[FOUNTAIN]Don’t believe the hypeIn 1997, the German movie “Shocking Asia” got an uncommon release in Korea for a documentary. The 1975 film was presented to Korean audiences more than two decades after it was made, and not many people expected it to be a box office hit because it mostly contains gruesome and disgusting scenes, including an unedited transgender surgery.
How could such an appalling film attract so many viewers? It had stimulated curiosity. However, the media called the movie provocative, lascivious and racist, and film industry insiders said the media criticism actually fanned the curiosity even more.
Media criticism has often produced unlikely hits. “Sex and Zen,” a sex comedy from Hong Kong, opened in 1995 and attracted 400,000 viewers. The words used to criticize the film, such as “obscene,” “indecent,” “low class” and “unethical,” actually functioned as a magnet for the audience. The play “Miranda” started a controversy for its obscenity when it premiered in 1994. While it was condemned as “cultural trash,” the seats were sold out. Some promoters would seek media criticism about a controversial scene. It could be considered a marketing tactic.
The latest and most intense controversy over a work of art is Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code.” The novel evolves around an assumption that Mary Magdalene married Jesus and had his daughter, and it called for a debate on whether the book was sacrilegious. Since the novel was made into a movie last year, “The Da Vinci Code” has become public enemy No. 1 of the Vatican and the Episcopal Church.
Before the worldwide release of the film on May 18, Christian and Catholic groups around the world sought to ban the screening. While Korean Christians applied for a provisional injunction to ban parts of the film, the authorities rejected the request.
However, the controversy is only helping publicize the book and the film. The locations, characters and artwork featured in the story, such as the Louvre Museum, Leonardo da Vinci, the Mona Lisa, are gaining even greater popularity. The criticism created a fuss, and the fuss called for curiosity and the curiosity attracted audiences.
Singaporean authorities have resolved the controversy from a different angle. The film has been rated to be available for those over 16 years, since they are old enough to distinguish fact from fiction. After all, movies are only movies. It is about time that we get over the controversy and evaluate the cinematic value of the film.
by Chae In-taek
The writer is a deputy international news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.