Tuesday, May 7, 2013

New Korean Films: The Thin Line Between Film and Advertisement (2013 Week 18)

Born to Sing

Bong-nam, a man who lives only on the wages of his wife as one of her employees, dreams of becoming a renowned singer and enrolls in a famous televised song contest, hoping to win first prize. He will meet many opponents, including a energetic grandmother, a young woman and a little girl encouraged by her grandfather.

"Ding-dang-dong, Jeon ... guk ... Norae Jarang!" This is the melody that has gathered Korean people every Sunday afternoon in front of their TV sets for more than 30 years. The National Singing Contest has indeed been broadcast since 1980 on the public channel KBS1 and even today manages to reach a peak audience of 10 million viewers. The idea was to celebrate one of the longest running and iconic TV programs in Korea by dedicating it a funny movie, headed by the gagman Kim In-kwon who often held supporting roles like in Peppermint Candy (1999), My Wife is a Gangster (2001) or Haeundae (2009). The script and direction were given to Lee Jong-pil, who has already signed a few short films, but suddenly found himself in the commands of what appears to be a simple feel-good movie commissioned by Lotte Entertainment in collaboration with KBS. Suffice to say that I absolutely do not expect anything of such a production; it looks more like a huge commercial for the TV program than anything else. The good feelings are already dripping just by reading the synopsis, and one can easily guess an extremely conventional treatment. Yet the film has so far collected not too unfavorable opinions from journalists, and with over 170 theaters distributing the film this weekend, it is the most serious opponent for the bulldozer-blockbuster Iron Man 3.

Watch the Korean trailer here.

One Perfect Day
(사랑의 가위바위보)

On-cheol is on a inglorious string of blind-dates ending mostly prematurely by one of his blunders. At the last one, he made a girl follow him in a long walk despite her ​​high-heels and casually offered her a game of rock-paper-scissors on a staircase. She took advantage of the situation to run away, leaving him in despair. A puppy then goes down the stairs and climbs on his knees.

Another commissioned film, but this one is much more interesting and for more than for a single reason. The brand of clothing and sports equipment Kolon Sport has decided to celebrate its 40th anniversary by offering some renowned filmmakers to participate in the project entitled Way to Nature in each making a short film, apparently with complete freedom in the subjets. The Park brothers (Park Chan-wook and Park Chan-kyeong) already offered their film late last year. It's now time for Kim Jee-woon to do so, back from his trip to Hollywood for The Last Stand, and thus he offers us a short-film in a genre that you wouldn’t really expect from him, the romantic comedy. This film is apparently not intended for theatrical release, but only via some VOD websites like Kolon Sport and YouTube, which did not prevent it from figuring as a new theatrical release of the week on all Korean websites on cinema, thus its inclusion in this article. It features the main actor from Poonsan Dog (2011), Yoon Kye-sang, and the charming Park Shin-hye from Cyrano Agency (2010) and more recently Miracle in Cell No.7. The result is quite conventional for this type of film but still worth your time for a few moments in which Kim Jee-woon's talent of mise-en-scene emerges.

Watch the Korean trailer here.

Or watch the full movie legally here (no English subtitles).

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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