Wednesday, January 9, 2013

New Korean Films: Raising Social Issues With A Musical (2013 Week 2)

(by Fabien Schneider) 

After a first week which left the field open to independent productions, CJ Entertainment and Showbox enter into the dance with two medium-budget films that should have difficulty unseating The Tower from its box office perch.

My Little Hero (마이 리틀 히어로)

A music director opportunistically accepts to lead the rehearsal of a troupe for the musical adaptation of King Jungjo’s life. To cast the main role, he organizes a competition on a national TV channel in which applicants are auditioned blindly and thus selected solely on the basis of their voices. He is completely taken aback when he realizes that the chosen boy, Young-kwang, is actually a mestizo. While teaching him the choreography, the music director begins to become more interested in his Philippine origins.

Korea is extremely fond of musicals, to the point where it has become an essential destination for troupes as they undergo a world tour. The current success of Les Misérables is just another proof of this. Thus this film should be able to attract at least the usual audience of musicals. One shouldn’t expect a lot of finesse, the trailer already leaving the feeling that the narrative strings are too apparent. But what might unleash passions and what is the main (and my favorite) asset of the film is the leading role being occupied by a child of an immigrant in a movie intended for a general audience. Punch (2011) and Papa (2012) had already the way and were quite successful. If the problem of a mestizo interpreting a role typically Korean is actually addressed, and not just used as a dramatic gimmick, it may become the first good surprise of the year.

Man on the Edge (박수건달) 

For whatever reason, a gangster finds himself leading a double life as a shaman.

There is very little information about the scenario and I wonder if there is much more to discover. As if such a pitch was not enough to put us on our guard, the trailer highlights some wheezy gags and what is particularly sacrilegious: talking animals! More seriously, my real concern is the screenwriter, Park Gyoo-tae, as he already wrote the script for Hi, Dharma in 2001 with a similar situation emphasizing the opposition between gangsters and religion, and with the same lead actor Park Shin-yang. The least one can say is that that film was not really funny, the gags were all commonplace, and overall it lacked a good pace. This should be partly offset by director Jo Jin-kyoo, who hasn't been seen since he closed out the My Wife is a Gangster trilogy, which at least had the merit of being effective. This film is not likely to make an impression, both among the public and critics.

New Korean Films is a weekly feature which provide an in-depth look at new local releases in Korea.  For film news, external reviews, and box office analysis, take a look at the Korean Box Office UpdateKorean Cinema News and the Weekly Korean Reviews, which appear weekly on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings (Korean Standard Time). Reviews and features on Korean film also appear regularly on the site. 

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1 comment:

  1. These upcoming films are so interesting. I personally love Korean films, but less knowledge about the directors, productions and stuffs alike. I just admire the story and how some great actors/actress come from Korea. Thanks for this review.