Spooks, scares and banging on the piano

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Spooks, scares and banging on the piano

Get ready for an eerie summer night, cinephiles. The Seoul Art Cinema is presenting a silent black-and-white German horror film tomorrow and Saturday at 7 p.m.
Titled “Unheimliche Special,” the screening remains true to its title, which means “strange, eerie and scary” in German. Park Chang-soo, one of few free-music artists here, will accompany the film’s first screening in Korea with a live piano performance.
“Unheimliche Geschichten” (Eerie Tales) is the 1919 work by the German actor-turned-director Richard Oswald, who also remade the film as a talkie in 1932. As a legendary figure in early German cinema, Oswald has influenced directors such as Fritz Lang.
When the film first opened, it earned both box office success and critical acclaim. The original print of the 1919 “Eerie Tales” had been missing until 2000, when a negative of the film was found at a French cinema. After a two-year effort, the film was restored in 2002.
“Eerie Tales” tells five short stories in German with Korean subtitles. The authors include the director himself, Edgar Allan Poe and Robert Louis Stevenson. The film opens in a static, rundown bookstore. Out of a picture hung on the wall, a god of death, a devil and a courtesan step out. They walk around the bookstore and read books that tell strange and ominous stories, starting with “Illusion” by Anselma Heine, about a man who returns to his hotel room late at night to find his girlfriend missing. As the man searches for his lover, all the other guests tell him he was by himself from the beginning.
Then the film moves on to “The Hand” by Robert Liebmann, about the hand of a murdered man that haunts the man who killed him.
The next segment is Mr. Poe’s beloved classic, “Black Cat,” then Mr. Stevenson’s “Suicide Club,” which provides viewers with an interesting plot twist.
The last segment, written by Mr. Oswald, is titled “Ghost,” and involves a couple who team up to scare a womanizing friend by way of ghost stories.
The pianist Mr. Park is noted for his avant-garde style of free, impromptu music, more acclaimed outside Korea than at home. For this screening, Mr. Park says he won’t watch the film beforehand, in order to be faithful to his impressions of the moment. Nobody, least of all Mr. Park himself, has any idea of what kind of performance it’s going to be.
So get ready; the god of death will take you to the world of black-and-white horror, with an avant-garde pianist along for the ride.


by Chun Su-jin

Tickets cost 10,000 won ($9), which can be purchased in advance through the Web at www.maxmovie.com or www.movieok.co.kr. Seoul Art Cinema is best reached from Anguk Station on subway line No. 3. Take exit 1 and walk about 10 minutes in the direction of Jeongdok Library. For more information, call (02) 720-9782 or visit the Web site at: www.cinematheque.seoul.kr.
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