Friday, September 28, 2012

Yeonghwa: Korean Cinema Today 2012 - Pink (핑크, Pingkeu) 2011

Part of MKC's coverage of the 3rd Yeonghwa: Korean Cinema Today event at NY's Museum of Modern Art. (previously published).

The passage of time affects us all in certain ways, our experiences and our memories all take on different forms after we’ve lived them and they leave behind a trace.  This imprint can be faint and slip through our conscious memory just as it can leave an indelible mark, a scar that bears the weight of its genesis.  Most things change with the passage of time but some do not and Jeon Soo-il’s new feature Pink is a dirge to the intransigence of the roots of our defining characteristics.

Jeon, who hails from Korea’s vibrant port city Busan, is a fiercely artistic filmmaker who has quietly been making films for the past 15 years.  While respected within the filmmaking community, Jeon has never attracted anywhere near the same level of international reputation as his arthouse contemporaries, such as Hong Sang-soo (The Day He Arrives, 2011), Kim Ki-duk (Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter… and Spring, 2003) and Lee Chang-dong (Poetry, 2010).  His films are slow, deliberate and difficult and though they are successful on the festival circuit (he has won awards at Fribourg, Busan and Venice), a larger audience may never gravitate towards his oeuvre.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Yeonghwa: Korean Cinema Today 2012 - Ideological Barriers and Invisible Borders in Poongsan (풍산개, Poongsangae) 2011

Part of MKC's coverage of the 3rd Yeonghwa: Korean Cinema Today event at NY's Museum of Modern Art. (previously published).

Kim Ki-duk is one of the filmmakers who initially drew me to Korean cinema.  The first film of his I saw was The Isle (2000), which was, in a French DVD edition, packaged together with Lee Chang-dong’s Peppermint Candy (1999).  While the films may have been very different they were also a fantastic double bill that complemented each other in many ways.  I wasn’t as shocked by the violence as I may have been because I had already seen Park Chan-wook’s Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002) and before dipping into Korean cinema, had more or less exhausted Takashi Miike’s catalogue up until that point (around 2003).

Park’s film, while harrowing, was a pure piece of cinema brimming with adrenaline and the pure pleasure of filmmaking.  Lee’s poignant drama was elegant, realistic, literary, and propelled by social issues and recent Korean history.  Kim’s effort was slow and laconic, it was violent while at the same time elegiac.  The Isle had an artist’s touch and was unlike anything I’d seen before, just as the previous two films were.  Indeed I was very lucky to have selected the three Korean films that I did as my introduction to the nation’s cinema, the hooks were in deep from the start.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

KCN: A Bittersweet Life Gets US Remake, Pieta Sales and a Boatload of Posters (09/20-09/26, 2012)

It's been a very busy week here in Korea as I'm switching jobs, moving, preparing for Busan and have lost my phone so apologies for the slower pace of articles and this abbreviated version of Korean Cinema News. 


A Bittersweet Life to Be Remade, Albert Hughes Takes the Reigns
One half of the directing duo behing Menace II Society, From Hell and The Book of Eli, Albert Hughes, is set to direct a fast-tracked remake of the seminal Korean gangster film A Bittersweet Life. Anthony Peckham, recently behind Invictusand Sherlock Holmes, has been brought in to polish the script. No word yet on cast or possible release date.

There's been a awful lot of news surrounding Korean films being remade in Hollywood or Korean directors making their mark in Tinseltown lately but this is one development I can't get excited about. I'm generally not a fan of foreign films being remade (much less Korean ones) so I'm not one of the people who is excited for Spike Lee's take on Oldboy. However, I do recognize the potential that such an original premise has in a new market. The same goes for the upcoming remake of Castaway on the Moon, one of the very best films made in the last decade. Last I heard, Mark Waters (of Mr. Popper's Penguins fame) was at the helm, and while I don't think that'll amount to much I do concede that it is property with a fantastic premise, ripe for the remake treatment.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Yeonghwa: Korean Cinema Today 2012 - Blind (블라인드, Beulraindeu) 2011

Part of MKC's coverage of the 3rd Yeonghwa: Korean Cinema Today event at NY's Museum of Modern Art. (previously published).

First impressions are important and as film viewers we are particularly prone to making rash decisions based upon the opening moments of anything we watch.  This is perhaps even more important in this day and age as multimedia is so readily accessible.  Our already short attention spans are dwindling ever further as we can easily switch between TV channels, on demand, stored digital, and portable media.  Those first few minutes of a film can dispense a large volume of information but even so, they cannot always prepare you for what you are going to see.  Opening scenes are important but not every kind of film can benefit from a flashy beginning.

One of this year’s most successful Korean films, Blind does not get off to the greatest start and blunders on through the first act with heavy feet, trampling through the early stages of the plot.  Subtlety is not the film’s strong suit and the quicker this is accepted, the better.  Once I got used to the heavy-handedness of the proceedings I was able to enjoy myself but the film walks a dangerous line from the start.  It doesn’t really announce itself properly and seems like a relatively sober affair at first, it is only as it continues in unsubtle fashion and when things become even more ridiculous that you begin to understand the intent of the film, which is to be a trashy and entertaining potboiler.  It does succeed on that last count, but it takes a while to get there and is not without its fair share of problems.

KBO: Masquerade Still King (09/21-09/23, 2012)

Masquerade Still King

Title Release Date Market Share Weekend Total Screens
1 Masquerade 9/13/12 60.50% 1,192,689 3,227,946 922
2 Spy 9/20/12 16.80% 341,696 415,422 576
3 Resident Evil 5 (us) 9/13/12 5.70% 101,271 501,391 331
4 Ted (us) 9/20/12 3.90% 81,313 100,920 301
5 Pieta 9/6/12 3.50% 69,518 505,744 292
6 Wolf Children (jp) 9/13/12 2.90% 61,269 169,760 220
7 The Bourne Legacy (us) 9/6/12 2.10% 39,773 998,212 262
8 Traffickers 8/29/12 1.90% 36,518 1,618,528 192
9 The Thieves 7/25/12 0.40% 6,969 12,944,840 86
10 London Boulevard (uk) 9/20/12 0.30% 6,735 11,617 131

Friday, September 21, 2012

Howling (하울링, Hawoolling) 2012

In Korea, genre is a dish almost never served by itself. Rather than use tried and tested formulas, local cineastes tend to concoct more bizarre and seemingly unworkable combinations. One of the enduring appeals of Korean cinema is that they are often (but not always) able to make them work. Director Yu Ha is an interesting figure: he used to be a poet but for the last ten years he has been one of the country’s most reliable genre filmmakers. First impressing audiences with his successful foray into romance (though I use the term loosely) with Marriage Is a Crazy Thing (2002), next with one of the peninsula’s best high school films (Once Upon a Time in High School, 2004), following that he made, for my money’s worth, the best Korean gangster (or ‘jopok’) film (A Dirty Carnival, 2006) and most recently he produced a gay period epic (A Frozen Flower, 2008).

Following a slightly longer break than usual, Yu is back with his fifth feature and I was excited the moment I heard about the project. Not least for his involvement but also due to the participation of Korean thesps Song Kang-ho and Lee Na-young and the premise which was initially loglined as a procedural about spontaneous combustion. Though not an outright failure, the film did not find an enormous audience in Korea when it opened in February and has since picked up a number of detractors but as far as I’m concerned, though a flawed film, it is one of the best genre efforts of the year to date.

WKR: Masquerade and Bounty of Recent Releases (09/15-09/21, 2012)

Lee Byung-Hyun's smash hit period pic Masquerade gets a number of reviews this week while a wide selection of recent Korean films gets covered all around the world, from DVD and cinema releases to TIFF, Zipangu and Yeonghwa: Korean Cinema Today coverage.



(Film School Rejects, September 20, 2012)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Yeonghwa: Korean Cinema Today 2012 - In Another Country (다른 나라에서, Dareun Naraeseo) 2012

Part of MKC's coverage of the 3rd Yeonghwa: Korean Cinema Today event at NY's Museum of Modern Art. (previously published).

Quick disclaimer before barreling on with my discussion of Hong Sang-soo’s latest: This is the first film I’ve seen in a theater since my move to Korea and I saw it without subtitles and it must be said that my knowledge of Korean is fairly limited.  That said, over two thirds of In Another Country is in English and I was able to more or less follow the rest as well.  Undoubtedly there were some things I didn’t pick up on, so in the interest of full disclosure I thought I’d mention it.

Clearly, the most remarkable thing about Hong’s 13th feature is the presence of French screen legend Isabelle Huppert in the lead role.  This fact was picked up on by many global news outlets and gave the film some more recognition at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, versus last year when Hong’s previous feature The Day He Arrives was screened.  It may also have been what landed it in the main competition.  However, while it was well received, it was left out during the closing night’s awards ceremony.

U.F.O. (2011)

One of the recurring motifs in Korean cinema is the representation of repressed trauma. Whether as a lazy deus ex machina in a rote romcom or the underlying social agenda of an auteurist prestige pic, it never seems to be far from the surface. It’s prevalence in the country’s film industry is in itself an indication of just how important it is. Having been subjected to numerous colonizations and following decades of inequity at the hands of local autocratic governments, Korea is no stranger to psychological wounds and dark memories. However, as the country finally moved into the light, slowly but surely, following the end of Chung Doo-hwan’s administration in 1988, this trauma has been relegated to the basement. But then, why shouldn’t this be the case?

We all have memories we would rather forget but rather than a few isolated instances, Koreans have had whole generations that still haunt them. The need to forget is potent and has almost become a collective requirement of Korean society. Of course none of it can truly be forgotten and the past is constantly alluded to, if rarely overtly. Bong Joon-ho’s Memories of Murder (2003), as a heavily cited example, was a breathtakingly complex work that encompassed the collective repression of a nation’s trauma, but it did so in the guise a serial killer genre piece. The fact that five million people saw it is also a testament to the need for these subtle acts of mnemonic cleansing.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Architecture 101 (건축학개론, Geonchukhakgaeron) 2012

By Rex Baylon

Woe to all the young lovers around the world. In the arena of melodrama there seems to be no greater sin than to be young and in love. And within the confines of Korean film, a national cinema that relishes in using sickness, war, class conflicts and all manner of other obstacles great and small to keep its young lovers apart, the cinematic landscape is littered with countless failed and stillborn romances that have withered on the vine due to masculine pride or the natural process of time. The trauma brought on by these failed first time affairs of the heart reverberate all the way to adulthood with failed marriages, arrested development, and emotionally vacant characters being familiar tropes within the Korean romance genre.

After dabbling in the eerie atmosphere that is K-Horror with the supernatural thriller Possessed (Bulsinjiok, 2009), architect-turned-filmmaker Lee Yong-ju was back in the spotlight in 2012 with his new project Architecture 101. Revolving around the complicated relationship between an architect, Seung-min, played by Uhm Tae-woong, and his first love, Seo-yeon (Han Ga-in). Lee’s sophomore feature uses a split narrative focusing half the story in the not-so-distant past, where the two lovers of our story first meet and subsequently fall in love, and the present day where, for reasons not yet made aware to us, Seung-min and Seo-yeon have drifted apart and are no longer together. Commissioned by Seo-yeon to design a new home for her on Jeju island, Architecture 101 follows the same story beats that countless Hallyu love stories have followed since Hur Jin-ho’s masterpiece Christmas in August (1998).

KCN: New Park Chan-wook Project, Pieta Oscar Bid, BIFF Sched. & Thieves Triumphs in HK (09/13-09/19, 2012)

Lots of news this week as Park Chan-wook takes on yet another new film, BIFF announces its schedule, Pieta gets its chance for Oscar glory and The Thieves begins its world conquest.


Park Chan-wook Signs Onto Another New Project with Gangster Pic Corsica '72
Only a few weeks after signing on to the western The Brigands of Rattleborge, Park Chan-wook has taken on an additional Hollywood gig. This new project is one that has been knocking around for a while after appearing on Hollywood's Black List (a yearly industry poll of tinseltown's best unproduced screenplays) in 2009. Previously Oliver Hirschbiegel (Downfall, 2006) and Luca Guadanigno (I Am Love, 2009) had been attached to the script by the scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade who have been involved in all the recent Bond films.

Corsica '72, as the title would suggest, takes place on the small mediterranean island and follows two best friends who grow up to find themselves on opposite sides of the law and in love with the same woman.

It seems that this project will go ahead of Rattleborge as that one will require more time for casting due to its violent nature. It's great to see Park so busy these days but personally I was hoping he would head back home to helm another feature in Korea rather than do three on the trot stateside. But who am I to complain when I now have three films to look forward to from one of the world's best filmmakers? (Modern Korean Cinema, September 18/Twitch, September 18, 2012)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The 3rd 'Yeonghwa: Korean Cinema Today' at MoMA - Preview

New York's Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is kicking off its 3rd edition of Yeonghwa: Korean Cinema Today tomorrow and the event, which features an eclectic array of arthouse and commerical films until its conclusion at the end of the month. Our US correspondent Peter Gutierrez offers up his views on a trio of featured works below (Helpless, Mirage, and A Fish) while I've chimed in with my own two cents on the new Lee Sang-woo film Fire in Hell.

More reviews will appear over the coming days and anyone in NY should do their best to check out this great event. The wonderful lineup, which includes In Another Country, Blind, Pink, Stateless Things, Jesus Hospital, Poongsan, From Seoul to Varanasi and some Shin Sang-ok films, can be viewed in full by following the below link:

Monday, September 17, 2012

Masquerade (광해, 왕이 된 남자, Gwang-hae, Wang-i Doin Nam-ja) 2012

by Simon McEnteggart

Mark Twain's seminal novel 'The Prince and the Pauper' has long endured as a classic for the manner in which it exposed the gulf between the upper and lower classes. The trials and tribulations that Prince Edward and Tom Canty undertake allowed Twain to explore the vast lifestyle differences amongst the 'haves' and 'have nots', with each protagonist utilising their prior experiences to emphasise the hardships and the unfairness evident in both. As a result the story has resonated with audiences of all socio-economic backgrounds, and in today's financial climate, it is perhaps more relevant than ever before.

With Masquerade, screenwriter Hwang Jo-yoon has adapted Twain's novel to Joseon dynasty Korea, with the case of mistaken identity transferred to King Gwang-hae and a lowly comic actor. With its well-structured and highly entertaining script, confident direction from Choo Chang-min and an enthralling set of performances headed by Lee Byeong-heon, Masquerade is without a doubt one of the best films of the year and a testament to the quality of Korea's period dramas.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

KBO: Masquerade Is King, Pieta Enjoys Golden Lion Bump (09/14-09/16, 2012)

Masquerade Is King, Pieta Enjoys Golden Lion Bump 

Title Release Date Market Share Weekend Total Screens
1 Masquerade 9/13/12 53.30% 1,097,619 1,278,064 809
2 Resident Evil 5 (us) 9/13/12 14.30% 245,915 304,150 368
3 Pieta 9/6/12 7.20% 148,163 353,379 325
4 The Bourne Legacy (us) 9/6/12 6.50% 135,767 913,877 345
5 Traffickers 8/29/12 4.60% 92,289 1,534,579 305
6 Wolf Children (jp) 9/13/12 3.40% 77,796 85,933 225
7 The Expendables 2 (us) 9/6/12 2.50% 53,444 416,236 253
8 Neighbors 8/22/12 2.00% 40,285 2,416,188 222
9 The Thieves 7/25/12 1.50% 32,033 12,923,537 194
10 Insidious (us) 9/13/12 1.30% 27,488 35,030 178

Friday, September 14, 2012

CinDi 2012: Egg and Stone (Jidan he Shitou, China) 2012

Part of MKC's Coverage of the 6th Cinema Digital Seoul Film Festival.

By Rex Baylon

The Chinese film Egg and Stone tackles an issue that has been circulating around the news lately: rape. To be more precise, the rape and exploitation of young teenage girls by couples with no way to conceive. The tragic irony is that China, a nation on the up-and-up as it takes over the world’s manufacturing burden is, outside of a few densely packed metropolises, still a very poor and impoverished country. Progress is paid for by the blood of the poor and the cogs of that machine need it on a daily basis to keep the gears moving.

For Honggui, the female protagonist of Egg and Stone, any illusions that her future could hold anything other then the drudgery of housework or the boredom of a village life has long eroded with the crippling realization of her second-class status mainly as a result of the sexual organs she was born with. Although China may need more and more bodies to fill its factories and skyscrapers, a woman’s value is still gauged by her ability to conceive and rear a healthy baby boy. Sadly, anything less than that and women are pushed farther down the totem pole. The fate of many infant girls involve either abandonment, adoption by overseas families, or being sent away to childless families in the countryside to be worked like cattle.

WKR: Pieta and The Thieves on the Intl. Circuit (09/08-09/14, 2012)

Packed WKR this week with lots on Pieta, post-Golden Lion win, and a number of writeups on The Thieves following its HK release and TIFF screening.



The Thieves

Thursday, September 13, 2012

CinDi 2012: Masquerade (가면놀이) 2010

Part of MKC's Coverage of the 6th Cinema Digital Seoul Film Festival.

Let me get this right out of the way first, this is NOT about the brand new Lee Byung-hun period pic of the same title which came out in Korean theaters today. My timing may not great, but so be it.

I knew Masquerade was a documentary and based on the one still that was attached to it in the CinDi program. I assumed it had something to do with pantomine or some sort of performance. To say that I was way off the mark would be something of a cataclysmic understatement. Nestled among a crowd of mostly young women, I grew somewhat uncomfortable when the narrative revealed itself to me for the first time. You see, Masquerade is a hard-hitting film about child abuse in Korea and how it is often ignored by society at large.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

CinDi 2012: Lilou's Adventure (Lilou No Boken, Japan) 2012

Part of MKC's Coverage of the 6th Cinema Digital Seoul Film Festival.

The world of cinema is one we often use to reflect upon ourselves, one where our deepest desires and our darkest impulses are laid bare. Filmmakers habitually use the medium to explore the different facets of our personality but also to ask questions. Good cinema is almost always inquisitive and the further we delve inwards the less concrete our footing becomes. The land of dreams and of the subconscious has been a domain of choice for artists since time immemorial. Through paintings, poetry, books, performance art and more, our unknowable mental projections have maddened and gladdened artistic minds.

Cinema, perhaps more than any other medium, is an ideal canvas for exploring the nebulous impressions we constitute around our internal and uncontrollable visions. From an aesthetic standpoint it is both visual and auditory and yet much is still arrived at through interpretation. However, dreams, which are non-linear by design, are oftentimes difficult to narrativize and their depiction on screen, when not handled carefully, can sound the death bell of a production. Sometimes, these representations of our inner thoughts are best appreciated as sensory experiences, gleaning meaning from them is often a fool’s errand. Yet in rare circumstances, a filmmaker has been able to apply dream logic to a workable plot structure. The most clear example of this, though a divisive one, is David Lynch’s Mullholland Drive (2001). It’s a classic Hollywood narrative that has been broken down and reassembled through dream logic, though it took at least four tries for me to come to that conclusion.

KCN: Kim Ki-duk Wins Historic Golden Lion and Busan Unveils Lineup (09/06-09/12, 2012)

Big week for news as Kim Ki-duk scoops up the Golden Lion and BIFF unveils its programme! Much more besides including the promotional material for The Perfect Number, the Bang Eun-jin thriller based on the Keigo Higashino novel 'The Devotion of Suspect X.'


Kim Ki-duk's Pieta Takes the Golden Lion at Venice Film Festival
It has been extensively reported at this point but it's wonderful to hear that Kim Ki-duk's Pieta took the Golden Lion at this year's Venice Film Festival. This marks the first time a Korean film has scooped up top honors at one of the major three European fests (Berlin, Cannes, Venice)! It is also a major comeback for Kim Ki-duk and proof of his popularity overseas. Also encouraging is the film's strong performance in Korea, which was bolstered by the international accolade, jumping four spots in the rankings in a single day. (Modern Korean Cinema, September 12, 2012)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

CinDi 2012: The Boxes of Death, The Live (죽엄의 상자, 더 라이브) 2012

Part of MKC's Coverage of the 6th Cinema Digital Seoul Film Festival.

A number of bizarre and interesting works were presented at this year’s CinDi but none fit the tag ‘meta’ better than this curious Korean cinema-centric documentary. The Boxes of Death, The Live is about a live musical staging of the debut work of a titan of classic Korean cinema which was actually a showcase at last year’s CinDi. I didn’t see it in the exact same theater but it was certainly strange witnessing the proceedings unfold at the same event.

The Boxes of Death (1955) was the first film of Kim Ki-young, a masterful Korean cineaste who is slowly, and rightly, being recognized as one of the greats of world cinema. Most famous for his incendiary work The Housemaid (1960), Kim’s oeuvre stretched over a few decades and always pushed the medium to its limits. Films like Woman of Fire (1971), The Insect Woman (1972) and Iodo (1977), explored our darkest desires and shed an often unflattering light on Korea, in stark contrast with the image that the then-authoritarian government wished to promulgate. The Boxes of Death is perhaps more interesting as an historical artifact but the truth is that it is difficult to make a proper judgment on the film as the only existing print is lacking its soundtrack.

17th Edition of Busan Film Fest Announces Powerful Lineup

Part of MKC's Coverage of the 17th Busan International Film Festival.

The 17th Busan International Film Festival, which will unfold over October 4-13, has announced its full selection and boy is it packed to the gills. Many new films from stars of world cinema will be screened and a number of high-profile Asian films will bow at the event. Throw in a bevy of retrospectives and special screenings and what you end up with is a 300+ film program of pure cinematic delight.

A new Hong Kong action film called Cold War, which is the debut of industry veterans Sunny Luk and Leung Long Man, will serve as the opening film while Mostafa Farwar Farooki's Television, which promises to announce the arrival of Bangladeshi cinema, will close out the week.

As always, among the most exciting things on offer at Busan are the Korean premieres. For many years BIFF has been the premiere showcase for new Korean films. This year's crop is particularly exciting. There will be gala presentations for the new Jeon Soo-il (Pink, 2011) film El Condor Pasa, National Security, Chun Ji-young's follow-up to Unbowed (2011) and a new effort from Park Chul-soo (301,302; 1995) called B.E.D.

Monday, September 10, 2012

PiFan 2012: Osaka Violence (大阪外道, Japan) 2012

Part of MKC's coverage of the 16th Puchon International Film Festival.

The main prize-winner at this year’s Yubari International Fantastic Film Festival, Takahiro Ishihara’s Osaka Violence, is a gritty film which employs both a realistic aesthetic and deadpan excessiveness to bring home its point. As its title suggests, the film concerns the prevalence of violence in Osaka, it is depicted as the most commonplace of acts, a cyclical ritual that is absorbed from a young age through the ebb and flow of everyday life.

The film begins with a group of young boys loitering on some farmland. The owner comes up to shoo away the trespassers but is subjected to a tirade of disrespect and abuse. They walk off, leaving the old man stunned. Things have changed in Japan and certain elements of society, such as respect, are evolving but not always in a good way. This demonstration of apathy is a logical starting point for the film. The boys’ trip through their Osaka neighborhood introduces us to an increasingly apathetic subset of its inhabitants. First they cross a gangster who is friendly to them and gives them money. Their new found fortune is swiftly taken away by a group of older boys who threaten them but this new gang is in turn beaten to a pulp by an older, burlier gangster who demands a toll for crossing under ‘his’ bridge. Suddenly, their lack of respect towards the old farmer from the opening scene is not so shocking.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

KBO: Hollywood Titles End Late Summer Local Streak (09/07-09/09, 2012)

Hollywood Titles End Late Summer Local Streak

Title Release Date Market Share Weekend Total Screens
1 The Bourne Legacy (us) 9/6/12 29.30% 522,713 619,128 588
2 Traffickers 8/29/12 17.60% 302,258 1,315,355 385
3 The Expendables 2 (us) 9/6/12 13.30% 240,675 278,494 394
4 Neighbors 8/22/12 12.00% 206,259 2,298,476 346
5 The Grand Heist 8/8/12 7.70% 144,076 4,833,965 312
6 The Thieves 7/25/12 7.20% 129,060 12,836,869 323
7 Pieta 8/6/12 3.30% 58,061 68,090 171
8 Step Up 4 (us) 8/15/12 2.50% 45,369 931,745 149
9 Abrahama Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (us) 8/30/12 1.90% 31,749 333,276 230
10 Sammy's Adventures 2 (ge) 8/1/12 0.80% 14,750 1,454,392 107

Preview: The Music of Jo Hyeja (조혜자의 음악) 2012

The New England weird fiction writer H.P. Lovecraft is a man whose reputation precedes his actual work. Known by many primarily for his xenophobic fear of "the mixing of races" and also his influence on Hellboy creator Mike Mignola, it is very rare to see anyone reading his work now. Yet, the man that critics oftentimes looked upon as a second-rate Poe was a huge influence on the development of horror and supernatural fiction in American literature. His Cthulu mythos alone has inspired writers as diverse as Stephen King and Neil Gaiman, musicians like Metallica, and also sword and fantasy games, e.g. The World of Warcraft and Dungeons and Dragons. While in the realm of cinema his vast output has led to countless adaptations of his stories, many of which are of the low budget variety.

For Korean cinema-philes that are going to be in the Los Angeles area around September 28-29th, the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival will be screening The Music of Jo Hyeja, Korea's first foray into the dark atmospheric world of H.P. Lovecraft. The film, directed by Park Ji-hyun and written by Canadian expat Gord Sellar, is an adaptation of Lovecraft's The Music of Erich Zann, a short story about a poor university student who befriends one of the tenants in his building who night after night plays an eerie tune on his violin. The story being a pure product of Lovecraft's unique imagination the melody that the troubled violinist plays is a tune which keeps the demons and odd creatures from entering the world through the windows of the apartment.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Interview: 'Blood Fight in Iron-Rock Valley' Director Ji Ha-jean

An in-depth interview with Ji Ha-jean, the up-and-coming director behind the award-winning low-budget western Bloody Fight in Iron-Rock Valley (2011), last year's PiFan winner for Best Asian Genre Film.

Interpreted by Kim Nemo

Bloody Fight references many classic westerns. What drew you to this genre in the first place?

The two most important references were Once Upon a Time in the West (1969) and the second in Sergio Leone’s Man With No Name trilogy, A Few Dollars More (1965). Inside the film there are thousands of other references, such as Shane (1953), The Man From Laramie (1955) and Robert Aldrich’s Apache (1954).

What were your hopes as you embarked on making a Korean western?

I produced the film as well as directing it and even by independent film standards it had an extremely low budget ($40,000). Filmmakers with that kind of budget usually try to make experimental or dramatic films but I’m a real fan of the western genre and another aim of mine is to become a commercial film director. So I was wondering how I might be able to combine these two aims.

September 2012 Korean Releases

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.

September 6

Grape Candy
Wedding Scandal

September 13

Fighting! Family
Han Kyung-jik
Too Old Hiphop Kid

September 20


September 27

Jinsuk and Me

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Neighbors (이웃사람, Yiwootsaram) 2012

Recently, the prevalence of ensemble casts in Korean cinema has been on the rise. It could mean a few things. For one, it’s a sign of a healthy industry with a large production slate and a wide pool of talent. Secondly, it could also be a result of the dwindling fortunes of star-driven features at the box office. Studios may feel safer investing in a film with an array of stars capable of drawing in multiple demographics, especially when reliable properties such as Song Kang-ho (Howling, 2012) and So Ji-sub (Always, 2011) are no longer capable of securing a film a profit.

Last month, The Thieves showed how powerful an impact a well-assembled cast can make on the box office. It is currently the second highest-grossing Korean film of all time and may well ascend to first place (as of this writing held by 2006’s The Host) within the next few weeks. While it had many selling points, first and foremost was its glitzy performers. What then is the appeal of an ensemble cast? From a marketing standpoint it means that a potential viewer is far more likely to see someone that he or she likes in a longer list of stars but perhaps even more enticing is the appeal of the interaction between high-profile cast members who often sport defined on-screen personas.

KCN: Park Chan-wook takes on Western, Pieta at Venice and Busan Heats Up! (08/30-09/05, 2012)

The bis news this week is a new Park Chan-wook project, Pieta premiering at Venice and numerous Busan Film Fest announcements

BIFF 2012

The 17th Busan International Film Festival is exactly one month away and the news is starting to come in thick and fast. MKC will be on site for the entire event:

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

PiFan 2012: The Heineken Kidnapping (De Heineken ontvoering, Holland) 2011

Part of MKC's coverage of the 16th Puchon International Film Festival.

Rutger Hauer’s heyday may have come before my time but as a film lover it still feels as though I grew up with him. My teenage years were spent awash in the dream of cinema and amidst the blur of it all, some films stood out. Among them was Blade Runner (1982) which, I must admit, was a film that I did not immediately warm to but the villain of the piece has stayed with me for the decade since I first I saw it. Horror may not have featured prominently in my cinema diet but I’ll never forget The Hitcher (1986), a film that could easily have been unremarkable were it not for the terrifying presence of its antagonist.

With his pellucid blue eyes, wavy blond hair and harsh features, Hauer has always been a formidable presence on screen. However, more than his physiognomy, it is of course his talent and intensity as a performer that has made him so memorable. He seems to lose himself in his best roles. I hesitate to say that he was a method actor, a term that is ill-suited to genre cinema, but he throws himself so fully into his marginalized characters that he often seems to be in a trance.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Romance Joe (로맨스 조, Lo-maen-seu Joe) 2012

By Rex Baylon

Fractured storylines, unreliable narration and meta-narratives have all become the requisite tools of the trade for films with a postmodernist slant. The realization by filmmakers as far back as the 1960s, when the enfants terribles of France’s Nouvelle Vague tore down the barrier between good "taste" and good "cinema", have not only prompted experimentation in plot and genre, but also, on occasion, led to genuine masterpieces. Of course, there have also been a plethora of over-inflated and pretentious works that have been released to varying degrees of fanfare since then.

In writer-director Kwang-kuk Lee’s debut film Romance Joe (2011) the eponymously named Romance Joe is both an actual character in the movie, played by Kim Young-pil and Lee Da-wit, and an invention: a plot device, utilized by several characters in the film when telling their own personal/invented stories about the pain of love and the ways that fiction and fact can bleed together.

KBO: Traffickers and Local Releases Dominate Chart (08/31-09/02, 2012)

Traffickers and Local Releases Dominate Chart

Title Release Date Market Share Weekend Total Screens
1 Traffickers 8/29/12 26.40% 533,243 749,694 497
2 Neighbors 8/22/12 21.20% 425,597 1,914,969 494
3 The Grand Heist 8/8/12 13.20% 289,126 4,595,784 361
4 The Thieves 7/25/12 12.70% 265,435 12,591,574 365
5 Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (us) 8/30/12 10.00% 188,955 237,799 337
6 Step Up 4 (us) 8/15/12 4.40% 94,188 849,187 194
7 R2B: Return to Base 8/1/12 2.30% 51,498 1,172,907 141
8 577 Project 8/8/12 2.30% 48,395 62,534 191
9 Total Recall (us) 8/15/12 1.60% 34,037 1,206,506 153
10 Sammy's Adventures 2 (ge) 8/23/12 1.30% 29,268 1,438,477 88

Saturday, September 1, 2012

PiFan 2012: Zombie 108 (城Z-108, Taiwan) 2012

Part of MKC's coverage of the 16th Puchon International Film Festival.

Of the many genres out there available for our consumption, the zombie film holds a very special place in our cinematic diet. It is actually a subgenre, being an offshoot of horror but, just like the vampire film, it as been allowed to ascend to its own autonomous position, to be taken into consideration separately from its parent. Naturally, this comes with  particular set of problems.

Zombie films occupy a very narrow field within the medium. As potent as the concept can be, it only encompasses a specific set of tropes and narrative devices which have arguably survived long past their sell-by date. George A. Romero set off the genre in the late 1960s with Night of the Living Dead but 35 years later his own efforts have begun to look tired and recycled. In fact, the most popular zombie films of the last few years have arguably been comedies which poked fun at the genre, such as Shaun of the Dead (2004) and Zombieland (2009), as well AMC’s series The Walking Dead, which employs the novel approach of following a zombie narrative in longform.