Ieodo [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - South Korea - Korean Film Archive/Blue Kino
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (25th August 2018).
The Film

"Ieodo" <이어도> (1977)

A South Korean tourism company is planning an extravagant event of opening a new hotel on Jeju Island, named the Ieodo Hotel. Seonwoo Hyun (played by Kim Jeong-cheol) is the PR executive and during an organized event on a boat heading to the island, the journalist Chun Nam-seok (played by Choi Yoon-seok) fiercely objects to the naming of the hotel, calling it sacrilege to name it after Ieodo Island - a mythical island which takes the souls of men who come near it. After a night of heavy drinking on the boat, the crew discover that Chun has mysteriously vanished and Seonwoo is accused of murder. To clear his name from any wrongdoing, he finds information about Chun including his birthplace - the isolated island of Parang, and set to go to the island to clear his name and to find what the mystery is about the supposed Ieodo island. An island surrounded by mystery with its isolated ideals and traditions, it's certain that Seonwoo may not return to the mainland as the same man as he was before...

Director Kim Ki-young continued to shock and disturb audiences in South Korea with films such as "The Housemaid", "Goryeojang", and "The Insect Woman", the films were commercial successes as well as critically acclaimed. Kim was not afraid to confront sexuality, promiscuity, violence, revenge, and the complexities of human relationships through his works, many times with disturbing visuals and stories in the process. For 1977's "Ieodo" the film is does not have a straightforward narrative like many of his previous works. It is filled with flashbacks, flashbacks within flashbacks, and many mysteriously unexplained details that may leave more questions for the audience than answers the film provides. While at times it may be hard to follow in its unusual structure and the bizarreness of the setting where rural rituals and customs are the centerpiece, it does follow along the lines in mood and themes as "The Wicker Man" (1973) and "Profound Desires of the Gods" (1968). Both films take place on rural islands with ritualistic cultlike worshippers, have a suspenseful cloud overshadowing the central characters who come from the mainland, and deep secrets that intoxicate as well as give shock. The same also applies in "Ieodo". Seonwoo Hyun's arrival on the island is filled with wonder but at the same time fear for himself with the uncomfortable nature being an outsider and being the prime suspect and is equal to the eyes of the viewer who enters the rural island world.

Being an island mostly of women as the men are mostly sent off to the mainland for work, the sexual tension between the male outsider and the females on the island is undeniable, and it is bound to get only more bizarre further on in the story. Without too many spoilers the most talked about and most disturbing scene in the movie is the fairly graphic necrophilia scene which involves shoving a long nail into a dead man's penis, which may be the only studio film whether in South Korea or elsewhere to show such an image uncensored. It may be one shocking moment, but there are quite a few disturbing and uncomfortable scenes especially with the female Shaman (played by Park Jeong-ja) that lead up to the scene for a fully shocking effect. In addition to her, the barmaid (played by Lee Hwa-si) also plays a complex role as the torn apart woman on the island and her actions toward Seonwoo both questionable and fascinating. The film's female roles are the most complex with their characters which is something that the director frequently explores, while the male roles are almost one dimensional faces. Flashbacks do give some insight into Chun Nam-seok before his disappearance such as his life as a child on the island, his failed attempt at fishing, his decision to leave the island and become a journalist, but overall this is a film about women, the roles of women, and women's control of men consciously and subconsciously through life... as well as after life.

Adapted from the novel of the same name written by Lee Chung-Joon, the script was rewritten quite heavily by Kim along with screenwriter Ha Yu-sang and while it derides from the book in many areas which was common for stories Kim adapted for screen, leaving a distinct Kim Ki-young touch. "Ieodo" was not as big or successful as the director's previous efforts. Interestingly the aforementioned controversial scene was censored from the South Korean theatrical release in 1977, but the uncensored version was apparently exported to Japan. Ironically the scene would have been censored with optical blurring if it were theatrically screened in Japan, but the original element was luckily saved and has been restored for South Korean audiences by the Korean Film Archive. The film was given a DVD release for the first time in 2008 by the Korean Film Archive in the "Kim Ki-young Collection". In 2012 the film was uploaded to the KOFA YouTube channel. The film has been restored for a high definition transfer, and now released on Blu-ray by the Korean Film Archive in 2018 for future audiences in a very nicely packaged edition. But has the restoration been worth the effort...?

Note this is a region ALL Blu-ray

Video

The Korean Film Archive/Blue Kino presents the film in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio in 1080p in the AVC MPEG-4 codec. The film was originally released on DVD with the "Kim Ki-young Collection" in 2008, which has some issues. Not being restored, the film was plagued with dust, specs, and splice marks, but was actually one of the better transferred films by KOFA at the time on DVD. For the Blu-ray edition, the film went through a restoration process to remove much of the damage as showcased in the restoration featurette on the disc, but overall the results of the transfer is less than pleasing.

When someone said "Ieodo on Blu", did someone mistake that as putting a blue/grey filter on the image entirely? Because the film looks blue. Unnaturally blue. Some characters' grey hair looks blue, skin tones look pale, green grass looks closer to teal, and looks nothing like the DVD edition which was a little dark but at least looked fine with the unfiltered image. There are a few scenes here and there on the Blu-ray that are NOT hampered with the blue filter but there are very few like that. As for damage repair, most of the specs and splice marks have been removed, but not as well as one would hope for. Some scenes look like there is constant rain of where the scratches were before and digitally removed and leaving a faint trace of the digital artifacts. The overall image looks slightly blurry for many of the scenes, making this a less than desirable transfer. Though on the positive side there are some scenes with much brighter and more vibrant colors in comparison and the framing is good, keeping the original ratio.

The film's runtime on the Blu-ray is 111:54, which has about 30 seconds of black screen at the end due to one of the commentary tracks continuing longer.

Audio

Korean LPCM 2.0 mono
The original Korean mono track sounds fair, with hisses, pops, and other damage that were audible on the DVD edition removed. It's a fairly clean audio track with music, effects, and dialogue well balanced, though note as with almost all Korean productions of the time period, dialogue was post-synced, so mouths may be slightly off if closely inspected on some scenes.

There are optional English, Japanese, Korean subtitles for the film, all in a white font. The English subtitles are very good, and much improved from the DVD edition which was riddled with spelling and grammar mistakes. The new English translation is excellent.

Extras

Audio commentary by film critic Chung Sung-il
In this newly recorded commentary for the Blu-ray, Chung gives basically a lecture throughout the runtime. He discusses the original novel and the legend, Kimís trademarks in the film from sexuality to violence, the uses of flashbacks, and also asks many questions to the viewers rather than just pointing out answers. He admits that the film is not a masterpiece in his eyes, but acknowledge s that it is an important and very bizarre film in Korean cinema. The English subtitles have a few spelling errors in translation.
in Korean Dolby Digital 2.0 with optional English and Korean subtitles

Audio commentary by film critic Kim Young-jin and film director Oh Seung-uk
In this vintage commentary, the critic and the filmmaker discuss about the film's background, their thoughts seeing it the first time and their experiences, comparisons to other films, the underlying themes, and much more. This commentary was originally recorded for the DVD release of the film in 2008. Although the commentary was available with English subtitles on the DVD, the subtitle track has not been ported to the Blu-ray leaving this as an extra for Korean audiences only.
in Korean Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Interview with actress Lee Hwa-si (25:05)
In this new interview with Lee, she discusses about the film, it's legacy, her co-stars, the director, and some behind the scenes stories including some dangerous happenings. She also discusses about her childhood, working with Kim Ki-young on her first film "Love of Blood Relations" (1976), as well as her thoughts on Kim's other films.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in Korean Dolby Digital 2.0 with optional English and Korean subtitles

GV Clip 1 - Q&A with actress Lee Hwa-si and film director Jeong Beom-sik (64:50)
This Q&A with the actress moderated by the filmmaker on June 22 2008 at the Korean Film Archive, a few months before the release of the Kim Ki-young Collection on DVD. Unfortunately it does not include English subtitles.
in 480i MPEG-2, in 1.33:1, in Korean Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

GV Clip 2 - Q&A with actress Park Jeong-ja and film critic Lee Yeon-ho (52:31)
Another Q&A from the Korean Film Archive is presented here, this one took place on June 26, 2008. Again, there are no English subtitles for this extra.
in 480i MPEG-2, in 1.33:1, in Korean Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

"Digital Restoration: Before/After" featurette (2:07)
A short comparison of scenes from the film showcasing the damage seen in the original scanned film element and the restored film. There is some text accompaniment in Korean and English at the starts but there is no narration or sound for further explanation.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1

Image Gallery
A series of 15 stills of behind the scenes black and white shots along with a set of promotional theatrical stills in color.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4

Trailer (3:51)
The original Korean trailer is presented from a standard definition source. There is narration for the trailer but it seems to be missing the text layer.
in 480i MPEG-2, in windowboxed 2.35:1, in Korean Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Book
A 40 page book is included with the set, with text in both English and Korean. There are cast and crew credits, a synopsis, the director's statement, a biography and filmography of Kim Ki-young, an essay, and stills. The multi-part essay "One Story" by film critic Lee Yeon-ho discusses how Kim was basically making one type of film again and again dealing with perverse issues and challenging audiences as well as himself, the stricter times in Korean cinema in the 1970s, and more.

Complete Screenplay
A reproduction of the complete script measuring 1.2 cm in thickness with about 240 pages is also included. The unused English title "On Bluefish Island" is printed on the cover while the rest of the text inside and out is in Korean.

Packaging

The Blu-ray is housed in a standard clear keepcase, which also holds 3 postcards with stills from the film. The keep case, the book, and the screenplay are housed in a slip box. The box is labeled #11 as this is the eleventh Blu-ray release by the Korean Film Archive.

Overall

"Ieodo" is an undeniable masterpiece in director Kim Ki-young's lengthy career. Filled with suspense and creepiness as well as one of the most shocking and disturbing sex scenes in all of Korean cinema - or cinema altogether, it is one for audiences across generations. With the extensive extras and very nice package, it is unfortunate the Korean Film Archive's Blu-ray has a questionable restoration with the image on this edition.

Embedded below is the film in whole on YouTube, courtesy of the Korean Film Archive YouTube channel, which does not use the new restoration.

The Film: A Video: C- Audio: B+ Extras: B Overall: C+

 


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