy process, and time was something I and the people who were supposed to be involved in the project didn't have, and then there was also an ethical reason - that being the possibility that smarmy bootleggers would take the subtitles, stamp them on their products and sell them.

But the other day, when I could never expect it, an idea came to mind. I was listening to the news while playing with my PS2, using the split screen PIP (Picture in Picture) function of my TV. When I turned off the PS2, I mistakenly pressed the wrong button, which now was showing the same channel over two parts of my TV. Bling! Here's your answer: I simply ran the two DVDs using slip-screen PIP, and paused to write whatever was different. It might not be the most technologically advanced way of dealing with the difference between the two films, but it worked quite well, as it only took a couple of hours (just 15 minutes more than the feature). I basically listed anything important which was changed, omitted, reshot or moved. When I found new dialogue, I translated it. It might not work as subtitles do, but there's only about 20 lines of new dialogue in the entire film. The best thing to do would be watching the Theatrical Cut, and then this one. Not the other way around.


- 18 Version: Changes/Dialogue/Explanation (Wordpad Text File - RIGHT CLICK, SAVE AS)

AUDIO COMMENTARY with Director Kim Yong-Gyun and Director of Photography Kim Tae-Kyung

As you can expect, this is mostly a very 'technical' commentary, and you know how much I'm usually bored by that kind of commentary. But still, the director also talks about interesting things regarding the difference between the two versions, so that's what I'll focus on. I'll never understand why DPs always feature in Audio Commentaries, whereas Music directors rarely do. Anyway, here's some of the things they discussed:

- The first difference between the two versions was the music: it starts almost right off in this version. But the editing was the same. The most important thing in choosing the music for the DVD Version was to avoid the more spectacular music of the Theatrical Version, and create something a little moodier, more atmospheric (and they certainly were able to do that effectively). The scene with the ballerina coming later has actually a very strange piano piece, completely out of tune. But that was their intention. Music director Lee Byung-Woo looked out for several used pianos and found one which didn't play too well. But that dissonance creates a weird feeling which fits perfectly with the film.
- For the prologue, the director wanted something which would strike the viewers instantly, so that's why they used that subway scene. They applied DI to the shoes, to emphasize the pink colour, and also used special lenses (called Shift Lenses), usually used in CF and rarely in films, that put out of focus to the point of becoming blurry everything not.. well, on focus? This is a really hard technique for the camera operators, because the camera should move as little as possible, and when you do Steadycam shots, you know that's a hard thing to do.
- The scenes at home were perhaps the most normal lighting condition, but still, they wanted to emphasize amber tones, a kind of clean feeling, maybe too clean.
- DP Kim Tae-Kyung worked with Kim Hye-Soo already on 얼굴없는 미녀 (Hypnotized), and commented that it's a really different performance for her here, with no makeup and an image of a normal divorced woman.
- Director Kim explained that he extended a bit the scene where Seon-Jae discovers her husband's love affair to make it more effective and realistic. Also, compared to the Theatrical version, Tae-Soo actually sees the act, whereas in the other version Seon-Jae runs down the stairs to prohibit her from seeing it. He says this flows a little more nicely into the scene outside, where the two have a 'woman to woman' talk about the issue, or at least you can feel that kind of nervousness between the two about the situation.
- Director Kim talks about the biggest differences between the Theatrical cut and the DVD Version: basically that this version emphasized on the characters, while the other looks more at the shoes, at the flashback scenes explaining their role in the story, and is more interested in scaring than creating a certain atmosphere. So, basically, you go for the theatrical if you want horror, whereas this version is a little more towards the psychological thriller.
- They talked about the longer sex scene between Seon-Jae and In-Cheol. The director didn't care at all about being revealing or things like that. He just wanted to show the changes the character feels after wearing the shoes. The situation becomes more grotesque as it progresses, with the music leading this crescendo well, and the image of the woman painted on the wall showing that change as well.
- Talking about the dialogue between Seon-Jae and In-Cheol after sex, he explains why he took it off in the Theatrical version, because it didn't fit with horror-like pacing, but he also admits that taking off so many scenes drawing the personality traits of In-Cheol killed the character a bit, making his actions less effective.
- The DP jokes that he always made Kim Hye-Soo mad because he shot scenes involving her and Kim Sung-Soo in a way that would make her look short, whereas she's quite tall. It's just that Kim Sung-Soo is so tall, the difference was still big.
- Again highlighting the difference between the two versions, the director commented that a psychological thriller doesn't particularly need ghosts, so that's why there's a marked difference when it comes to supernatural appearances between the theatrical and DVD versions.
- DP Kim talked about the flashback scenes, how they had a certain halo which was removed in this version, and of course they grouped together the flashback in one or two scenes, instead of breaking into small parts. He says this was a little more effective when highlighting the drama, instead of simply creating horror-like hints for the story.
- In conclusion, they discussed the difference in finale, more or less like I explained them in the Text file above, although it obviously was more about lighting and shooting angles than the story.

분홍 구두 이야기 (Pink Shoes Story) [17:03]

I thought this would be a Making Of Documentary, but it's actually a nice collection of interviews with Kim Hye-Soo, Kim Sung-Soo and Director Kim Yong-Gyun. They start introducing the theme of the film, the fact the pink shoes have a connection with the desire, temptation and greed of women. They talk about their own characters: Kim Sung-Soo says even though he had a few regrets, he really liked the experience and the character. Then they move to the actors themselves. The director talks about Kim Hye-Soo, saying she's always considered in a certain way because of her sexy image, but she's actually a different person on set, very focused, very confident about what she wants to portray. He chose her because he feels she's a very good actress, especially when it comes to facial expressions and the nuances she conveys with those. He had good communication with her, and feels she could easily become a director.

Kim Hye-Soo talks about her acting partner Kim Sung-Soo. She says that even though he doesn't have much experience (this is only his second film), he has a good mentality on the job. He likes his energy and his drive to improve himself as an actor. She thinks he's someone who could become a great actor. In a similar way, the director praised him for quickly understanding what he wanted, and to portray it well without the need to do multiple takes. He'd like to work again with him, and thinks he's someone to look out for.

As for little Park Yeon-Ah, Kim Hye-Soo says that although there are many excellent child actors in Korea right now, she still has that special innocence and beauty of the 'normal' kid. She doesn't need to enact a certain feeling or situation, because it's still something that's inside her. She basically plays the part naturally, without forcing anything. The director was worried a lot, he even thought this film could go seriously wrong if they didn't find a good child actor to play Tae-Soo. But he instantly connected with Yeon-Ah. She had that strange charm and innocent beauty. He was surprised she liked horror films, and had fun watching them.

Kim Hye-Soo describes Director Kim as a very comfortable person to work with, someone you can easily communicate with, and is really open and honest with the cast and crew. They close with their final thoughts about the film, and the DVD.

'분홍신' 빈쥬얼 ('The Red Shoes' Visuals) [13:47]

This clip shows the various steps of production on the visual side. Song Yeon-Woo introduces all the equipment they used to transfer the analogue film into digital, with their process of digital scanning. He then talks about the different kind of techniques used in this process. Park Jin-Ho shows how they changed colour tones with DI (Digital Intermediate) and Bleach Bypass, while Before/After split screen video of the affected scenes appear. He shows how they were able to highlight the shoes even more (and also make everything else b&w), and talks about what kind of colours the director wanted - mostly shades of green. Lee Jae-Woo closes talking a bit more about DI and its effect on the final result, and the DVD transfer we got to see. The video quality of this clip is a bit on the soft side, not incredibly annoying, but when you're showing changes between a version and another, picture quality should be a little better, so you can see the big difference.

내게 찾아온 구두 (The Shoes I was Looking For) [7:17]

This is a nice little clip of... well, various things. First they show the production meeting when they presented the trailer. With a really atmospheric setting, they started with the ballerina from the film dancing with the poster of the film in the background. They showed a few seconds of the production meeting with the press, then moved to outdoor photos of the cast, and the poster shoot.

Second part of the clip is dedicated to other promotional events, like a sort of film-themed party they had at a club in Seoul, with Kim Hye-Soo and some other members of the cast, and then they showed the prosthetics on exhibition outside the Megabox Cineplex where the film had one of its VIP premiere.

The strangest bit of promotion I've seen in a while consisted in using the girl from the ad in the film (of course played by a model), and bring her around normal places like the subway. There's some priceless reactions to this barefoot 'Virgin Ghost' holding a pair of pink shoes, never showing her face ('cause it's covered by her long hair). Some people shoot photos with their cell phones, some get scared, some just ignore her. But it's inside the subway that the real weird stuff happens: an ajumma tries to look at the girl's face and she gets all uncomfortable. Then there's some people who seem really scared, and a chubby guy reading the newspaper next to the girl, not moving a muscle. Weird, but kind of fun. The same song from the Music Video is used as background music here.

뮤직비디오 (Music Video) [4:42]
[I.D. - 날 버린 널 버리네]

I'm really glad they used this song, and I actually was surprised to hear it. The Music Video is edited pretty well, but perhaps this song fits more with the DVD version rather than the theatrical one. I.D. is a new project band from Lee Byung-Woo, who's the Music Director on this film. The song is from their first album 홀 (Hole), released late last year. And it was one of most interesting of 2004, too. Mixing ethnic fusion, electronica, pansori, industrial rock together with Lee's synth guitar made for a quite creative, atmospheric album. This song is like a mix of Nine Inch Nails and Lee Seung-Yeol of U&Me Blue. And it's a great song. The album is a must buy if you're interested in this genre.

예고편 (Theatrical Trailer) [2:11]
Quite an OK Trailer actually, especially when you want to push the film's horror-specific elements. But still, it feels a little lacking. It only creates a certain atmosphere but doesn't put emphasis on the shoes or Seon-Jae, making this look like another one of those 'ghost stories.'

TV Spot [0:21]
Your usual 'horror film' styled TV Spot. Good editing, but only pushes the scares. Average.


I'd be lying if I said my first viewing of the film was anything but disappointing. Too much 'Asian horror-remake bait", not enough energy and atmosphere; too many silly ghost appearances that had very little to do with the main theme of the film, and the good acting of the leads felt somewhat chopped. But then the '18-rated' version was a discovery: atmospheric, more psychological thriller about women's inner demons than a horror flick about killer shoes, and with a marked improvement in pacing (and it's longer!), soundtrack... and most importantly energy. It also has a more satisfying finale, making Seon-Jae's actions assume a sort of social statement about the position of women in Korea. But still, the version which will be played overseas will probably be the Theatrical Version, so I feel a little regret that someone who clearly has enough talent to succeed is kept 'caged' by producers who want to target films only to the teen market, and dumb down intelligent scripts to a scarefest.

The DVD is good enough if you don't need the subtitles, since the '18-rated' version is what I consider the real film - even though reality might be different, and this could be the only way to watch the film in the future. I doubt International releases will feature it - and commentaries are good enough to redeem the lack of significant extra features. Of course all you need to do to understand the English subtitle-less 18 version is to first watch the Theatrical cut (to understand the basic story), and then maybe print out my translation of the additional dialogue. But I understand it might take the fun off of watching a film like you're used to. In that case, the DVD kind of loses most of its value. If the '18-rated' version had subtitles, I'd highly recommend this DVD, with what's one the best horror film of the season - I still like 여고괴담: 목소리 (Voice) a lot more, though. But frankly, if all you're left with is a vaguely interesting misfire and 30 minutes of extras, you can probably pass.


FILM (Theatrical): 6
FILM (18-rated): 7.5

AVERAGE (Film Rating is counted twice): 6.88

Next: Korean DVD Roundup (July~October 2005)

그때 그사람들 (The President's Last Bang)

달콤한 인생 (A Bittersweet Life)
남극일기 (Antarctic Journal)
주먹이 운다 (Crying Fist)
여자, 정혜 (This Charming Girl)
혈의 누 (Blood Rain)

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ChrisNovember 11, 2005 6:49 AM

Thanks for this review X. I'm amazed at the detail and sheer volume of it (did you also write that attachment?). I wasn't aware of a new DVD version of it and it looks like I saw the Theatrical Version with the "bleeding" main titles. I might have to make an effort to see this other version.

Superficially, Korean horror films do seem to be riding the same J-horror wave (at least to a Western audience) but I find the subtle shamanistic undercurrents (such as with "Whispering Corridors") and the "Virgin Ghost" concept is interpreted differently. I'd be interested if you had any links for further reading on the Korean Virgin Ghost as I'd like to know more about it and perhaps its connection to "han" (if any).

I thought Red Shoes (well, at least the version I saw) was a fairly straightforward and bland horror film according to the old prop-centric formula with slowly-revealed backstory (as in movies like "Dollmaster", but this time it's shoes). I wasn't even particularly bothered by the fact that it isn't wasn't scary at all as some of the best Korean horror films aren't scary (such as "Into The Mirror" for example). The ending was probably the weakest aspect of the film so I think I really need to see this other version.

Thanks again for the review, it shed some interesting and detailed perspectives on this film.

xNovember 11, 2005 7:08 AM

Yeah, I wrote the attachment. The Korean could have some grammar mistakes since I just typed what I heard (looking at Korean subtitles from where my PC was at was kind of impossible, considering my bad eyesight). But it should be pretty accurate.

As for the Virgin Ghost culture, there's a lot of reading material in Korean (books, essays, etc.), but I have no idea in English.

I found something, but it's not really much.


If you type 'Virgin Ghost' on any search engine you'll mostly get reviews of 시실리 2km (To Catch a Virgin Ghost), so not much of help.

dan dinghNovember 25, 2005 2:29 PM

ummm, if its not a bother, can someone explain the ending for me? its very confusing. i didnt really get it.

Duke SerkolMay 4, 2007 11:27 PM

The link to the rtf document is now broken. Who should we notify?