[Vol. 20 No. 2] DESIRING FROM A DISTANCE: CINEMATIC THEATRICALITY AND SOUTH KOREA’S COLD WAR GAZE IN MADAME FREEDOM (1956)
|Title||DESIRING FROM A DISTANCE: CINEMATIC THEATRICALITY AND SOUTH KOREA’S COLD WAR GAZE IN MADAME FREEDOM (1956)|
Vol. 20, No. 2
pp. 349~376 (all 28 pages)
Madame Freedom, Cold War South Korea, Cinematic Theatricality, Gaze, Female Dancing Body
Han Hyŏng-mo’s Madame Freedom (Chayu puin, 1956) is often overshadowed by Chŏng Pi-sŏk’s novel of the same title, which provoked public debates about representations of the moral decadence and practices of individual freedom of the upper class after the Korean War. Shifting critical attention from its relation to the original literary work to its cinematic achievements, this article elucidates how the particular mode of address intervenes in the spectator’s viewing experience. I first propose the concept of “cinematic theatricality,” which I coin from theatricality, but the concept goes beyond its association with the theater and theatrical performance, to discuss the display–spectator relationship that the film suggests. Second, I explore the political implications of the cultural Otherness of female dancing bodies by investigating public discussions of social dance in the 1950s. Finally, closely analyzing ‘Madame Freedom’ Sŏn-yŏng’s gaze and the gazes upon her, I demonstrate how the film encourages the spectator to become aware of the act of viewing while creating a distance between the spectator and the displayed. I argue that by exploring cinematic theatricality, Madame Freedom invites the spectator to observe the gendered and ethnocultural gaze that emerged in mid-1950s South Korea and the attempt of the Cold War mechanism to place the individual body and desire under surveillance.