Review: Bleak And Gripping, HAEMOO Prizes Character Over Spectacle Review: Strong Effects Play Second Fiddle to Patriotism in ROARING CURRENTS Review: Cool KUNDO: AGE OF THE RAMPANT Has Some Swagger In Its Step Review: Lame Leads Sink THE PIRATES Top 10 Korean Films of 2013

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Busan 2014 Review: THE TRUTH SHALL NOT SINK WITH SEWOL Invokes Tears And Outrage


Part of MKC's coverage of the 19th Busan International Film Festival

By Pierce Conran

The Sewol Disaster, the most significant event to rock South Korea since the IMF Crisis in 1997, gets its first big screen treatment with The Truth Shall Not Sink With Sewol, the first of what are sure to be many documentaries exploring the subject. Rather than offer an overview of the event and the many issues plaguing Korean society it uncovered, this film from Lee Sang-ho and Ahn Hae-ryong wisely examines only a small portion of the incident. Yet even the narrow avenue it walks uncovers a mountain of upsetting truths concerning the conduct of government and the press during the immediate aftermath of the sinking.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Busan 2014 Review: PARALLEL Means Well But Lacks Drive


Part of MKC's coverage of the 19th Busan International Film Festival

By Pierce Conran

The heart-warming story of a disabled ice hockey team's journey to the World Championships, Korean documentary Parallel is a testament to perseverance and passion in the face of adversity. However, at 70 minutes and with an all too easy to digest narrative structure, the doc is a well-meaning one that lacks both filmmaking pizazz and a deeper core.

Busan 2014 Review: FACTORY COMPLEX, An Artful Look At Korea's Beleaguered Workforce


Part of MKC's coverage of the 19th Busan International Film Festival

By Pierce Conran

It's no secret that workers are subjected to punishing conditions and constant humiliation in Korea, a country that has made the news recently for having the longest work hours and yet the least productivity among all OECD nations. New documentary Factory Complex, through a mixture of earnest interviews and juxtaposed, mood-setting shots, offers an involving perspective on the issue, which subtlety invokes the larger issues at play, such as how people treat each other in a highly hierarchical and patriarchal society.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Busan 2014 Review: VENUS TALK Drowns Out Despite Strong Female Stars


Part of MKC's coverage of the 19th Busan International Film Festival

By Pierce Conran

As a fan of Moon So-ri and production company Myung Films, I felt that I should be excited about Venus Talk, their first collaboration since Im Sang-soo’s excellent A Good Lawyer’s Wife (2003). But on the other hand, with its middle-aged female cast and heavy Sex and the City parallels, I was never this film’s intended audience. Given the lack of strong female roles in today’s Korean film industry, I’m glad to see a major film like this come along but that still doesn’t mean this particular offering held much appeal for me.

Busan 2014 Review: Action Thriller THE TARGET Misses the Mark


Part of MKC's coverage of the 19th Busan International Film Festival

By Pierce Conran

Normally we read about which new Korean thriller has had its remake rights snatched up by a Hollywood studio (news which invariably leads to a fervent chorus of opposition among Korean film fans) but these days we're starting to see an increasing amount of major Korean releases based on overseas properties. If we discount Japan, recent Korean films based upon foreign films include the 2012 romcom All About My Wife (based on the 2008 Argentine film Un novio para mi mujer) and last summer's surveillance thriller Cold Eyes (based on the Johnny To-producer HK feature Eye in the Sky from 2007). Following in their footsteps is the action-thriller The Target, this time based on 2010's Point Blank from France.

Busan 2014 Review: HILL OF FREEDOM Proves A Pleasant But Slight Slice From Hong Sangsoo


Part of MKC's coverage of the 19th Busan International Film Festival

By Pierce Conran

It's easy to accuse Hong Sangsoo of doing the same thing over and over again as each of his films revisit the same themes with similar characters, situations and locations. Such a reading can easily miss the point of his constant repetition, which cleverly lays bare the hypocrisy and narcissism of the characters that populate his output. Yet with his latest work, the particularly laid back jaunt Hill of Freedom, the director seems to have less to say than usual. However, with deliberately simple dialogue (in English) and an uncomplicated narrative, as well as a very brief 67-minute running time, the director also appears to be in a playful mood.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Busan 2014 Review: The Beauty Of THE FATAL ENCOUNTER Is Only Skin Deep


Part of MKC's coverage of the 19th Busan International Film Festival

By Pierce Conran

Following a slow few months, commercial Korean cinema returns to the spotlight with The Fatal Encounter, the first of the many period blockbusters that will inundate local theaters through to the end of summer. Following in the footsteps of the 2012 period blockbuster Masquerade (2012), The Fatal Encounter casts a major heartthrob (Hyun Bin) as a king in a tale of royal palace intrigue.

Busan 2014 Review: LIVE TV Showcases Misogyny And Bad Filmmaking


Part of MKC's coverage of the 19th Busan International Film Festival

By Pierce Conran

Found footage horror and digital age social themes combine to disastrous effect in the lamentable and stunningly offensive Live TV, a midnight film at Busan that'll make you wish you'd turned in early.

Busan 2014 Review: The Vengeful Ripples of Bong Joon Ho’s MOTHER


Originally part of MKC's Revenge Week (July 8-14, 2013), this article is reposted in light of its new B&W print being screened at the 19th Busan International Film Festival. Though the new version is not discussed here, I can say that one of my favorite Korean films is now even better!

Outside of a few clear candidates, pinpointing revenge films isn’t quite as easy as it seems. Case in point is Bong Joon-ho’s Mother (2009). When I first considered it, I hesitated, but after watching it again this past weekend, it became clear that this is a film teeming with revenge, yet not for the reasons that I had at first considered.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Busan 2014 Review: DOES CUCKOO CRY AT NIGHT, A Simple But Well Told Parable


Part of MKC's coverage of the 19th Busan International Film Festival

By Pierce Conran

Playing alongside the 50-odd new Korean films playing at Busan this year is a retrospective of the work of Jung Jin-woo, a prolific director and producer active from the 1960s to the 80s. Known as a purveyor of social melodramas highlighting separation anxieties after the Korean War, Jung switched gears in later in his career, when he began to look at the plight of women in his country. Kicking off this chapter in his filmography was 1980's Does Cuckoo Cry at Night, a simple parable with a restrained yet evocative style.

Busan 2014 Review: Strong Effects Play Second Fiddle to Patriotism in ROARING CURRENTS


Part of MKC's coverage of the 19th Busan International Film Festival

By Pierce Conran

When making films based on significant milestones in a country’s history, nationalism can be a great asset in a filmmaker’s arsenal but it’s also a tool that must be handled carefully, as too much patriotic bombast can mar an otherwise captivating story. Alas, the new period epic Roaring Currents, which chronicles one of Korea’s most famed victorious, falls into that category. Formidable effects and a fascinating historical event, akin to a Korean version of 300 on boats, plays second fiddle to sensationalized heroism in this epic war reenactment.

Busan 2014 Review: TIMING Mixes Overstuffed Narrative And Plain Animation


Part of MKC's coverage of the 19th Busan International Film Festival

By Pierce Conran

Popular webtoonist Kang Full has become a big name in Korean film over the last few years following the success of features based on his work, such as BA:BO (2008), Late Blossom (2011), Neighbors (2012), and 26 Years (2012). At this year's Busan International Film Festival, Kang's work gets the animated treatment for the very first time with Timing, a film firmly planted in the supernatural and brimming with ideas but undercut by sketchy execution.