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Friday, March 22, 2013

New Korean Films: Rememberance of the Lost Ones (2013 Week 12)

(by Fabien Schneider)

Eating, Talking, Faucking 


Eighteen characters are brought together in sketches with original situations, and the topics of all their discussions quickly turn to sex: a 70-year old man who returns to childhood by chatting with teenagers, a suicidal soldier and a serial killer, a naturist blind-date, or God trying to regulate the desire in his first two attempts at making humans, are only a few of these strange stories.

No, I did not make typo in writing the last word of the international title, but I think everyone got the message. This film will obviously be restricted to adults because of its raw themes, but it is for another reason that it should arouse emotions: the director, Park Chul-soo, died last month after being hit while crossing a pedestrian crossing. Only two months ago, I mentioned another of his films, B.E.D, which addressed the same subject, but his best-known works will certainly remain 301, 302 and Green Chair. This is obviously an independent production filmed on a digital camera, which will have a lot of trouble attracting audiences since it will apparently by screened in... three theaters, and none of those in Seoul. In what is now considered like his last work Oh In-hye appears once again following another of Park’s films, Red Vacance Black Wedding (2011). But the real star in my opinion is Lee Duk-hwa, 61, who has played in over thirty films.

This may seem hypocritical in light of the circumstances surrounding the release of this film, but it interests me more than the recent films of Park Chul-soo. The situations seem especially suited to various treatments on the topic of sexuality. The trailer is very simple but it is this moving simplicity that, if it is followed in the feature film, could allow Park Chul-soo to definitively leave the cinema world with a bang.

Watch the trailer here.

Very Ordinary Couple


Two bank clerks start a relationship in the greatest secrecy to avoid arousing the suspicions of colleagues, and keep this little game going for three years. When they argue to the point of not being able to see each other, they decided to break up. But by dint of crossing each other every day, the situation soon becomes unbearable.

Billed as a romantic comedy in the trailer, the film seems to take the opposite direction by actually representing a termination of a difficult relationship. Lotte Entertainment is timely with its release since there is little competition on the horizon. With over 120 screens it should do well in the rankings. The director, Noh Duk, takes her first steps in feature films, but it was apparently accompanied by a good level of production. With Lee Min Ki (Quick, A Million, Oishi Man, Romantic Island) and Kim Min Hee (Like it Hot, Actresses, Helpless), two young actors who made their debuts in recent soap operas, this film generates an important expectation from a young female audience. Critics of the Cine21 magazine have already given their verdict, and it is quite good if not great.

Nevertheless, the pitch is not that new and I have trouble finding something worthy of interest in the trailer. One would have to force me to make me consent to watch it.

Watch the trailer here.


(지슬 - 끝나지 않은 세월2) 

Villagers suddenly find themselves the target of a massive hunt for communists held in 1948 on the island of Jeju. Knowing that their chances of survival are almost zero if they stay home, they all decide to hide in a cave in the surrounding area and wait for events to subside.

Jiseul, which has already been much discussed on this site, is finally getting released in the whole country after two weeks of exclusive diffusion in Jeju, and also after having pleased many critics worldwide and winning a prize at Sundance. All of these have allowed the film to gain a little buzz. The result that it finds itself distributed in nearly forty theaters, evenly spread around the country, and with among them a good majority of Lotte and Megabox multiplexes, which will provide optimal exposure for this independent production. We'll have to wait and see if the regionalism of such a story and formalism, both very pronounced, will not put off potential viewers (which seems to be the case in view of public opinion on the web portals). Everything will depend on the level of coverage by the mainstream media. No actor is known to the public, the director having preferred to choose them among his friends and the people of Jeju.

This is a film that is not free from defects, but it is already one of the most striking cinematic experiences of the year in Korean cinema. For a more complete review on this movie, I invite you to read my (long) review available here.

Watch the trailer here.

A Journey with Korean Masters 

(마스터 클래스의 산책) 

Four veteran filmmakers of Korean cinema came together under the initiative of the city of Seoul for the purpose of promotion. The result is this collection of four short films for which each of these directors had carte blanche to tell what Seoul is like in their eyes.

The film is more of a fan service for Korean film enthusiasts like me. Like all omnibus films, the quality is certainly not consistent between different short films, but those who will see this film will do so to rediscover these legends who ruled the industry long ago and experienced varied fates. The irony here ist that it is another posthumous release this week for Park Cheol-su. Chung Ji-yeong also knew a nice career in the 90's (North Korea's Southern Army, 1990, White Badge, 1992) but it’s with two very recent films that he has acquired a second youth: Unbowed (2011 ) and National Security (2012). Lee Jang-ho is the one behind the excellent Good Windy Day (1980) and Euodong (1985), and had not directed anything since 2001. And last but not least, Lee Doo-yong, prolific director of 60 films that debuted in 1970, is remembered mostly for his feminist works like Spinning the Tales of Cruelty Towards Women (1983) or Mulberry (1985). Knowing all of this can only arouse our imagination. For the casting, these directors kept for themselves the pleasure of inviting their favorite actors, friends and even, in the case of Lee Doo-yong, a brother. The film will be shown only in a few theaters.

This film make me really curious, but I have to admit it will have difficulties to reach its audience. Even in international festivals, it may be complicated; these filmmakers do not have the fame of Kim Ki-young or Park Chan-wook.

Watch the trailer here.

Calling 4 

(소명 하늘의 별)

At the age of 33, Jo Tae-hwan has emptied his bank account to go to the Philippines, in the village of Arenda, in which he will work as a carpenter to improve the lives of people. He became an important member of the community until he got shot with a firearm in 2010.

This film is part of this surprisingly well-supplied subcategory of documentaries that are commemorative, mostly devoted to a religious personality. I discussed here not long ago about Fool, but there were many others, including some dedicated to missionaries. Obviously, this kind of film will only interest a very small part of the population, and will have a very short career in the theaters. Or I should rather say “in THE theater”, since it will be only on one screen in Busan.

The chances that you hear again about this film are close to zero, and no doubt also that this article will be one of only a few across the web about it. Suffice to say that I hesitated to include this movie in this article, but I think this film is a reminder that the Korean documentary is alive and well. For my part, after seeing how the trailer emphasizes the sadness of loved ones, I think I’ll pass.

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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