Aimless Bullet

Director: Yu Hyun-mok

1961. English subtitles. Black and white. 110 min.

Voted the best ever Korean film in a 1999 critics’ poll, Yu Hyun-mok’s 1960 masterpiece Aimless Bullet was banned for several years because of its unflinching critique of a post-war society in turmoil. The chief protagonist, Chul-ho, has work as a junior accountant but struggles as the sole provider for an extended family that includes a senile mother, a frail wife who may not survive a new pregnancy, a brother who won’t work, two young children, and a sister who becomes a prostitute to American soldiers. A toothache that tortures Chul-ho throughout the film acts as a powerful metaphor for the larger suffering of both his family and society as a whole. The beleaguered Chul-ho’s attempts to solve his problems and escape from the nightmare of his existence are doomed to failure. He is the stray bullet of the title, one of the lost generation of the 1960s.

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