The Road to the Racetrack

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Tribute to Jang Sun-woo

The Road to the Racetrack

경마장 가는 길 (Gyeongmajang ga-neun gil)

South Korea, 1991, 138’, Korean
Directed by: Jang Sun-woo
Screenplay: Jang Sun-woo, Ha Il-ji, based on the novel by Ha Il-ji
Photography (color): Yoo Young-kil
Editing: Kim Hyun
Production Design: Kim Yoo-jun 
Music: Kim Su-cheol
Producer: Lee Tae-won
Cast: Kang Su-yeon (J), Moon Sung-keun (R), Kim Bo-yeon (R’s wife), Yoon Il-joo (R’s father), Kwon Il-jeong (R’s mother), Lee In-ok (R’s older sister)

Date of First Release in Territory:  December 21st, 1991


R (the man) is returning to Korea after studying in Paris for six years. Before going down to his wife and child in the city of Daegu, he is met at the airport by J (the woman). Several years earlier, R and J had an affair in Paris. R even wrote J’s dissertation for her. Then two years ago, J returned to Seoul where she has been teaching and doing academic work ever since.
R is resolute in his desires. He wants to divorce his working class wife, and resume his affair with J. J, for her part, is happy to meet up with R and spend time talking with him, but she doesn’t want to sleep with him. And R’s wife refuses to even consider a divorce. Thus begins an extended and awkward standoff, with R trying to talk both women into giving him what he wants, but with their situation mostly just turning in circles. 
The Road to the Racetrack is based on a 1990 novel of the same name by Ha Il-ji, which was praised by literary critics at the time for its modernist approach and its ruthless skewering of contemporary intellectuals. Jang Sun-woo says the novel intrigued him in part for its extensive use of dialogue, which came across as totally meaningless, and yet which seemed to contain so much truth. Sure enough, of all Jang Sun-woo’s films, this is the one that most fully revolves around dialogue. R uses speech as a kind of weapon, as a means of breaking down others’ resistance. J employs dialogue as a means of deflection, pushing the conversation away from what she doesn’t want to confront. As a result, their conversations keep looping around and repeating themselves, which can be exasperating for many viewers, but which seems integral to what the director hoped to achieve with this work.
Incidentally the dialogue, which is at times quite sexually explicit, also led to a struggle with the censorship. Actor Moon Sung-keun reportedly visited the censors’ office and gave an angry defense of the work, which succeeded in getting the censors’ demands lifted. Press coverage of the controversy, and some critics describing the film as “pornographic” didn’t hurt its performance at the box office, either, with the film ranking as one of the better-grossing Korean films of the year.  
In these days audiences will view The Road to the Racetrack from a somewhat different perspective, after last year’s passing of actress Kang Su-youn. This remains one of her standout performances, and she herself named this work as one of the films she was most proud of. It must surely have been a challenging role to perform, with its circular structure and unconventional narrative, but as usual, she threw herself completely into her character and left an unforgettable impression. 



Darcy Paquet
Film director: JANG Sun-woo
Year: 1991
Running time: 141'
Country: South Korea
21/04 - 02:30 PM
Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da Udine
21-04-2023 14:30 21-04-2023 16:51Europe/Rome The Road to the Racetrack Far East Film Festival Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da UdineCEC Udine