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Thursday, February 14, 2013

New Korean Films: A Wide Variety (2013 Week 7)

(by Fabien Schneider)

This week, compared to last week, is rich with new releases. But with two documentaries, an indie fiction andharmless romantic comedy, The Berlin File and Miracle in Cell Number 7 don't have to worry about their top spots at the box office. At least until next week, when the highly anticipated The New World will climb aboard the stage.

From Seoul to Varanasi (불륜의 시대)

A man, Young-wu, goes home with a gift for his wife's birthday after spending a few hours with his mistress. But the apartment is empty, and Ji-young has just left a note telling him she left to visit her family. Since as she doesn’t come back the following days, he begins to suspect that she also has an affair. Indeed, Ji-young met some time ago by accident Karim, a young Pakistani, with whom she began a relationship. But when he suddenly left for Varanasi without giving any explanation, she decided to follow him.

Jeon Kyu-hwan continues to see all his films get a release in Korea with a lag after the tour of festivals in Asia and Europe. His Towns’ trilogy (Mozart Town, Animal Town and Dance Town) had to wait until 2011 to finally be distributed independently in their country of origin. From Seoul to Varanasi will be distributed by Kino Eye, a distributor used to documentaries and independent films, which is already an improvement. This film was notably presented in Berlin last year and in Busan in 2011, where I had the opportunity to watch it. Although much less striking than Animal Town and with a simple and predictable story, it is still very well shot with beautiful images and a strong personal atmosphere. Its non-simulated pornographic scenes will obviously limit its audience, but Jeon Kyu-hwan is part of this new rising generation of filmmakers in Korea who receives strong support from the international critics as well as the Korean ones, and thus may attract a crowd of curious cinema lovers in the few theaters that will screen it. Be aware that his next film, The Weight, completed last year, is expected to benefit from a more widespread distribution across the country since it will be handled by NEW.

Watch the trailer here.

Fool (바보야)

Four years after his death, this documentary traces the life of Stephen Kim Sou-hwan, the first Korean to have attained the status of Cardinal. Ordained a priest in the middle of the Korean War, he has constantly studied abroad, and fought for democracy, justice and economic development for the less wealthy stratas of the population.

This biographical documentary will be at a divide from the rest of the films offered in cinemas, due to its religious nature. It isn't the usual movie-goer who will pay his place to see this movie, but people perhaps less accustomed to go to the cinema, a bit older, and obviously mostly Catholics. But it is worth noting that the former Cardinal had a great influence in democratic movements under the dictatorship of Park Chung-hee and Chun Doo-hwan, and that the film should thus also attract a wider audience of people affected by the protests, people who lived through that difficult period. It is also worth noting, although it will have no influence on the success of the film, that Ahn Sung-ki is the narrator.

Watch the trailer here.

How to Use Guys with Secret Tips 

An assistant in a marketing company works so much that she does not have time to give to a potential boyfriend. Anyway she takes so little care of herself, that it has been a long time since she’s attracted the attention of a man. When she discovers a videotape entitled "Man Manual," she does not take the advice provided seriously but attempts to apply them anyway. She suddenly finds herself hunted by every man she meets, including the pop star Lee Seung-jae.

With such a title (the Korean title literally translates as "Man Manual"), the target audience of this film is clearly identified: girls and young women, whether single or not, who are used to go out to the movies in groups of friends. The marketing campaign on posters and in the trailer maintains the mistery about the famous advice deemed 100% infallible, thus increasing the curiosity of that audience, while it is little doubt that the moral of the story to end should be that love has nothing to do with systematic techniques. Lee Won-suk is a unknown director who has so far made a short film in the U.S., but behind him is the production company Film Company Outing (영화사 소풍) who had already committed the poor Happy Killers (2010), and the finished product will be distributed by Showbox, which has a smell for successful releases, the more recent one being Man on the Edge. Lee Si-Young is for the moment best known for her roles in dramas than in movies, but nevertheless already enjoyed success with Meet the in-Laws in 2011. It shouldn’t be with this new film that she will expand her registry, since she encamps once more an hyperactive and clumsy girl. It would also not be surprising if, as with almost all her films, the movie will be accompanied by her singing the title song. How to Use Secret Tips Guys should perform pretty well though it will not take the top spot at the box office. As for the quality of this film, it is likely to be a romantic comedy quickly digested and forgotten.

Watch the trailer here.

Goodbye Homerun (굿바이 홈런)

Despite the fact that the Wonju High Baseball Team keeps losing its matches, it continues to attract in the bleachers a few diehard fans, especially parents and alumni. There remains only the players on the team to still believe in the victory. They show determination and energy, because for them this game might change their lives.

This documentary has of course very little leeway, being about a popular sport indeed but dedicated to a small team from a local high school, so it’s of a limited interest for most Korean audiences. In any case, there will be very few theaters to program it. However, this film blows a little breeze of freshness into the sports genre by showing that team spirit and fortitude also exist among the losers. Beyond that, there is little chance that this film will surprises reviewer, as the filmmaking does not seem to stand out from other sports documentaries.

Watch the trailer here.

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. Amazing new films. They just keep getting better in making movies.