Monday, December 23, 2013

Korean Box Office: Song Kang-ho Proves He's B.O. King with The Attorney


With the help of a homegrown offering's huge opening, business came booming back by soaring over the three million mark for the first time in months. The pre-Christmas weekend saw 61% of tickets got to local films.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Review: Jeon Do-yeon Shines in WAY BACK HOME


By Pierce Conran

Following a two-year break after the disappointing Countdown, Jeon Do-yeon makes an exceedingly welcome return to the big screen in Way Back Home. With a role that suits her to a tee and under the considered direction of Pang Eun-jin, fresh off last year’s Perfect Number, Jeon is a marvel in what may well become an end-of-year hit for CJ Entertainment.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Korean Box Office: Jeon Do-yeon No Match for The Hobbit


Despite a major new local release, the Korean film industry was held at bay once again as the pairing of Jeon Do-yeon and Ko Soo wasn't enough to prevent the new Hobbit from taking first place. 2.24 million tickets were sold over the frame, about 10% over last year, but the local market share, due to a soft opening and a lack of strong holdovers, was weak at 28%.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Review: Time Travel Takes a Siesta at 11:00 AM

"Wait, this is a time travel film?"

By Pierce Conran

Setting aside the barnstorming success of Bong Joon-ho’s new feature Snowpiercer, an anomaly if ever there was one, Korea cinema’s relationship to the science fiction genre has been a difficult one over the years. Successful mash-ups like Save the Green Planet (2003) and The Host (2006) hinted at what the industry might achieve, but by and large, the straight sci-fis that have been produced, such as 2009: Lost Memories (2002), Yesterday (2002) and Natural City (2003), have failed to impress. However, 11:00 AM, a new Korean sci-fi which made its way into local theaters late this year, held the faintest glimmer of hope for what can at times be one of cinema’s most rewarding genres. Alas, this new effort follows previous domestic stabs that fail to grasp what makes the genre work in the first place.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Review: MONTAGE is a Refreshing and Suspenseful Addition to the Thriller Genre


By Patryk Czekaj

It’s never an easy task to take on a subject that’s been worked over many times before, all the more when you’re still a novice filmmaker. Murder mysteries have long been an important part of Korean cinema and although there are many brilliant, powerful titles in the genre (i.e. Mother [2009], Memories of Murder [2003], The Chaser [2003], et. al) it’s getting harder for directors to deliver breathtaking suspense without referring to some well-known plot elements.

Korean Box Office: About Time Tops Slow Weekend


Slow weekend for local releases with only 26% of the 1.62 million admissions going to domestic industry. Things were much rosier this time last year with 75% of 1.95 million admissions going to Korean films.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Review: Love and Adolescence in Kim Ki-duk's The Bow (2005)


By Hieu Chau

Up until now, it would appear as though Kim Ki-duk’s films could easily be placed into one of two different categories – one for his extreme features and the other for his sensitive works. His 2005 film, The Bow most certainly fits into the latter alongside some of his best critical successes such as Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter… and Spring (2003) and 3-Iron (2004) as it too is a contemplative piece that retains much of Kim’s signature brand of wistfulness. Never one to shy away from tough subject matter, The Bow, when compared to a lot of his recent films, is a lot tamer both in terms of violence and sexual imagery. Given Kim’s track record for provoking audiences with his patented obsession with faith and morality, The Bow, while clearly peppered with religious iconography, doesn’t seem to be all that interested in using its themes as a means to frame a story. Instead, The Bow is, for the most part, a coming-of-age drama, one that tells the sexual awakening of a young girl and features aspects of teenage rebellion – a mutual ground for most coming-of-age dramas. Of course, being that this is a Kim Ki-duk film, this coming-of-age drama is skewed towards extremely artistic territory.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Review: Keeping Up the Bad Fight - Ingtoogi: The Battle of Internet Trolls


By Eugene Kwon

When online feuds lead to conflicts in the real world, things can get pretty ugly. During recent years in Korea, certain online users of computer games and texting services have taken their grudge fights to the streets where they mimic K-1 fighters’ moves and engage in a rough brawl. Such conflicts have even gained the term “hyunpi,” a hybrid neologism of Chinese and English characters that stands for “player kill in reality.” All of this might sound ridiculous to most that are unfamiliar with virtual world culture. Who would go through such a long hassle in venting out their online-anger? In the end, it’s just a game, right?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Busan 2013 Review: Balls of Fury - The King of Jogku


Part of MKC's coverage of the 18th Busan International Film Festival.

(by Rex Baylon)

The struggle of one team or individual to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles has been popular fodder for films since the silent era. Early silent shorts by esteemed comedians like Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd have built entire careers by donning the role of the underdog. In these early works the template for all future sports films, comedy or otherwise, was set down in cinematic stone. The hero is often schlubby, unpopular, and often pegged as more dreamer than doer. A love interest is usually injected into the story to offer our hero pep talks and scold them for losing focus. And, of course, the film’s antagonist is the very embodiment of physical perfection, though with one thing lacking, the spirit of the “good” sportsman. While our hero may not be able to shoot a basket through a hoop or net, fight like one of the Cobra Kai, or have a well-toned physique our titular hero is a stand-in for us, born with all our faults but embodying our most treasured ideals.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Dr. Q's MKC Rants - North Korean Agents: From Creepy Spooks to Pretty Boys


North Korean Agents: From Creepy Spooks to Pretty Boys

By Kyu Hyun Kim, Associate Professor of Japanese and Korean History, University of California, Davis

There were times during my younger days when I wondered whether South Korean filmmakers had to invent North Korean Communists if they did not exist in real life. Of course, the more you actually study the relationship between anti-Communist ideology and the postwar (post-1953, not post-1945) South Korean culture, the more you realize that it was complex, multifarious and full of contradictions. Anti-Communism has never been a monolithic edifice: neither was it a watertight cage from which no fluid leaked. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Korean Box Office: Sci-fi AM 11:00 Clocks in Middling Debut


With 1.77 million admissions, business was still a little down from this time last year (when admission topped two million) due to a lack of strong new releases. Though with a 60% market share, local releases are still in good shape. This month's new films have been relatively low profile but things should pick up in the coming weeks with some higher profile domestic films, not to mention the invasion of Hollywood holiday fare.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Review: The Delightful and Subtle Nobody's Daughter Haewon Proof of Narrative Genius


By Patryk Czekaj

Hong Sangsoo is an undisputed master of low budget, dialogue-driven, ambiguously satirical films that reveal the truth about human relationships in a most sincere and emphatic way. Due to the alluring but mostly down-to-earth ambiance on the surface, those pictures might look ordinary for first-time viewers. Yet, after subsequent viewings it becomes evident that the pleasure of discovering the genius behind Hong’s creations is a fascinating adventure in itself. Due to an impressive number of distinguishing characteristics, most notably maze-like storylines, uncertain timelines, specifically planned repetitions and well-developed characters, Hong has gained critical acclaim as one of the most imaginative and unconventional Korean art-house directors.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Korean Box Office: Friend 2 Wins Again as Hunger Games Fails to Catch Fire


Business was a bit slow this past weekend as all the holdovers suffered heavy falls and none of the new releases caught fire. 1.85 million tickets were bought over the frame, down almost 20% from last year. The market share was evenly spread as local releases took a thin edge with 51%, this was down from 72% this time last year.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Review: This Very Ordinary Couple Aims to Show You What's What


Grand romance, as depicted on screen, written on the page or sung into a microphone, is the stuff of dreams. We crave it and feel it vicariously through surrogate works. It happens in life too but scarcely as magnificently as we imagine it in our minds. Romcoms spoil us in a way, they invite us to expect something that doesn't exist, at least in a form as ideal as that which is represented in these films.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Review: The Slick, Manipulative and Disappointing Secretly Greatly


When a filmmaker makes a great debut, expectations are bound to be quite high for the follow-up. Such was the case for Jang Cheol-soo, who took the world by storm with his terrific island revenge saga Bedevilled in 2010. When word first surfaced of his next feature, which would see him adapt the popular webcomic Secretly Greatly, the initial buzz was one of excitement. However, as it progressed through casting and then production, it became more and more clear that this would be a completely different kind of film, and certainly not one aimed at the audience that was so enthralled by his debut.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Busan 2013 Review: The Fake Is a Bleak and Devastating Experience


Part of MKC's coverage of the 18th Busan International Film Festival.

Terrible things happen all the time but it's easy to ignore what goes on around us. Sometimes, we even fail to see what's right in front of us. Independent films, at least those with a realistic bent, frequently attempt to educate us by plainly us showing the realities of the world we live in but they don't always move us the way filmmakers would like them to. Sometimes it's the fault of poor storytelling, mise-en-scene or acting, but more often than not, the fault lies with us. Among the reasons that we avoid what is plain to see is the diluted effect of these narratives, after decades of similarly minded cinema.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Review: Pieta - What Does It Matter as Long as a Boy Loves His Mother?


By John A. Riley

A cavalcade of joyless masturbation, even more joyless coition, animal entrails splattered across the tiled floor of a bathroom, mutilation and misogynistic violence. And that’s just the first ten minutes of Kim Ki-duk’s 2012 film Pieta. Set in a grimy industrial area of Seoul, it deals with Kang-do, a brutal debt collector who meets a woman claiming to be the mother who abandoned him in childhood. Together they begin a deadpan, incestuous parody of domestic life together. This newfound love melts Kang-do’s heart, exposing his deeply-hidden vulnerability and leading to a visceral and tragic conclusion.

Korean Box Office: Gangster Sequel Friend 2 Posts Solid Debut


Compared with last year, business has been a little down but Korean films are as strong as ever as they commanded a 70% share over the past weekend with seven of the top ten films. 2.11 million tickets were sold over the frame, down from last year's 2.62 million, when A Werewolf Boy, the last Twilight film and Confession of Murder were vying for the top.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Busan 2013 Review: Mot Explores Youth in Revolt


Part of MKC's coverage of the 18th Busan International Film Festival.

By Rex Baylon

Water is the most malleable element in nature. It can inhabit different material states, i.e. liquid, gas, and solid. It can adapt itself to any shape it needs to be in and in purely literary terms water occupies a panoply of meanings, be it good, bad, or ambiguous. In Seo Ho-bin’s directorial debut, Mot (2013), water takes on the familiar meaning of a buried secret that won’t stay concealed. For Hyung-myung and his friends, the last day of high school should have been a happy memory. Hyung-myung’s friend, Sung-pil, envisions a future unrestricted by parents and teachers telling him what to do. For his sister Kyung-min the possibility of romance hangs heavily on her mind.  

Thursday, November 14, 2013

DMZ Docs 2013 Review: Unique Shaman Doc Manshin is a Sensory Thrill


I’ve been a keen fan of Korean films for over a decade and have now spent about a year and a half living within the country’s borders, yet, though I’ve been exposed to it many times, shamanism stubbornly remains a difficult part of the nation’s heritage to get to grips with. Mystical and echoing an ancient way of life, it is not merely something that fallen in stature due to the ravages of time, it is a facet of Korean culture that requires a different way of thinking.

10 South Korean Production Companies Come Together To Form New Company


Of all the achievements that South Korean cinema has accomplished over the last decade its ability to go toe-to-toe with foreign juggernauts like Hollywood and keep it’s domestic products at the top of the heap has been its most remarkable feat. While its Asian neighbors struggle and fight against Hollywood hegemony only the South Korean film industry has consistently been able to produce content that are critical and/or commercial successes. A side effect to these glories though is that a split has formed within the industry, dividing blockbusters and small indie films into majority and niche markets.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Busan 2013 Review: Cold Eyes Looks to the Best for Inspiration


Part of MKC's coverage of the 18th Busan International Film Festival.

Korean thrillers have earned a reputation for consistency over the years and though there may only be a few great ones, the majority of them are solid efforts. However, we’ve come to expect a lot of the same tropes as a result of this consistency, so much so that they have begun to feel too familiar over time. One of the latest offerings from the genre is Cold Eyes, which set the stage for a summer full of Korean thrillers (others included Snowpiercer, The Terror Live, The Flu and Hide and Seek). With an innovative approach to location filming in Seoul and by featuring three stars playing against type, Cold Eyes may seem familiar but it’s also a fresh and exciting addition to the genre.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Review: Korean Indie Koala Oozes Charm


Simplicity is in rare supply in Korean cinema these days, so when a film like Koala comes along, it does so as a breath of fresh air. Nary an overwrought emotion, sad backstory nor superfluous tangent can be seen here. Instead, this refreshing new indie is straightforward and endearing as it leaves us to ponder the all too recognizable fates of its young and affable protagonists.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Third Window Films Adds 3 More Korean Films


Dapper dresser and Third Window Films founder Adam Torel is an important figure for English speaking Asian cinema fans. His company has been responsible for bringing many important contemporary Asian titles to the West. Filmmakers like Sion Sono, Shinya Tsukamoto, Lee Chang-dong, and many more have had their films released by Torel’s company, a brand that has carefully curated a catalogue of future classics and the occasional curio. Of course with all that said it has been a long while since Third Window had any Korean films on their release slate.

Busan 2013 Review: Moebius Is Insane and Brilliant


Part of MKC's coverage of the 18th Busan International Film Festival.

Kim Ki-duk has shocked many a festival/arthouse audience over the years, ever since he used fishhooks to terrible effect in The Isle (2000). Watching his films can be an uncomfortable experience and while he has perhaps gone overboard in the past, he's never been outrageous just for the sake of it. Spectators, for their part, have steadily become more drawn to his works. With his new feature Moebius, never has he so deliberately sought to shock them. His message, framed in a terrifying and morbidly humorous narrative that recalls the tropes and themes of Greek tragedy, is clearer than it's ever been. It's also never been quite this powerful.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Busan 2013 Review: The Devastating Han Gong-ju Is BIFF's Hidden Gem


Part of MKC's coverage of the 18th Busan International Film Festival.

What is it that drives us to the cinema, time and again? What are we looking for when we enter a theater and the lights begin to fade? In answering that question you will often come across the words entertainment and escapism, two similar terms that nevertheless encompass slightly different purviews. However, at its best, cinema goes beyond mere distraction and has the ability to move us deeply. Like a decades-old junkie chasing his first high, I willingly trawl through a throng of films to experience anew the catharsis that cinema has the ability to provoke. A few consensus picks emerge from time to time but there’s nothing quite like being blindsided by something you weren’t expecting.

Jeffrey Katzenberg and Dreamworks Prepping Korean-Style Animation?


It’s no secret that South Korea has for the last few decades been a wellspring for foreign animators to outsource their grunt work to, the most famous example being Matt Groening’s Simpsons franchise, but in the last few years South Korea has begun to come into its own. No easy task with the double juggernaut of Japan’s anime and manga industry right next door and the global proliferation of American pop culture. Yet works like Green Days: Dinosaur and I (2011) and Yeun Sang-ho’s powerful The King of Pigs (2011), though far from being commercially successful, bode well for the development of animators with an auteurist bent.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

MKC Wants You! Looking For Writers with a Passion for Korean Films


First off, apologies to all MKC readers for the significant recent lack of updates. The month leading up to the Busan Film Fest is always a busy time (or at least it has been in my brief two years in Korea) and other new ventures have kept me away from the site. Not to worry though as I'll make sure that MKC gets back on track and continues to deliver fresh new content on the latest Korean films (and a few old ones too). However, I may need a little help...

Though I've been responsible for most of the site over the last few years, the MKC team has grown in recent times, with the addition of Rex Baylon's excellent reviews, Fabien Schneider's very informative New Korean Films column and Connor McMorran's Edinburgh IFF coverage. In addition, various events, such as 'Jopok Week' and 'Revenge Week' on the monthly 'Thought Leader's Corner' have yielded an enormous amount of exciting content from different contributors. Clearly, there is no shortage of Korean film fans out there, a great many of whom have readily transferred their passion to the page (or screen).

In the hopes of turning MKC into a more frequently updated hub for Korean film coverage and recognizing the growing fan base for the Korean cinema, I would like to announce a call for writers. Whether news, features, interviews, columns or news, we are open to any new content on Korean film. So if you share our passion and would like to join our team please get in touch at modernkoreancinema@gmail.com by telling us a little about yourself and giving us a writing sample. At the end of the day, MKC was set up as a way to talk about a long-held passion for Korean film. By bringing more people into the fold, I hope that that excitement can be shared among a larger group of people.

Don't be shy! ;)

Friday, October 4, 2013

New Korean Films: Censorships and Restrictions (2013 Week 36)

The Spy
(스파이)


A secret agent working on a delicate issue menacing the security of the country is sent to Thailand to dislodge a terrorist group. He hides his mission to his wife, an air hostess, making her believe that he’s going on a business trip to Busan. His astonishment is then huge when he stumbles on her in the streets of Bangkok, accompanied by another man. Suddenly aware that she may too hide things from him, he then tries to continue his investigation while keeping an eye on the activities of his wife.

Friday, September 27, 2013

New Korean Films: (Too) Close Encounters (2013 Week 35)

Playboy Bong
(아티스트 봉만대)


A producer visits one of his directors on his shooting location in Bali, and is clearly not satisfied with the first scenes shot of that erotic horror film. He then takes the decision to call for help another famous director, Bong Man-dae. But the team gets soon annoyed by the authoritarian leadership of the new director, and his will to picture more nudity stirs up a revolt from the actresses. But hiding in the shadow lays the former director who is just waiting for the right moment to take revenge on the pushy playboy.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

New Korean Films: Hauting Memories, Revenants and Regrets (2013 Week 34)

Fatal
(가시꽃)


An unpopular high school student is lead by a band to break into a girl’s place and forced to rape her with them. Ten years later, he finds her by chance at the church. She did not recognize his face, and naturally he doesn’t dare to remind her of this painful memory and thus confess his identity. He seeks at all costs to redeem himself, but when he realizes that she is still overwhelmed by the trauma, he decides to take action by finding the other attackers and confront them.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Review: The Face Reader Is a Terrific Period Yarn


Though absent from Korean marquees this year until now, the period Korean film makes a big comeback with the release of Han Jae-rim's arresting The Face Reader. Sublimely mounted, intriguingly plotted and featuring a terrific cast, this seems the ideal film for Chuseok (Korea's biggest holiday), which it was no doubt carefully tailored for.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

1st Chuseok Film Festival Takes Place Next Week

The Chuseok Film Festival, which will screen a variety of Korean films with English subtitles, is set to have its first edition during next week's national holiday. 18 films (including 13 features and 5 shorts) will be shown on September 18th and 19th at Art Nine Cinema in Seoul, located by Isu Station in Megabox on the 12th floor.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Review - The Spy: Undercover Operation Should Have Stayed Under Wraps


Korean cinema has gotten very good at staging impressive onscreen spectacle in recent years. Though $10 million budgets used to be a rare thing, reserved for only the most ambitious and promising films, these days an abundance of these pricey projects are flooding the market. As with everywhere else in the cinema landscape, studios feel a need to continually up the ante as they worry about the diminishing attention spans of their audiences. But for every film that spends its money wisely many more appear that could easily be labeled a waste: of the production budget, as well as the audience's time. Which brings us to The Spy: Undercover Operation.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Korean Box Office: Now You See Me Rises To First


As we head out of the summer, the major Korean releases of the season are starting to tapper off, leaving the door for America to reclaim some ground ahead of the Chuseok holiday, which will likely see the balance fall back in favor of local releases. Total ticket sales jumped 20% year-on-year to 2.46 million admissions while the domestic market share was only 39%, half of where it stood last year.

Review: Hide and Seek Is Worth the Look


The thriller genre, one of the hallmarks of contemporary Korean cinema, seems to be as strong as ever on the peninsula these days. Many of the country's best commercial films are knee-deep in crime, sex and death, and gussied up in slick atmospheric aesthetics. This summer, as with many before, has seen its fair share of high profile thrillers grip the nation, such as Cold Eyes, The Terror Live, The Flu and now Hide and Seek.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Korean Box Office: Hide and Seek Ekes Out Another First Place (08/23-08/25, 2013)


In the last weekend before many schools start their new terms, business had a last hurrah with 3.24 million tickets sold over the frame, approximately 30% more than last year. A new Hollywood release dampened the market share somewhat, but the take for local product still came in at a powerful 63% (versus 78% in 2012).

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

PiFan 2013 - Before Sundown: Sunshine Love (2013)


Arrested development has been a very prescient theme in Western media. The man-child, geek, otaku; no matter what you call it we are living in an age where the lines between childhood and adult responsibilities have blurred. For the character of Gil-ho (Oh Jeong-se) in Jo Eun-sung’s debut feature Sunshine Love (2013), his protracted immaturity is not because of some addiction to a fantasy world, though the film is interspersed with several fantasy kung-fu sequences. No, what cripples Gil-ho is what cripples most twenty-somethings, a sense of dread as our expectations for the life we are supposed to live clashe with the reality of our situation. In the case of Gil-ho, the moment we first meet him we learn two important things about him. First, he desperately wants a position as a government bureaucrat. And second, he has failed the government exam several times already. Though an obvious change in career should be the next step for Gil-ho he seems too stubborn for this epiphany and continues on with his quest to be a civil servant.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Korean Box Office: Hide and Seek is Lord of the Korean Thrillers


August continued to be redhot at the Korean box office as no less than four Korean thrillers duked it out for the top spot. In the end it wasn't as close a race as it seemed it was going to be but, nevertheless, a stunning 3.96 million tickets were sold over the frame, light years ahead of last year's 3.12 million. The story was even more impressive for local films as the four local thrillers that held court at the top of the chart combined for a commanding 89%, compared with 68% last year.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

New Korean Films: Impending Contagion in Theaters (2013 Week 33)

The Flu
(감기)


A new disease occurs overnight and causes confusion in all hospitals. It spreads particularly fast because the virus is propagated through the respiratory system and only needs 36 hours of incubation to cause death. Physicians, researchers and ordinary civilians are fighting to eradicate the outbreak before it is too late.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Review: Slick Epidemic Thriller The Flu Strays Off Course


It was only last summer that Korea released its first film featuring a deadly disease when Deranged became a big hit in June. Coming from the same studio (CJ Entertainment), the new epidemic thriller The Flu, the first work from director Kim Sung-su (Beat, 1997) in 10 years, seeks to strike gold again with the same blend of star power, family dynamics and chaos.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Korean Box Office: Another Huge Weekend for Snowpiercer and The Terror Live


Following last weekend's record breaking 4.5 million admissions bonanza, business quelled somewhat over the past frame. However, at 3.6 million, it is still on of the biggest weekends on record and significantly above last year's 3.1 million. The local market share was a mighty 78%, in line with last year. Just like last week, business was bolstered by a pair a giant productions.

New Korean Films: Indie Films Never Die (2013 Week 32)

Oldmen Never Die
(죽지않아)


Ji-hoon went to the countryside to live with his grandfather to discharge him of farm work, but also to make sure to make a good impression to get a large share of his inheritance, thinking that he may die very soon. But it's been three years since Ji-hoon gets exhausted every day, and his grandfather seems instead to rejuvenate with each passing day. After taking a long-awaited break for a day spent in Seoul, he returns to the village and comes upon a young woman standing in front of his place who claims to be his grandfather’s girlfriend.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Edingburgh 2013: Final Thoughts


Part of Connor McMorran's coverage for MKC of the Edinburgh International Film Festival (June 19-30, 2013).

This year’s Edinburgh Film Festival presented a wide range of films, both mainstream and independent, from many different countries. It also featured a focus on Swedish and Korean national cinemas, providing a strong selection of current works from both countries. Yet, during my time at the festival, I noticed far more of an emphasis on the Swedish selection; either through leaflets or e-mails sent out to all press members. Other than the beautiful poster for Lee Hyun-Jung’s experimental work Virgin Forest, I saw no other promotional materials for the Korean films on show this year. Also, the lack of critics in early morning screenings for works like Shin Su-Won’s Pluto left me wondering how much coverage such films would get. Despite my opening piece praising the selection of The Berlin File, does it really help to present a full view of contemporary Korean cinema if the only film critics attend is the big-budget, mainstream work?

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Edingburgh Review: Motorway (HK, 2012)


Part of Connor McMorran's coverage for MKC of the Edinburgh International Film Festival (June 19-30, 2013).

Films have the incredible ability to present the world to us in ways that are impossible in real life. They can, through the use of visual and audio techniques, create a heightened sense of awareness about particular aspects of life and allow us to experience the world in a completely new way. In other words, film morphs reality into a hyper-reality. Hong Kong filmmaker Soi Cheang has always had a very visceral quality to his works, placing emphasis on extreme violence and allowing visual style to really carry his over-the-top approach to cinema. Things changed somewhat when Cheang directed 2009’s Accident, produced by Johnnie To and made for To and fellow director Wai Ka-Fai’s studio Milkyway Image. Accident was one of the most interesting Hong Kong films of 2009, and it saw Cheang take a more reserved approach by placing an emphasis on atmosphere over intensity.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Korean Box Office: Snowpiercer on Track as It Leads Biggest Weekend in Korean Film History


This first weekend in August is always a busy time in Korea and though this one was poised to post massive figures, few could have foreseen just how big it would be. Roughly 4.5 million tickets were sold this weekend, the first time the Fri-Sun frame has ever crossed the 4 million mark in Korea. By comparison, last year's powerful The Thieves-led frame brought in 3.69 million viewers. Even better news was a strong 80% (versus 58% in 2012) local market share, driven by a pair of huge new domestic hits.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

New Korean Films: Snowpiercer Belongs to the Front (2013 Week 31)

Snowpiercer
(설국열차)


In the near future, while an attempt to stem global warming results in a deadly new ice age. everyone is fighting for one of the few seats on a train destined to contain what’s left of humankind by traversing the world with an inexhaustible energy source. Seventeen years later, the population of passengers is split between the elite who occupy the luxurious first-class carriages at the head of the convoy, and the common people who live in the rear of the train. This is too much for Curtis and Gilliam who are fomenting a revolution whose aim is to take control of the engine, which became a sacred place with time and that only Wilford, the creator of the train, knows how to work.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

PiFan 2013: The Terror Live Can't Quite Go the Distance


In an era of oversaturation at the cineplex, with countless retreads and follow-ups dominating the marquees, sometimes a gimmick is just the trick to freshen things up. A clever and well-executed hook can seem fresh and original, but if poorly done, it can easily torpedo a film. In the case of new Korean action-thriller The Terror Live, a chamber piece that takes place entirely in a radio recording studio, the gimmick in the premise is both its saving grave and its downfall.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Review: Bong Joon-ho's Snowpiercer Delivers the Goods


Cinema is a medium of motion and if anyone understands this, it appears to be Bong Joon-ho, whose visionary new work is a demented and stunning thrillride. In his first production outside his native South Korea, Bong has delivered his most ambitious project yet, and proves more than capable of handling an international, multilingual cast and a large budget.

New Korean Films: Showbox Is Going All Bananas (2013 Week 29)

Mr. Go
(미스터 고)


A director of a circus troupe in China dies leaving all his inheritance to his daughter, Weiwei, 15. Among the menagerie is a gorilla named Ling Ling with which the director often played baseball and who seems to possess great playing abilities. A South Korean recruiter hears the rumor and rushes to China to hire the gorilla along with Weiwei as a coach in a team of the South Korean professional league. Very soon, Ling Ling becomes a celebrity in the sporting world, which does not take long to attract the lusts of several opposing teams.