Wednesday, October 31, 2012

KCN: Masquerade Triumphs at Daejong, Korean Films Wins Awards at Festivals (10/25-10/31, 2012)

Masquerade won a record-breaking 15 trophies at the Daejong Film Awards while a number of Korean films won prizes at major international film festivals.


49th Daejong Film Awards: Masquerade Wins... Everything
The largest movie awards show returned tonight as it held its 49th edition in Seoul. As the size and prestige of the industry has risen over the years, so has this awards show, which could be seen as Korean cinema's equivalent to the Oscars. It's not the only awards show in town as the Blue Dragon Awards, which take place in November, are also fairly prominent, but it's the longest running and the one with the highest profile. (Modern Korean Cinema, October 30, 2012)

Interview: The Singular Lee Sang-woo, Director of Barbie

I was fortunate to sit down with Lee Sang-woo a few weeks ago on a Saturday evening in Hongdae after having seen his latest two films Barbie (which came out last week in Korea) and Fire in Hell (which premiered in Jeonju earlier this year).

Lee has been in the industry for a long time, most notably as Kim Ki-duk's assistant director, before making the transition to becoming a prolific director in his own right. His official debut was Tropical Manila in 2008 and he has released six films up until now, including Mother Is a Whore (2010), but has actually shot as many as 12, most of which will be released in the near future.

Lee was extremely frank during his interview which, it should be noted, was conducted after a few bottles of soju. Be warned however, some parts of our discussion may not be to suitable for all tastes. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

49th Daejong Film Awards: Masquerade Wins... Everything

The largest movie awards show returned tonight as it held its 49th edition in Seoul. As the size and prestige of the industry has risen over the years, so has this awards show, which could be seen as Korean cinema's equivalent to the Oscars. It's not the only awards show in town as the Blue Dragon Awards, which take place in November, are also fairly prominent, but it's the longest running and the one with the highest profile.

Last year a couple of films, all with big box office tallies took home most of the awards but this year's event fortunately featured a few smaller films in the mix, not least Kim Ki-duk's Pieta, which picked up the Venice Film Festival's top prize, the Golden Lion, only a few weeks ago. The nominees list is still largely dominated by commercial hits, as this awards show as not traditionally been kind to independent fare, but it's nice to see a few make the cut. Though in the end it seems the variety was all for nought.

Monday, October 29, 2012

KBO: Skyfall Ends Masquerade's 6-Week Reign (10/26-10/28, 2012)

Skyfall Ends Masquerade's 6-Week Reign

Title Release Date Market Share Weekend Total Screens
1 Skyfall (us/uk) 10/26/11 45.60% 870,836 871,823 749
2 Masquerade 9/13/12 20.90% 412,777 10,944,763 503
3 Perfect Number 10/18/12 16.80% 325,268 1,233,658 436
4 Almost Che 10/25/11 6.00% 119,294 158,827 358
5 Brave (us) 9/27/12 1.90% 42,088 1,186,522 153
6 A Company Man 10/11/12 2.20% 40,652 1,091,606 261
7 Looper (us) 10/11/12 2.00% 36,434 548,015 181
8 Paranormal Activity 4 (us) 10/25/11 1.70% 34,918 43,274 173
9 Lawless (us) 10/25/11 0.60% 10,603 16,722 170
10 Dangerous Liaisons 10/11/12 0.30% 5,998 293,263 70

Friday, October 26, 2012

Barbie (바비, 2012)

Though I have long been a fan of the aesthetic merits of Korean cinema, I also realize that there exists a dark side to Korean culture, a pervasive materialism that often favors beauty and perfection above all else. Designer goods and Western trappings have quickly become staples of life for modern urban Koreans. So as Korea has leapt forward in the rush of globalization, what has been lost? Director Lee Sang-woo, with his new feature Barbie, cuts right through the façade as he exposes the dark underbelly of contemporary consumerism.

A young girl (Soon-young) takes care of her sister (Soon-ja) and their mentally-ill grandfather while their mercenary uncle (Mang-tek) hatches a plan to sell her to a wealthy American. The American arrives in town with his daughter but Soon-young doesn’t want to abandon her family. The sickly Soon-ja, who plays with her Barbie and wears makeup, desperately wants to take her place. Meanwhile the American is harboring a secret.

WKR: More From Busan and Doomsday Book Plays Toronto After Dark (10/20-10/26, 2012)

A few more reviews trickle in from Busan while Doomsday Book plays at Toronto's After Dark Festival.


(Variety, October 20, 2012)

(Film Business Asia, October 26, 2012)

(The Hollywood Reporter, October 25, 2012)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

KCN: Success of Korean Films and Local Festivals on Horizon (10/18-10/24, 2012)

More festivals on the way and continued success of Korean film at the local box office.


Korean Films Around the World
As The Thieves breaks the 13 million mark and admissions overtake 10 million for Masquerade, interest in Korean cinema abroad is geting stronger. The Korean Cultural Center in Washington D.C. will screen Choo Chang-min, director of Masquerade’s previous film, Late Blossom (2011). It will be shown at 6:30pm on 25th October. Director Kim Ki-duk’s Pieta, recipient of the Golden Lion Award at Venice, will be released across the U.S. through Drafthouse Films in 2013. (KoBiz, October 23, 2012)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

KBO: Masquerade Streak Continues After Tight Finish (10/19-10/21, 2012)

Masquerade Streak Continues After Tight Finish

Title Release Date Market Share Weekend Total Screens
1 Masquerade 9/13/12 32.50% 545,866 10,255,655 619
2 Perfect Number 10/18/12 32.50% 534,306 632,824 553
3 A Company Man 10/11/12 11.20% 176,295 963,201 399
4 Looper (us) 10/11/12 6.70% 104,853 453,391 302
5 Brave (us) 9/27/12 3.20% 57,888 1,139,057 248
6 Ghost Sweepers 10/3/12 2.50% 43,776 935,762 218
7 The Assassins (ch) 10/18/12 2.30% 39,101 49,038 227
8 Dangerous Liaisons 10/11/12 2.40% 38,750 255,172 248
9 Lawless (us) 10/18/12 1.90% 30,803 46,713 275
10 Infinite Concert 3D 10/18/12 2.10% 25,313 31,395 84

Friday, October 19, 2012

WKR: Busan Winds Up (10/13-10/19, 2012)

Few more pieces come in from Busan as the festival wraps up, not to mention some reviews of brand new films on the Korean marquees.


(Variety, October 14, 2012)

National Security

(Word From the ROK, October 13, 2012)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

KCN: Deals Made at BIFF, Masquerade Still King (10/11-10/17, 2012)

BIFF Wraps up while a swath of deals while Masquerade continues to set records.


“As the number of the festival days has gone up, so has the maturity level of the audience.” said Lee Yong-kwan, BIFF Festival Director, about this year's edition. At the closing press conference held on 13th October, LEE said “The Busan Cinema Center has now firmly been established as the main venue of the festival. We need to explore further how to make best use of the Nampo area.” (KoBiz, October 16, 2012)

Sunday, October 14, 2012

KBO: Masquerade Goes for 5-in-a-Row and on Track for 10 Million (10/12-10/14, 2012)

Masquerade Goes for 5-in-a-Row and on Track for 10 Million

Title Release Date Market Share Weekend Total Screens
1 Masquerade 9/13/12 36.80% 683,845 9,344,967 675
2 A Company Man 10/11/12 27.00% 468,300 576,744 549
3 Looper (us) 10/11/12 11.60% 201,278 250,121 386
4 Ghost Sweepers 10/3/12 5.70% 112,637 844,889 316
5 Dangerous Liaisons 10/11/12 6.00% 106,821 139,370 334
6 Brave (us) 9/27/12 4.70% 90,114 1,072,603 325
7 Taken 2 (us) 9/27/12 3.40% 58,376 2,267,568 281
8 Frankenweenie (us) 10/11/12 1.60% 26,638 30,327 226
9 Spy 9/20/12 0.70% 13,311 1,302,020 105
10 Ted (us) 10/3/12 0.70% 11,685 256,849 80

Saturday, October 13, 2012

BIFF 2012: National Security (남영동1985, Namyeong-dong 1985) 2012

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

Corruption, injustice and terror have always been a sad reality of politics. Over the years, many filmmakers have gone to great lengths (sometimes even putting their lives in peril) in a bid to give a voice to the victims of political malfeasance and to shed light on the frequently covered-up truths within the halls of power. Notable examples include Pontecorvo’s The Battle of Algiers (1966) and Costa-Gavras’ Z (1969). Among the pantheon of political works it is true that those that endure are the ones that shock, works that can elicit an audible gasp from audience members. However, a filmmaker must be careful not to go too far and should also pay due consideration to narrative and filmic requirements when presenting a politically charged narrative on screen.

Chung Ji-young made a big comeback following a 13-year absence this time last year when Unbowed debuted at the 16th edition of the Busan Film Festival. Hot on its heels and proving that it wasn’t a fluke, he has returned with a searing indictment of the brutal Chun Doo-hwan administration that terrorized Korea for the better part of the 1980s.

BIFF 2012: Closing Press Conference - Awards and What's in Store for 2013

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

The 17th Busan International Film Festival just held its Closing press conference at which the award winners of the event were announced. Festival director Lee Yong-Kwan was in attendance along with the following Jury members: Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio; David Gilmour (New Currents Jury); Arturo Ripstein (Flash Forward Head Jury), Mun Jeong-hyun (BIFF Mecenat Jury); Min Yong Keun (Sonje Jury); Melis Behlil (FIPRECI Jury); and Beck Una (NETPAC Jury).

Though not really a competition festival, there are nevertheless many sponsored, audience and press association awards handed out at the festival in addition to BIFF's own short and documentary prizes. However, the most significant prizes are the New Currents and Flashforward awards which are given to the best first or second feature from Asian and non-Asian filmmakers respectively. Those went to 36 and Kayan for the former and Flower Buds for the latter.

36, from Thailand, also picked up the FIPRESCI prize but the big winner at this year's Busan Film Festival was O Muel's Jeju Island massacre pic Jiseul which walked away with four awards, including the CGV Movie Collage Award, the DGK Awards for Best Director (shared with Russian Novel's Shin Young-shick) and the NETPAC Jury Award. Shin Su-won's Pluto, Chung Ji-young's National Security and Lee Dongku's Fatal, three of the most hyped films of the fest, were left empty-handed but again, as this is not a big competition festival, this shouldn't really hurt their prospects.

Friday, October 12, 2012

WKR: Busan Showcases New Korean Films, The Thieves Opens Stateside (10/06-10/12, 2012)

A raft of Busan reviews as the festival is in full swing! The Thieves also gets a few big broadsheet writeups in the US after opening there on limited release.


BIFF 2012: Pluto (명왕성, Myeongwangsong) 2012

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

Film festivals can be a great place to catch up with big films from established luminaries of world cinema but for the ardent cinephile, the most exciting thing is to make a fresh discovery. With patience and some discerning selecting, you will almost always come away with a few pleasant surprises but, while it is wonderful to stumble upon an accomplished debut or sophomore films from emerging talents in the field, every so often you will see something that gives you a special feeling. It is an unmistakable sense of being part of something new and exciting, in the presence of an artist with raw talent, effortless ability and an intuitive understanding of film. These spine-tingling moments don’t happen at every festival but when they do it makes all the searching worthwhile.

Shin Su-won’s second feature Pluto gave me this feeling. However, before singing too much of its praises, I should say that it is a flawed work. More than the film itself, it is the potential of the director that gave me goosebumps. Without a doubt, Shin is about to be a major player in Korean cinema and could well become a force on the international scene before long.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

BIFF 2012: Fatal (가시꽃) 2012

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

Fragile and ephemeral, life is a series of moments, of complicated and random connections that constitute the fabric of our character. Each decision we make affects our path irrevocably: our actions may not always be consequential but they are nonetheless inerasable. Like a thin sheet of glass, our lives can shatter in an instant. The briefest moment can reveal our brittle fragility.

Fatal, a New Currents section debut feature from Lee Donku, begins with a life-altering moment for five people. A young woman has been drugged and raped by a gang of high school students, though one of them is an unwilling participant bullied into performing an act that will torment him for the rest of his life. 10 years later, this now 28-year-old man works for a low-rent clothes manufacturer. An encounter with a Christian group of missionaries on the street prompts him to seek some kind of salvation through religion but when he joins the group he discovers that one of his new colleagues is the woman that he and his friends raped a decade prior.

KCN: BIFF Opens, Korean Film Fests Galore, Pieta to Play US (10/04-10/10, 2012)

The 17th Busan International Film Festival is in full swing while other Korean film fests get ready to unspool their programs and Pieta acquires US distribution.


Discuss the Future of Asian Film
Asian Film Policy Forum 2012, Asia’s only film policy where various Asian countries get together to discuss film policies and aim at development of Asian film industry through improvement of systems, and the 12th Busan International Film Commission and Film Industry Expo, where information about location shooting of each country and up-to-date video technology are available, will be held at Bexco Haeundae in Busan from October 8th to 11th. (KoBiz, October 9, 2012)

Drafthouse Acquires Kim Ki-Duk’s Pieta
The distribution unit of Alamo Drafthouse Cinema has picked up all North American rights to the 2012 Golden Lion winning film, it was announced. The first Korean movie to ever win the top prize at the Venice International Film Festival, Pietà profiles the relationship between a loan shark and the woman who claims to be his long-lost mother. (Deadline, October 9, 2012)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

BIFF 2012: Azooma (공정사회, Gongjeongsahwi) 2012

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

When exploring Korean cinema, you can’t go very far without bumping into a revenge thriller. Park Chan-wook’s ‘Vengeance’ trilogy and Kim Jee-woon’s A Bittersweet Life (2005) are just a few of the more high profile examples. However, of late, this sub-genre has become increasingly popular among independent filmmakers looking to make their mark in the industry. The format seems to supersede horror, sci-fi and other genres as the low-budget debut of choice. The results, however, have been very mixed.

From a narrative standpoint, revenge flicks are rather easy to construct though putting together one that stands out becomes a more complicated task. Azooma, a new offering featuring a female protagonist, doesn’t take great pains to present us with an original story. Instead, it experiments with structure by cutting up a very standard revenge plot and rearranging it. A potentially interesting idea, the execution is sadly undermined by the underdeveloped story, which no matter what way it is sequenced, is bereft of any surprises. Any attempt to feed us new information through a fractured chronology falls flat, as we can already assume it all ahead of its revelation.

Monday, October 8, 2012

BIFF 2012: Park Chul-soo's B·E·D (2012)

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

A small and sensual chamber piece, Park Chul-soo’s new feature B·E·D (his 27th) brings to mind Green Chair (2005), his most significant work of the last decade. However, whereas that erotic film was a fascinating study of an unconventional relationship, Park’s new film can’t seem to move beyond its bedroom antics. Granted, as intimated by the title, a bed is the chief component of the film: It is the principal location and also serves as a heavy metaphor for a man’s lifelong obsession with sex, and, by extension, all men’s carnal fixation.

Based on a short story by Kwon Ji-ye of the same name, B·E·D features a man, presented to us as ‘B’, whose life ‘begins on the bed and ends on the bed’. He has an affair with married woman ‘E’ and later, after she breaks up with him, he marries ‘D’, a single mother and career woman.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

KBO: Masquerade Still Top After Enormous Holiday Week (10/05-10/07, 2012)

Masquerade Still Top After Enormous Holiday Week

Title Release Date Market Share Weekend Total Screens
1 Masquerade 9/13/12 48.00% 849,999 8,220,479 867
2 Taken 2 (us) 9/27/12 16.20% 271,598 2,094,497 507
3 Ghost Sweepers 10/3/12 14.80% 264,961 617,456 479
4 Brave (us) 9/27/12 10.40% 188,398 963,115 478
5 Spy 9/20/12 4.10% 73,413 1,255,749 296
6 Ted (us) 9/27/12 3.00% 49,642 217,239 204
7 Wolf Children (jp) 9/13/12 1.30% 24,286 297,537 124
8 Tad the Lost Explorer (us) 9/20/12 0.50% 10,432 202,045 96
9 Take This Waltz (ca) 9/27/12 0.40% 6,291 19,412 22
10 13 (us) 10/3/12 0.30% 5,760 8,670 108

BIFF 2012: Behind the Camera (뒷담화, 감독이 미쳤어요, Dwitdamhwa, Gamdokyi Micheotseoyo) 2012

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

E J-yong’s new feature Behind the Camera is a follow-up to his popular mockumentary Actresses (2009), which featured famous stars playing themselves as they took part in a Vogue shoot. That film poked fun at Korea’s entertainment industry and its willing participants were not scared to send themselves up on screen. Many of the same stars return here and are joined by numerous others, but this time E takes his game one step further as he includes himself as the main protagonist.

The conceit is simple: E J-yong is making a short film but there’s a catch, he’s directing it from Los Angeles via Skype. Things get more complicated as the film he is shooting concerns a filmmaker directing a film from overseas via skype.

There’s really no better word to describe this film than ‘meta’, a term that frequently made me cast my eyes up to the heavens back in my film studies days. Behind the Camera features a narrative that is consciously seeking to replicate itself. However, while the A plotline (featuring E as the director) is presented as a documentary it is almost impossible to trust the filmmaker. His intentions are very playful and most of the protagonists in the film don’t trust him, so why should we? Fact and fiction become blurred to the point where we are prompted to ask ourselves what we find acceptable as a narrative. E’s point (if he is indeed trying to make any) may be that very little justification is required when seeking to tell a story.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

BIFF 2012: Mai Ratima (마이 라티마) 2012

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

Debut features arrive with a weight of expectation but especially if they come from a major thespian making his first foray behind the camera. Yoo Ji-tae is one of Korea’s most well-known actors, he is a celebrity whose marriage last December was one of 2011’s top entertainment stories. To western audiences he will forever be known as the ageless and dapper antagonist from Oldboy (2003) but he has also impressed in dozens of other features throughout his 15-year career. A handsome and very tall performer, Yoo is perhaps a surprising directorial candidate, especially as few Korean performers transition into that role (the boundaries between Korean film industry professions are starker than Hollywood’s more fluid models). However, Yoo has steadily been earning credibility for himself as a short filmmaker over the past few years.

Mai Ratima, which takes its name from its Thai protagonist, is a film that takes a look at the fate of low-class immigrants in Korea. Hard-hitting and at times whimsical, it is a compelling feature that is thoughtfully constructed and deftly executed if overlong and a little too on-the-nose with its social agenda. Most impressive is Yoo’s engaging mise-en-scene. Saturated in heady hues, beautifully lensed and exquisitely edited, Mai Ratima feels like it is the product of a much more experienced hand, certainly not a rookie offering from a paparazzi magnet.

Friday, October 5, 2012

WKR: Busan Reviews Pour In (09/29-10/05, 2012)

Little late in posting this as I got caught in covering my first Busan Film Fest, starting my new job at the Korean Film Council and moving into a new apartment! That said, plenty of great content from BIFF and will have caught up on all of the Weekly Korean Review updates by weekend's end!

Thanks for your patience!


(Next Projection, October 1, 2012)

(Screen Daily, October 5, 2012)

(The Hollywood Reporter, October 4, 2012)

(Variety, October 29, 2012)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

BIFF 2012 - Opening Film: Cold War (Hong Kong) 2012

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

If Cold War, the opening film of this year’s Busan Film Festival, is heralding a new paradigm for commercial Hong Kong cinema, then I can’t say that it’s something I’m very excited about.  Over-produced and austere, it features strong and slick production values but lacks the confidence, verve or panache of the likes of Johnny To. A potentially interesting tale of internal corruption within the upper echelons of HK law enforcement, the film mostly takes place in brilliant high rises, far from the bustling streets below. The colors are muted, the angles stark, and the production design is far too neat, all of which create a distancing effect: it's hard to get into the rhythm of the film. The lifeless performances, relentless pacing, bombastic staging and needlessly convoluted plot only add to the woes of this disappointing effort from two new directors which ample experience in the field.

Leung Lok-Man and Luk Kim-Ching’s resumes as behind-the-scenes experts, Leung as an art director and Luk as an assistant director (including on the Macau sequences of this year’s Korean blockbuster The Thieves), are readily evident on screen, as the proceedings are immediately swept up in a concisely-edited urban aesthetic. Set pieces, though uneven, are often impressive. Taking a page from To’s book, some of the film’s best scenes are well-constructed sequences of breathlessly combined parallel scenes.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

KCN: BIFF Gets Ready to Take Offf (09/27-10/03, 2012)


Vancouver and London Pay Attention to Korean Queer Film
White Night directed by Leesong Hee-il, who once caught attention with No Regret, has been invited to the Vancouver International Film Festival and the London Korean Film Festival. 6 years after he proved the possibility of Korean style queer film with No Regret, he made a new film White Night, which will be screened at the Dragons and Tigers section of the 13th Vancouver Film Festival (September 27th ~ October 2nd) and the 7th London Korean Film Festival (November 2nd ~ 23rd). (KoBiz, October 2, 2012)

Monday, October 1, 2012

KBO: Masquerade Lords Over Chuseok Holiday (09/28-09/30, 2012)

Masquerade Lords Over Chuseok Holiday

Title Release Date Market Share Weekend Total Screens
1 Masquerade 9/13/12 47.70% 1,379,364 5,234,423 935
2 Taken 2 (us) 9/27/12 27.80% 776,843 962,350 682
3 Spy 9/20/12 9.30% 275,007 840,498 454
4 Brave (us) 9/27/12 7.40% 208,613 223,901 435
5 Ted (us) 9/27/12 2.40% 66,326 83,150 248
6 Ghost Sweepers 10/3/12 1.60% 48,271 53,628 176
7 Wolf Children (jp) 9/13/12 0.90% 28,266 217,147 145
8 Tad the Lost Explorer (us) 9/20/12 0.70% 20,515 127,868 194
9 Pieta 9/6/12 0.60% 18,365 570,949 142
10 Resident Evil 5 (us) 9/13/12 0.40% 10,870 550,480 132

WKR: Masquerade and Coverage from MoMA's Yeonghwa Screenings (09/22-09/28, 2012)

Sorry for the delay for this week's Korean review round-up. I'm transitioning from on job to another, moving out of my apartment, and getting ready for Busan. On that note, there will be no weekly updates during the festival, they will be retroactively added later in October.

Thanks for your understanding!