Girls and Dolls - The Many Faces of Bae Doo-na SNOWPIERCER Stays Uncut but Release Downsized Review: THE ATTORNEY MKC's Coverage of Korea's Berlinale Lineup Top 10 Korean Films of 2013

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

News: Korean Films At Melbourne International Film Festival 2014

By Hieu Chau

Australian fans of Korean cinema have much to be excited about as some of MKC's favourite films of the past year will be featured at this year's Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF).

As part of MIFF's yearly Accent on Asia program, organisers have selected four South Korean features for the annual film event: A Girl At My Door, A Hard Day, Han Gong-Ju and Our Sunhi.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

News: A GIRL AT MY DOOR acquired by UK's Peccadillo Pictures

By Hieu Chau

After an impressive showing at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, July Jung’s film, A Girl At My Door (Doheeya), has been picked up by independent UK distributor Peccadillo Pictures, according to Screen Daily.

Competing in the Un Certain Regard section of Cannes, the film stars MKC favourite Bae Doo-na and Kim Sae-ron, with acclaimed auteur Lee Chang-dong serving as producer.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Cannes 2014 Review: A HARD DAY Is Easy-to-Love Genre Cinema

By Pierce Conran

If you feel that tough genre fare in Korea has been spinning its wheels of late, you're not alone. While generally well made, the élan of yesteryear's hardboiled Korean thrillers has recently been replaced by a growing sense of familiarity and an alarming whiff of complacency. There have been exceptions, but by and large those have come from name directors afforded more creative freedom in an industry dominated by financiers unwilling to give new talent much autonomy. Things started to look a little better last year with the release of Cold Eyes and Hide and Seek and bucking the trend once more is A Hard Day, a terrific new mid-level genre offering that was invited to the Director's Fortnight sidebar at Cannes this year.

Homicide detective Gun-soo, late for his mother's funeral, drives on an empty road when an obstacle suddenly appears before him. He swerves out of the way just in time but as soon as he steers back into the lane his windshield connects with a grown man. Faced with a dead body on the side of the road, Gun-soo's survival instincts kick in and he tries to cover his tracks. With his options limited and time running out, he opts to hide the body in his mother's coffin. Just when he thinks he's in the clear, he gets an ominous call from a man who seems to have been following his every move.

A dark road, a cop and a dead body at night - A Hard Day sets a familiar stage and wastes no time as it fervently barrels forward, building intrigue and suspense through an avalanche of clever cause and effect. Things escalate quickly for Gun-soo and the circumstances he finds himself in echo well-worn genre tropes, particularly concerning Korean cinema, but the sheer energy of the pacing and the cleverly engineered plot machinations create an involving mystery that is undeniably fresh despite its familiarity.

Director Kim Seong-hun first wielded the megaphone back in 2006, for the dramedy How the Lack of Love Affects Two Men but it took him until now to return to the director's chair. Not for lack of trying mind you, as he has been aiming to make A Hard Day for a number of years, and by his own admission, he had plenty of time to hone his sophomore script during this lengthy interval. Perhaps this long wait was a blessing in disguise as the single element that makes A Hard Day stand out the most is its sterling scripting.

Rarely has a Korean screenplay been so taut and well paced. While Kim does not attempt anything new (a decision that likely benefited his search for financial backing) his perspicacious approach to genre filmmaking yields significant dividends. Kim wrings constant tension and mystery out of his story by arranging plot strands and revelations in such a way that is unencumbered by dull moments. A Hard Day may be a dark and clever thriller but it also leaves plenty of room for smartly inserted morbid humor. A ringing phone in the mother's coffin and a parking announcement outside the funeral parlor, which recalls a similar scene in Bong Joon Ho's The Host (2006), are just some of the moments that introduce levity while also ratcheting up the tension another notch.

Leading the cast is Lee Sun-gyun, one of the few Korean actors who seems as comfortable in TV dramas and commercial fare as he does in arthouse cinema, such as his frequent collaborations with Hong Sangsoo. Lee possesses a unusual quality that makes him seem both confident and awkward, or approachable and arrogant, at the same time. Early on, Gun-soo is implicated in police corruption (his guilt is never cast in doubt) and throughout the film he makes a number of questionable decisions. Yet there is still something endearing about this character. He is a hapless product of his society who tries to handles situations in the only way he knows how, which is impulsively and without too much concern for anyone beside himself. Lee is one of the few actors that could navigate this careful balance and still tease out some empathy.

More revelatory is Cho Jin-woong, the supporting star of many recent Korean films (Nameless Gangster, Hwayi) who shares top billing here for the first time. He may not spend as much time on screen as Gun-soo, but Cho's villain is charismatic and oozes an aura of menace that even bleeds into the scenes he does not appear in. At first we are introduced to him on the phone and Cho's undulating and unnerving voice immediately signals the presence of a redoubtable antagonist.

A Hard Day announces itself formidably with an invigorating and gripping first act. Well shot and carefully staged, Kim needles an unusually taut thriller for modestly budgeted commercial Korean cinema. While it doesn't end quite as well as it begins or possess the subversive qualities to put it in league with the likes of Memories of Murder (2003) or The Chaser (2008), it stands as one of the best pieces of genre filmmaking to emerge from Korea in half a decade.

Reviews and features on Korean film appear regularly on Modern Korean Cinema.  For film news, external reviews, and box office analysis, take a look at the Korean Box Office UpdateKorean Cinema News and the Weekly Korean Reviews, which appear weekly on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings (Korean Standard Time).

To keep up with the best in Korean film you can sign up to our RSS Feed, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Cannes 2014 Review: A GIRL AT MY DOOR Is Korean Cinema At Its Finest

By Pierce Conran

Screening in the Cannes Film Festival's Un Certain Regard section this year is A Girl at My Door, a film that is so well-wrought that one can't help but be swept up in its artistry, which effortlessly plunges us into an intellectual reverie. The film features the return of Bae Doo-na, following back-to-back Hollywood blockbusters, and teenage actress Kim Sae-ron. It also boasts Lee Chang-dong as a producer, whose influence over the film will not go unnoticed.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Review: Lee Jang-ho's Mysterious and Magnificent THE MAN WITH THREE COFFINS

By Pierce Conran

Though oppressed by Chung Doo-hwan's administration throughout much of the decade, the Korean film industry was nevertheless able to produce some remarkable films in the 1980s. However, for all their social gravitas and literary refinement, rarely was it the case that films from this period were praised for their technical achievements. Classics from this time such as The Ball Shot by a Midget (1981), The Oldest Son (1985) and Chilsu and Mansu (1988) shone a sober and somber light on the nation's dark social realities but few sought to experiment with the medium. However, this past Sunday, following a special screening at the Korean Film Archive (KOFA), I discovered that within all the weighty and poignant films of the era, there were indeed some people attempting to redefine the boundaries of cinema.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Review: Strong Scenes Doth Not a Narrative Make in Genre-Hopping COMMITMENT

By Pierce Conran

Following on from this year's Secretly Greatly, another action-drama featuring Korean idols playing young North Korean spies who stay undercover in the south only to be targeted by their homeland, Commitment announces itself as a medley of genres, as commonly witnessed in commercial Korean film. Both works hail from Korean studio Showbox, but while Secretly Greatly starts out as a neighborhood comedy-drama, this new effort reserves its opening beats strictly for the thriller genre.

After his father's failed mission in the South, Myung-hoon and his sister are sent to a prison camp in North Korea. Accepting his own mission as an undercover spy to protect his sister from further harm, Myung-hoon infiltrates the south, where he poses as a high school student. He ends up helping a bullied girl in his school while going out interrogating people to learn what happened to his father during his free time. Soon his government learns what he is up to and sends someone to kill him.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Review: Bat-Swinging Gorilla Feature MR GO Is Hit and Miss

By John A. Riley

The premise of Mr Go is that a trained gorilla from China becomes a major league baseball star in South Korea. On paper, this sounds like one of the parodic Troy McLure vehicles from The Simpsons. Mr. Go does indeed paint in broad strokes, seeking wide appeal. It’s a rare Korean film, and is also a co-production with China.

Monday, March 10, 2014

News: HAN GONG-JU Picks Up Three Awards At Deauville Asian Film Festival

By Patryk Czekaj

There's no stopping Han Gong-ju, a little South Korean indie that's taking the film festival circuit by storm. Since its world premiere at the Busan International Film Festival last October, Lee Su-jin's debut feature has won many awards at major film festivals around the world, starting with the Citizen Reviewers' and CGV Movie Collage Award on native soil, at the aforementioned BIFF.

Friday, March 7, 2014

News: SNOWPIERCER Alert! Mark Your Calendars for June 27th

By Pierce Conran

Snowpiercer is finally getting a stateside release. The internet is saying June 27th but CJ Entertainment is telling me June, with no day fixed as of yet. If it does open on the 27th it will have to contend with the new Transformers film (and my birthday). As previously reported the film will be screened uncut but rolled out in limited release. However, as The Weinstein Company will release through their label Radius-TWC it may well become available on VOD at the same time.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

News: Jeon Do-yeon And Kim Yoon-seok In Talks for New Lee Yoon-ki Film

By Rex Baylon

For those Korean film fans that have an affinity for quiet settings and slightly damaged female characters, the films of Lee Yoon-ki have acted as cinematic catnip. Having made a reputation for himself in the film festival circuit for Rohmerian style dramas featuring female protagonists muted by some tragic event in the past the director has been off the radar since 2011 after the release of his fourth feature, Come Rain Come Shine. There have been various rumors about forthcoming projects and though none have added up to much news has surfaced that award-winning actress Jeon Do-yeon (Secret Sunshine, 2007; Happy End, 1999) and superstar Kim Yoon-seok (Thieves, 2012; The Chaser, 2008) are in talks to star in Lee’s fifth feature, titled A Man and a Woman.

Produced by b.o.m Film with an agreement by CJ Entertainment to distribute the finished picture, the new project would reunite Lee with Jeon after their 2008 collaboration My Dear Enemy, which played at several festivals around the world and became a critical darling. The only thing confirmed about the script is that the film will focus on the passionate relationship of middle-aged lovers. Of course, all this pondering on the plot will be moot if the two actors can’t reach an agreement with Lee and the producers.

Though Jeon and Kim have shown strong interest in working with Lee on this project both actors already have full schedules this year with Jeon Do-yeon appearing with Lee Byung-heon in the period drama Memories of the Sword and Kim Yoon-seok pulling double duty on Sea Fog and the upcoming Tazza sequel.

Reviews and features on Korean film appear regularly on Modern Korean Cinema.  For film news, external reviews, and box office analysis, take a look at the Korean Box Office UpdateKorean Cinema News and the Weekly Korean Reviews, which appear weekly on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings (Korean Standard Time).

To keep up with the best in Korean film you can sign up to our RSS Feed, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Review: HORROR STORIES 2 Slightly Improves Upon Its Predecessor

By Patryk Czekaj

At first glance, Horror Stories 2 looks like a more mature and self-conscious version of the original film. Though the chapters are still uneven and often come close to being simply absurd, the directors seem aware of the predecessors’ mistakes and ultimately create a gripping and penetrating atmosphere of terror, grounding their visions both in dreams and in a three-dimensional reality. This clarifies the structure of all the segments and gives them a much-needed touch of intrigue. Less cheap thrills based on jumps scares and nonsensical gore material makes Horror Stories 2 a serviceable allegory for the soul and its journey towards redemption.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Review: THE BOOMERANG FAMILY Swings For Your Heart

By Rex Baylon

The concept and role of family has gone through several evolutions in the history of man. At first being just an institution for the birthing and raising of offspring. Back than, it took, as the old saying goes, a whole village to raise a child. As populations increased and values shifted away from group think into a more individualistic mode the definition of family became more constrained.