Tuesday, January 31, 2012

How Korean Cinema Fared on 2011's Year-end Lists

Top 10 or end-of-year lists are one of my great guilty pleasures.  I know that ultimately they don't really mean very much and are guaranteed to be subjective, arbitrary, and divisive.  Yet I am always eager to discover other people's lists come year's end.  To see how my favorites films fared, to discover some things I may have missed and to generally scrutinize the palaver of this enduring critic's ritual.

I thought it would be fun to see how Korean films did on 2011's lists, if only to see what and how many Korean films generated international attention.  So I went ahead and tracked down every list I could find which featured a Korean film.  I found 70, including 7 which only considered Korean cinema, a pretty solid number which is spread over an impressive array of worldwide broadsheets, film websites, and a panoply of blogs.  I was also surprised to see over 30 films make it onto these diverse lists, a reflection of the depth of Korean cinema, from thrillers, horrors, and action films, all the way to melodramas and a large selection of low-budget indies.

The results of this ranking are in no way supposed to reflect some sort of objective standpoint of the best Korean films of last year.  For one thing, only a handful of films got any decent kind of exposure in the west and they were by and large 2010 releases.  Some of 2011's best films were only featured on a smattering of lists as they have not really been seen outside of Korea.  As I've said this is just a little bit of fun!

The system used for the below ranking is very simple.  1 point for making it onto a top 10 list (or the odd top 11), 2 points for a top 5 finish, and 3 points for taking first place.  The lists are available below, divided into Korean-only and international lists.  If you are aware of anything I've missed by all means let me know either here, on twitter, or by e-mailing me at pierceconran [at] gmail [dot] com.

How Korean Cinema Fared on 2011's Year-end Lists

1. Poetry (53)
2. I Saw the Devil (34)
3. The Yellow Sea (17)
4. Sunny (12)
5. The Day He Arrives (10)
6. The Journals of Musan (9)
7. Bleak Night (8)
8. Silenced (5)
9. Night Fishing (5)
10. Arirang (4)
10. King of Pigs (4)
10. Re-encounter (4)

13. Poongsan (3)
13. Punch (3)
15. Bedevilled (2)
15. Come Rain, Come Shine (2)
15. Dangerously Excited (2)
15. Pong Ddol (2)
15. Quick (2)
15. The Front Line (2)
21. Animal Town (1)
21. Barbie (1)
21. Blind (1)
21. Dooman River (1)
21. Haunters (1)
21. Invasion of Alien Bikini (1)
21. Late Autumn (1)
21. Late Blossom (2)
21. Leafie, A Hen Into the Wild (1)
21. Moby Dick (1)
21. Mother Is a Whore (2)
21. Out of the Cave (1)
21. Romantic Heaven (1)
21. War of the Arrows (1)

Lists of Korean Films

Asia Pacific Arts - Rowena Santos Aquino
Complex - Jaeki Cho
koreanfilm.org - Darcy Paquet
Modern Korean Cinema - Pierce Conran
Seen in Jeonju - Tom Giammarco

Lists Featuring Korean Films

Boston Globe - Wesley Morris
Chicago Reader - Ben Sachs
Chicago Tribune - Michael Phillips
Cineawesome! - Jeff
Cinema Salem - Kereth
Cinema Salem - Peter
Cinetology - Luke
Cleveland Plain Dealer - Clint O'Connor
CNN - Tom Charity
College Times - Aaron Tavena
Culture Mob - Matthew Wayt
Dad's Big Plan - Mr. Sparkles
Film Freak Central - Angelo Muredda
Film Freak Central - Walter Chaw
Film School Rejects - Brian Salisbury
Film School Rejects - Luke Mullen
Film School Rejects - Rob Hunter
Film Threat - Don Lewis
Film Threat - John Wildman
Film Threat - Mark Bell
Film Threat - Noah Lee
firstshowing.net - Jeremy Kirk
Front Room Cinema - Tom Bielby
Hollywood Hubbub - Frantic Monkey
Hydra Mag - Jose-Luis Moctezuma
indieWire - Anne Thompson
insidepulse - Robert Sutton
Left Field Cinema - M. Dawson
Los Angeles Times - Kenneth Turan
Living in Cinema - Michael Phillips
Miami Herald - Rene Rodriguez
Mile High Cinema - Jason Cangialosi
MSN Movies - Sean Axmaker
NOW Magazine - Radheyan Simonpillai
Palo Alto Online - Susan Tavernetti
playbackstl.com - Pete Timmermann
playbackstl.com - Sean Lass
Rich on Film - Rich
Salon - Andrew O'Hehir
Shock Till You Drop - Jeff Alard
Slant - Diego Costa
Slant - Nick Schager
Sounds Like Cinema - Greg Bennett
southcoasttoday.com - Alexis Hauk
St. Louis Today - Joe Williams
The Austin Chronicle - Marc Savlov
The Daily Texan - Alex Williams
the-dispatch.com - Matthew Lucas
The Globe and Mail - Liam Lacey and Rick Groen
The Guardian - Peter Bradshaw
The Hollywood Reporter - Todd McCarthy
The Montreal Gazette - T'cha Dunlevy
The New York Times - Manohla Dargis
The Screening Room - Mark Humphreys
Time Out New York - Keith Uhlich
Total Film - Sam Ashurst
Twitch - James Marsh
Twitch - Kwenton Bellette
Wildgrounds - Ki Mun

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 Review Round-up, which appear weekly on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings (GMT+1).

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.

Upcoming Releases: February 2012

This monthly features previews the coming month's attractions in Korean cinema.  All of these monthly posts are available in an archive on the Upcoming Releases page.

February 2

Nameless Gangster

February 9

Two Lines

February 16


February 23

The Angel's Breath

February 29

Comic Book Store 3D
Love Fiction

Nameless Gangster

Director:  Yun Jong-bin
Screenwriter:  Yun Jong-bin
Cast:  Choi Min-sik, Ha Jung-woo
Synopsis:  Nameless Gangster chronicles the happenings in Busan, South Korea when the government in 1990 declared its war against crime. A corrupt public official (Choi Min-sik) faces criminal charges and meets Choi Hyung-bae (Ha Jung-woo), a mysterious man with connections to the Yakuza.
Release date:  February 2

Anticipation is riding high for young Yun Jong-bin's third feature after The Unforgiven (2005) and Beastie Boys (2008).  The period set gangster film pairs veteran thespian Choi Min-sik (Oldboy, 2003; I Saw the Devil, 2010) and up-and-coming star Ha Jung-woo (The Chaser, 2005; The Yellow Sea, 2010).  Numerous impressive stills and some promising trailers have already appeared on the web.  Nameless Gangster is shaping up to be one of the 2012's early hits.


Seongyeong's Private Place


Director:  Han Ji-seung
Cast:  Park Yong-roo, Ko Ah-ra, Daniel Henney
Synopsis:  Choon-Sub  (Park Yong-roo) is a talent manager who goes to the US after a client runs off.  To stay he must get married for a visa and soon he ends up with six new children.
Release date:  February 2

Papa is Han Ji-seung's second film following Venus and Mars in 2007.  90% of the film is said to have been filmed in America and it follows a rash of multicultural Korean films that have appeared recently, such as He's On Duty (2010).  Originally slated for the Lunar New Year holiday weekend, Papa was rescheduled due to an overcrowded field.

Two Lines

Director:  Ji Min
Synopsis:  Ji Min and Cheol met in university ten years ago and now live together as roomates and lovers.  People ask them why they won't get married since they're at that age but they've never seen the reason to.  Life was happy enough as it was until they come face to face with two dark red lines on a home pregnancy test.
Release date:  February 9

New documentary which premiered at the 13th International Women's Film Festival in Seoul last March from Ji Min.   Her previous film won the Ock Rang Award at the same festival and she had previously also been involved with docs To Live - Save Our Saemankum (2006) and The War, You and I (2010).  


Director:  Ha Yu
Cast:  Lee Na-young, Song Kang-ho
Synopsis:  A man dies by spontaneous combustion.  Animal teeth marks are discovered on his body.  A veteran male cop (Song Kang-ho) and rookie female (Lee Na-young) start to investigate.
Release date:  February 16

Without a doubt one of the most promising projects of 2012, Howling is acclaimed director Ha Yu's (Once Upon a Time in High School, 2004; A Dirty Carnival, 2006; A Frozen Flower, 2008) fifth feature.  As well as boasting a top cast with Song Kang-ho and Lee Na-young, the film has an intriguing premise which starts off with spontaneous combustion.  The moment this project came to light I was already very excited and there are few films I am more eager to discover.


The Korea Herald
Yonhap News Agency

Angel's Breath

Director:  Han Ji-won
Screenwriter:  Han Ji-won
Cast:  Kim Yeong-seon, Han Ji-won
Synopsis:  Jae-min's (Han Ji-won) dream is to become a super star.   His sick mother Yeong-ran (Kim Yeong-son) does what she can to support him. 
Release date:  February 23

Bar the information provided above and the trailed posted below, I have no further information on this low budget release.

Love Fiction

Director:  Jeon Kye-soo
Screenwriter:  Jeon Kye-soo
Cast:  Ha Jung-woo, Kong Hyo-jin
Synopsis:  A shy novelist falls for a beautiful, confident woman.
Release date:   February 29

Jeon Kye-soo's third feature, after Midnight Ballad for Ghost Theater (2006) and Lost and Found (2009).  Ha Jung-woo has been very busy of late, racking up an impressive set of credits including The Yellow Sea (2010) and The Client (2010) and has a lot coming up including Breakfast at Tiffany'sThe Berlin File, and Nameless Gangster which will be released the same month.  The film also stars Kong Hyo-jin who has been equally impressive of late with stand out turns in Crush and Blush (2008) and Rolling Home With a Bull (2010).

Comic Book Store 3D

Director:  Heo Jae-hyeong
Cast: Lee Eun-mi, Lim Ah-yeong, Jang Sang-jin, Jeong I-gyeol
Synopsis:  So-ra has tough luck with her auditions and she blames the directors for her rejections. One She runs into Seung-hyeon, someone she used to act with.  He invites her to a film set and So-ra gets to fill in for an actress fails to show up.
Release date:  February 29

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 Review Round-up, which appear weekly on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings (GMT+1).

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.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Hindsight (푸른 소금, Poo-reun-so-geum) 2011

A few days ago, I saw Lee Hyeon-seung’s new film Hindsight and as I’m sitting at my computer, trying to gather my thoughts on it, I’m beginning to realize just how conflicted I am about it.  As a result I’m having a little trouble figuring out how to begin this review.  I suppose I could start off by saying that it was an admirable effort.  The film is a curious concoction of tropes and devices which are individually recognizable but combine into an unfamiliar whole.  I love to cook and I am a keen admirer of beautiful cinematography so the film already ticks a few boxes for me.  What’s more, it has some incredible moments and above all ambition.

Hindsight was mostly derided upon its release, in large part due to its poor returns, in spite of its major star (Song Kang-ho) and it being the long-awaited return of Lee Hyeon-seung (Il Mare, 2000) to the director’s chair.  Critics were eager to point out its unfocussed narrative and facile portrayal of gangsters, and I can’t fault them for that.  Hindsight becomes almost opaque in its relentless pursuit of aesthetic gratification and desire to be cool.

However, 2011 was a frustrating year to be a fan of Korean film.  While a number of fantastic independent films and a few surprise hits saw the light of day, the majority of last year’s releases were mired in the trudge of routine and by-the-numbers filmmaking.  At worst, a number of last year’s offerings were pedestrian and uninvolved.  While Hindsight is not among the year’s best releases, it does stand out from most Korean films made in 2011.  The reason for this is its ambition to be something different and the care and craft that goes into its making.

Doo-heon (Song Kang-ho) is a retired mob boss who has moved to Busan and enrolled in cooking classes with the aim of opening his own restaurant.  His cooking class partner is the young and stoic Se-bin (Sin Se-kyeong) who little does he know is keeping tabs on him for a rival gang.  She and her friend owe money to a local gang and perform odd jobs as a form of repayment.  Doo-heon’s former gang undergoes a power struggle and the paranoia that ensues ends up on his front door.  Se-bin is a former champion sharpshooter and before long she is ordered to take out Doo-heon despite having grown quite friendly with him.

The main focus of the film is the odd bond between Doo-heon and Se-bin and a lot of the machinations that serve to conflagrate their relationship stem from the overloaded but simplistic side plots involving gangsters and gun dealers.  Doo-heon is not your typical gangster, which you would expect given that he’s played by Song Kang-ho, one of Korea’s great actors who came to prominence after embodying one of the most bizarre gangsters I can remember in No. 3 (1997).  In many ways, his portrayal of Doo-heon reminds of his earlier role as In-goo in The Show Must Go On (2007).  He seems awkwardly charming and harmless, yet he was chosen to be his gang’s next boss.  Se-bin is similarly conflicted as she tails him, she knows who he is but is unable to reconcile his reputation with her image of him.

The mise-en-scene of the film is especially pronounced and sets it apart from the run-of-the-mill productions that were released around the same time.  Lee employs a lot of blue in the art design which showcases the sterile modernity of the rapidly changing environment surrounding the characters.  The Seoul sequences are shot with an eye towards formal compositions while the Busan segments are warmer and more organic in their staging.  The cinematography, lighting, and art design are irreproachable and indeed were recognized at Korea’s industrial awards as Hindsight scored five nominations in technical categories at the 48th Daejong Film Awards.

To me it seemed like Lee was making a commentary on the shifting priorities of modern Koreans by employing the not-so-subtle metaphor of the corrupt, power-hungry Seoulite gangsters.  Even Doo-heon is forced into an empty tower of solitude as he waits out the contract on his head.  By contrast, the more colourful aspects of the film tend to be scenes featuring cooking.  The broths and soups that are concocted are traditional and cobbled together with the ingredients immediately available to hand.  One ramshackle shack in Busan even forces its patrons to make their own food with the fresh ingredients and old cookware made available to them.  Doo-heon is learning to cook throughout the film and gradually, as he improves, you feel his attitude change.  At one point in the film Doo-heon and Se-bin go and see Sunny (2011) in the theater, which renders the past very colourfully in comparison with the present.

Despite its visual splendour, Hindsight often peters out as it seesaws between its lumpy plot strands.  It’s a shame really because one has the sense of a subcutaneous beauty that is only hinted at from our surface vantage point.  There is much passion woven into the fabric of this film but it is haphazard and scattershot and fails to draw you in.  I would say that Hindsight is worth a look, if only for its magnificent allure and the always welcome presence of Song Kang-ho but be prepared to be dissatisfied and left wanting by its end.


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 Review Round-up, which appear weekly on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings (GMT+1).

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.

Korean Box Office Update (01/27-01/29, 2012)

Unbowed Shoots to the Top During Big Weekend for Korean Film 

Title Release Date Market Share Weekend Total Screens
1 Unbowed 1/18/12 28.0 % 717,580 1,874,338 528
2 Dancing Queen 1/18/12 23.0 % 598,192 2,100,968 543
3 Tarbosaurus 1/26/12 15.6 % 330,411 366,523 454
4 Puss in Boots (us) 1/11/12 10.7 % 260,898 1,852,530 375
5 Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (us) 1/19/12 9.2 % 216,196 1,029,499 369
6 Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (us) 12/15/11 3.7 % 92,673 7,490,425 259
7 Pacemaker 1/18/12 2.3 % 60,634 429,413 309
8 We Bought a Zoo (us) 1/18/12 1.8 % 47,485 252,149 197
9 Never Ending Story 1/18/12 1.2 % 30,886 264,891 229
10 The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (us) 1/11/12 1.2 % 27,326 422,390 109

Local business finally found itself back in the driver's seat this past weekend as its market share soared to 71%.  That on top of the fact that total admissions were 2.56 million, 30% higher than last year's comparable weekend, and suddenly things are starting to look a lot rosier for Korean films in early 2012.

After a very strong start, Unbowed has taken over first place by jumping nearly 100% to 716,945.  Though it is not the only Lunar New Year's release on the path to success, it looks like the first major hit of the year.  It looks to continue the trend of strong small releases outperforming expectations that we saw so much of last year.

Meanwhile, Dancing Queen built on its successful opening by rising slightly to 597,666 and has now crossed the 2 million mark.  Competition from Unbowed and next week's opener Nameless Gangster will be tough, but it's already a hit.

The highest opener this week was another local release, the animated dinosaur feature Tarbosaurus 3D which wound up with an decent 329,625.  Though this film has managed to generate some buzz and has been presold to a number of markets, this probably wasn't the best time to release it.  The market has been flooded with children's fare recently and after the holidays, it's hard to imagine that this will pick up steam in February.

Puss in Boots remained steady at number 4 with 260,898 and looks to cross the 2 million mark before the end of its run.  Journey 2: The Mysterious Island dropped three places to number 5 but was able to hang on to nearly two thirds of its business as it finished the weekend with 216,196.  Mission Impossible 4 fell one spot to number 6 with 92,673.  It has now crossed War of the Arrows to become the second highest grossing film of 2011 and its total, which is inches from 7.5 million may come excruciatingly close to Transformers 3's chart topping tally, which stands at 7,790,434.

The other two Korean Lunar New Year's releases did not fare so well.  Pacemaker has simply failed to impress as it has receded 50% after a lackluster opening, its most recent take was 60,634. The marketing team behind the film desperately tried to increase awareness in interest in the film last week with a number of promotional tactics but these seem to have fallen flat.

Meanwhile, The Neverending Story, which no one seems to be talking about, finished at number 9 with 30,886 after losing 65% of its business.  It has barely managed to scrabble together a quarter million admissions to date and looks likely to finish with less than 500,000.

We Bought a Zoo stayed at number 8 as it added 47,485 to its paltry total while The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo rounded out the top 10 with 27,326.

Next week sees the release of the much anticipated Nameless Gangster starring Choi Min-sik and Ha Jung-woo but I am starting to wonder if it may fall short of expectations.  It will be hard enough to unseat Unbowed, which has taken over the public consciousness, but I'm wondering wether the film itself will fail to live up to the hype.  Papa will also be opening and will likely do so in the top 5 while the major US release will be Happy Feet 2 but after so much kids fare of late, I think this may be one too many.

Source: kobis.or.kr

The Korean Box Office Update is a weekly feature which provides detailed analysis of film box office sales over the Friday to Sunday period in Korea. It appears every Sunday evening or Monday morning (GMT+1) on Modern Korean Cinema. For other weekly features, take a look at Korean Cinema News and the Weekly Review Round-upReviews and features on Korean film also appear regularly on the site. 

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.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Weekly Review Round-up (01/21-01/27, 2012)

Another slew of The Front Line reviews and much else besides including a number for current Korean films and the longest review of Penny Pinchers that is ever likely to be written!

This edition of the Weekly Review Round-up marks the 6-month anniversary of the weekly feature and I'm happy that it has met with such a strong reception over that time.  Thank you all for supporting it!


(The Jeju Weekly, January 20, 2012)

(Seongyong's Private Place, December 24, 2012)

(Seongyong's Private Place, January 18, 2012)


(Hanguk Yeonghwa, January 22, 2012)

(Film Business Asia, January 22, 2012)

(Hanguk Yeonghwa, January 24, 2012)

(Film Smash, January 22, 2012)

(dramabeans, January 24, 2012)

(Business Week, January 19, 2012)

(The Banana Times, January 25, 2012)

(Modern Korean Cinema, January 25, 2012)

The Front Line


(Init_Scenes, January 20, 2012)

Failan, 2001
(New Korean Cinema, January 26, 2012)

M, 2007
(Hanguk Yeonghwa, January 25, 2012)

Pulgasari, 1985
(London Korea Links, January 23, 2012)

Rough Cut, 2008
(flixist, January 23, 2012)

Save the Green Planet, 2003
(New Korean Cinema, January 24, 2012)

The Chaser, 2008
(blogcritics.org, January 22, 2012)

(Hanguk Yeonghwa, January 23, 2012)

The Weekly Review Round-up is a weekly feature which brings together all available reviews of Korean films in the English language (and sometimes French) that have recently appeared on the internet. It is by no means a comprehensive feature and additions are welcome (email pierceconran [at] gmail [dot] com). It appears every Friday morning (GMT+1) on Modern Korean Cinema. For other weekly features, take a look at Korean Cinema News, and the Korean Box Office UpdateReviews and features on Korean film also appear regularly on the site. 

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, January 25, 2012

Korean Cinema News (01/19-01/25, 2012)

More casting news for Snow Piercer this week as Jamie Bell and John Hurt are added (though MKC originally reported the latter a few weeks ago).  A number of great features this week including one from VCinema (a site to which I contribute).  Another big piece of news is the status of Korean films at the local box office which broke the 50% mark last year, more on this in the box office section.  Finally a new section detailing Upcoming Releases of Korean films (which can be found in the above tabs) has been added to MKC and will be updated regularly.

The Celluloid Traveler: In Search of The Host on the Han River
The Han River splits the city of Seoul neatly in two. North of the river lies the city’s past: huge, stately palaces; winding neighborhoods full of handsome hanok (traditional Korean houses); and monolithic gates that mark where defensive walls once stood.  South of the Han is Seoul’s future: Yeoido, the financial center of Korea; endless high-rise apartment buildings marching through what just a few decades ago was sleepy farm land; and some of the most expensive real estate on the peninsula.  The Han River is where Seoul’s ten million plus inhabitants go to unwind on a weekend afternoon, taking advantage of the myriads of parks and recreational facilities that line its banks.  It’s also where Bong Joon-Ho set some of the key scenes in his 2006 film The Host.  (VCinema, January 24, 2012)

Bleak Blockbusters
Korea had a bad 20th century.  First Japan occupied the country, then Allied forces occupied it, then a war ripped it in half, then North Korea became a dictatorship, then South Korea experienced a coup followed by a decade of military rule, followed by another decade of martial law, followed by the assassination of the president, another coup, another military regime, and, finally, in 1987, a return to constitutional government.  (Slate, January 18, 2012)

Jamie Bell in Talks to Join Bong Joon-ho's Snow Piercer
Well, well. Bong Joon-ho's upcoming post apocalyptic feature Snow Piercer is shaping up to have quite a cast.  We've known for a long time that Bong regular Song Kang-ho would have a part and just days ago came word that Chris Evans was in talks to join the adaptation of French graphic novel Le Transperceneige.   And now here come two more, with Variety reporting that both Tilda Swinton and Jamie Bell are in talks for the picture as well.  (Twitch, January 18, 2012)

Kelly Masterson Shining up the Snow Piercer
Sometimes a fresh set of eyes is all you need to punch up and polish a script, and that's exactly what's happening when it comes to the latest film from the makers of The Host (2006), Snow Piercer.  According to Variety, the flick will now get a rewrite before it goes into production this spring.  Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (2007) scribe Kelly Masterson is doing the rewrite of the film that stars Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, and Jamie Bell.  (Dread Central, January 18, 2012)

Jeonju Digital Project 2012 Trio Announced
The 13thJeonju International Film Festival (JIFF) has announced the three directors for this year’s Jeonju Digital Project short film omnibus. Raya Martin, one of the most prominent young filmmakers of the Pinoy cinema renaissance, Vimukthi Jayasundara, “a visionary poet” of contemporary Sri Lankan cinema, and Ying Liang, one of the most promising directors on the Chinese digital independent filmmaking scene.  (KoBiz, January 20, 2012)

Rotterdam Lab to Welcome Four Korean Producers
The International Film Festival Rotterdam has announced the final 78 young film producers who will take part in the 12th edition of the Rotterdam Lab at CineMart to include four Korean producers.  These are Dahci Ma of Real Black Chicken Film, Lee Young-mi of Film Front, Dave Kim of Rainbow Factory and Han  Sunhee of BOL Pictures.  Started in 2000, the Jeonju Digital Project is an annual production by the festival which gives KW50 million (about US $44,000) each to three directors to make short films.  (KoBiZ, January 19, 2012)

Udine Plans 70s Korean Film Showcase
The 14th Udine Far East Film Festival in Italy has announced a retrospective of South Korean cinema entitled “The Darkest Decade: Korean Filmmakers in the 1970s”.  Curated by Korean cinema expert Darcy Paquet (who is also a frequent writer on the KoBiz site and Contributing Editor to Korean Cinema Today), the retrospective will feature ten films that have yet to be screened in the West.   (KoBiz, January 19, 2012)

Four Korean nominations at the Asian Film Awards
The 6th Asian Film Awards has announced nominations in 14 categories including one for Park Hae-il, the star of period action thriller War of the Arrows, and three nominations for South Korea’s Academy Award Best Foreign Language Film submission The Front Line.   (KoBiZ, January 18, 2012)

Smartphones Help Directors Look at Films from New Angles
It’s cheap, it’s easy, and it’s accessible.  Welcome to smartphone-filmmaking, which has become the new trend for both amateur and professional filmmakers in the past year.  The trend – which started about a year ago upon the domestic release of Apple’s iPhone 4 and its local carrier KT’s aggressive-creative promotion of the products – is becoming even bigger as more capital and talents are getting involved.  (The Korea Herald, January 20, 2012)

Goo Hye Sun's Short Length Film You to Premiere in Russia
The actress Goo Hye Sun’s short length film You will premiere in Russia.  The film was given an invitation to show at the Moscow “Korean Short Film Special Showing Event” that will be held from January 19-22.  The group that runs the event “Cool Connections Art Group” is planning to introduce Korean films to Russia. Out of the event if a film is chosen, it will also be shown in 5 different Russian cities.  (soompi.com, January 18, 2012)

John Hurt Joins Snow Piercer
Bong Joon-ho's train-set thriller Snow Piercer continues to gain momentum with news that legendary English actor John Hurt has joined the cast that already includes Captain America: The First Avenger star Chris Evans and internationally heralded chameleon Tilda Swinton.  (Cinema Blend, January 23, 2012)

Movie Sheds Light on Distrust in Judiciary
The release of a new movie that is based on a “crossbow terror” case in 2007, in which a judge was attacked by a professor, is causing controversy among the general public and the judiciary here.  (The Korea Times, January 20, 2012)


Spotlighting South Korean Cinema
Kyung Hyun Kim spent his childhood in Indonesia and the Middle East due to the career demands of his father, a petroleum engineer for a South Korean oil company. He turned to movies at an early age to escape the stress of frequent moves and new schools.  “I think because of their unfamiliarity with American culture, my parents let me watch a lot of movies that weren’t made for children,” says Kim, a UC Irvine associate professor of East Asian languages & literatures and film & media studies.  (uci.edu, January 2012)

2012 Sundance Filmmakers: Kangmin Kim
Hyphen continues its interviews with the Asian American filmmakers attending this year's Sundance film festival. Kangmin Kim, like Andrew Ahn, is also a CalArts grad.  While Ahn's interest is in social realist cinema, Kangmin's interest occupies the completely opposite end of the cinematic spectrum -- stop motion animation.  (Hyphen Magazine, January 20, 2012)


Choked (eng sub)

Tarbosaurus 3D (eng subs)



(Modern Korean Cinema, January 22, 2012)

Local-made films grabbed more than half of the South Korean box office last year, the first time in six years.  According to preliminary data from the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, South Korean films enjoyed a market share of 51.9% in 2011, up from 46.5% the previous year.  (Film Business Asia, January 23 2012)

Korean Cinema News is a weekly feature which provides wide-ranging news coverage on Korean cinema, including but not limited to: features; festival news; interviews; industry news; trailers; posters; and box office. It appears every Wednesday morning (GMT+1) on Modern Korean Cinema. For other weekly features, take a look at the Korean Box Office Update and the Weekly Review Round-upReviews and features on Korean film also appear regularly on the site. 

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, January 22, 2012

Korean Box Office Update (01/20-01/22, 2012)

Dancing Queen Waltzes to First Place During Busy Lunar New Year Weekend

Title Release Date Market Share Weekend Total Screens
1 Dancing Queen 1/18/12 23.30% 508,463 632,457 520
2 Unbowed 1/18/12 17.60% 384,102 477,465 399
3 Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (us) 1/19/12 16.70% 327,053 373,288 392
4 Puss in Boots (us) 1/11/12 14.40% 287,000 1,199,347 450
5 Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (us) 12/15/11 7.20% 151,106 7,186,748 276
6 Pacemaker 1/18/12 5.70% 126,629 193,025 418
7 The Neverending Story 1/18/12 3.90% 88,741 139,138 267
8 We Bought a Zoo (us) 1/18/12 3.40% 77,834 106,745 236
9 The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (us) 1/11/12 2.30% 47,509 349,206 151
10 Love On-Air 1/5/12 1.40% 31,095 891,921 150

Business came back in a big way over the Lunar New Year weekend after a bit of a slump for local releases of late but besides the holiday bump how did the frame fare?   Despite a strong 1-2 finish from local films, the results were decidedly mixed.  The total amount of tickets sold came in at 2.18 million, up over 20% from last weekend, but down nearly 25% from last year's Lunar New Year, which fell on the first weekend of February.   The market share for local releases jumped up to 53% but with four big new films this should come as a bit of a disappointment, not to mention that the last Lunar New Year boasted a commanding 72%.

The number one movie over the holiday was the Uhm Jeong-hwa and Hwang Jeong-min film Dancing Queen which had a strong 508,463 debut amid the crowded field.  Reviews have been on the positive side but it remains to be seen how it performs in subsequent weekends.

Opening at number two was the Ahn Sung-ki starring Unbowed with 384,102.  The film opened in Busan and has received strong notices.   It's second place finish is very encouraging as it was not expected to place so high, also good news is that its total is less than 25,000 away from breakeven point already.  It will be interesting to see how this performs further down the line, specifically wether it could unseat Dancing Queen in its sophomore run.

Journey 2, a Dwayne Johnson kids vehicle from the US had a strong opening at number with a surprisingly healthy 327,053.   Holiday weekends are always a good time for family fare and in truth there wasn't much else to choose from so perhaps this should come as no surprise.

Puss in Boots, dropped three spots to number four but nevertheless managed to retain a healthy amount of its audience as it ended the weekend with 287,000 admissions which puts it comfortably over the one million mark.

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol saw its biggest drop to date as it garnered an additional 151,106 admissions but no one will be laughing as it easily leapt over the seven million mark, the fourth film of 2011 to do so.  I believe this makes last year the first to reach that milestone.

Pacemaker was the next new Korean release to open wide but with only 126,629 tickets sold it was quite disappointing.   Given its big marketing push and positive reviews a lot more was expected of it, of course it could grow over the coming weeks but I would be surprised if this were to be the case.

The last new Korean release was romcom The Neverending Story which came in at number 7 with 88,741.  Another lacklustre result, even if this film was not the most anticipated of the weekend's new offerings.   I expect this particular film to swiftly exits theaters.

We Bought a Zoo also opened this weekend but could only muster a paltry 77,834.  The Matt Damon family film has not impressed in any of its markets to date so this just adds to its disappointing result.   Meanwhile The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo crumbled, losing three quarters of its business and winding up with only 47,509, this after a mediocre start.

Rounding out the Top 10 was Love On-Air in its third week with 31,095 which was a calamitous 85% drop from last weekend.   Clearly it couldn't cope with the new competition.   It's total stands at 891,921 but it will now be no small task to push it past the one million milestone.

It's early days for 2012 as this is only the third weekend but it's safe to say that January has not been a good month for Korean films. Hopefully a portion of the quartet of new releases will remain strong presences in theaters over the coming weeks but we may have to wait until February when we see some big new releases, specifically the Choi Min-sik and Ha Jung-woo gangster film Nameless Gangster and the Ha Yu directed, Song Kang-ho starring thriller Howling both of which could prove substantial hits. Meanwhile, next wek sees the release of Tarbosaurus 3D, though I'm not sure wether or not it will be opening wide.

Source: kobis.or.kr

The Korean Box Office Update is a weekly feature which provides detailed analysis of film box office sales over the Friday to Sunday period in Korea. It appears every Sunday evening or Monday morning (GMT+1) on Modern Korean Cinema. For other weekly features, take a look at Korean Cinema News and the Weekly Review Round-upReviews and features on Korean film also appear regularly on the site. 

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.