Friday, June 28, 2013

New Korean Films: Horror Movie? Again? (2013 Week 26)

Cheer Up Mr. Lee
(힘내세요, 병헌씨)

A producer proposes to her TV station the idea of a documentary that follows the trials and tribulations of young apprentices filmmakers in their creative process. She and her team then begin to shoot all the doings of Byeong-heon. But she soon realizes the difficulty of this task. Byeong-heon drinks constantly, takes more than eight hours before starting to write the script and spends more than an hour trying different fonts for the title of the script. Moreover, he then goes out to meet his friends, a producer, cameraman and actor, all beginners, to get further drunk.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

More NYAFF Goodness!!!

Okay, so with the first NYAFF trivia contest announced yesterday and the deadline for that fast approaching MKC has a treat for all you Ryoo Seung-Wan fans in the New York area. This year Subway Cinema not only managed to score a print for the director's latest film The Berlin File as well as his 2010 crime epic The Unjust but they're also going to screen the director's martial arts fantasy film Arahan.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

New York Asian Film Festival GIVEAWAY!!!!

June is a time when kids are let out for summer vacation and film fans can gorge on the latest genre films from Asia in the New York tri-state area. For those not already in the know the New York Asian Film Festival (NYAFF) has been held in the Big Apple since 2002. Starting off as a small local festival at small repertory theaters. NYAFF, through the help of Subway Cinema, has been steadily growing and now has become a festival that rivals even the more respected NYFF (New York Film Festival) in films screened and fan enthusiasm. Part film festival, carnivale and fan convention NYAFF has been the site that many directors have chosen to first premiere their films in North America. Not to mention the fact that the overworked staff at the NYAFF always deliver great guests like Hong Kong filmmaker Tsui Hark and actors like Choi Min-shik and Donnie Yen.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Korean Box Office: World War Z Scares Up Huge Opening (06/21-06/23, 2013)

A blockbuster came in stronger than expected this weekend, lifting the box office to a powerful 2.35 million admissions over the frame, a 50% jump over last year. Meanwhile, the news was not so great on the domestic front, as the market share shot down from 64% to 23%, as new titles continue to flounder in the marketplace.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Edinburgh 2013: Juvenile Offender (범죄소년, 2012)

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

As much as we may like to think society is for the most part a well-oiled machine, there are still far too many people who slip through the cracks. Abandoned, unable to change themselves or the situation they face, they seek to reintegrate into a society which has no desire to welcome them. For most of its life, and especially since the end of World War II, film has been used to highlight and discuss the daily problems faced by those who exist on the outside of society. From the Italian neo-realists and their pleas to humanity, through to the angry white males of British kitchen sink dramas reacting violently in protest to the systems of society, film is used to give these people a voice that would otherwise go unheard.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Edinburgh 2013: National Security (남영동 1985, 2012)

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

Though 2012 was an important year in Korean cinema for many reasons, one of the more interesting ones is that it saw the return of director Chung Ji-young. 2012 was essentially bookended by his two films; Unbowed was released in January, and National Security arrived at the end of November. Both films featured highly political narratives based on real life events, yet National Security struggled to bring in anywhere near the same audience numbers as Unbowed.

Edinburgh 2013: The Berlin File (베를린, 2013)

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

Writing in his book 'The Remasculinization of Korean Cinema', Kim Kyung Hyun discusses the male-centric narratives found in Korean cinema of the 1980s and 90s. Discussing the film Shiri (1999), he argues that “The masculinity of Shiri’s protagonist veered away from the Korean male icons of the 1980s, but it did so by simulating Hollywood action heroes.” Shiri could easily be argued as the breakthrough moment for both commercial Korean cinema and genre cinema in general, creating a wave of films which heavily copied its style. The mainstream Korean film industry has thrived off genre cinema for the past decade, with the occasional ‘well-made’ film (films which are both commercially successful and show clear artistic intent, a perfect example being Bong Joon-Ho’s Memories of Murder from 2003) thrown in for good measure.

New Korean Films: Surgeon vs. Psychiatrist (2013 Week 25)


The cosmetic surgeon Choi has a perfect life: he is one of the best in his profession, and married to the perfect woman. But everything changes when he catches her in the arms of another man while coming home earlier. He will put his talents to use as he prepares a long and cruel revenge.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Edinburgh 2013: Virgin Forest (원시림, 2012)

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

Perhaps because of his long-term struggle with leukaemia, highly influential film theorist Andre Bazin based a lot of his ideas around the concept of death. More specifically, he argued that film could be seen as a way to embalm time, capture time and allow people to linger in the memories of others following their death, just as portraits, or embalming, had done in the past. As technology progresses at an astonishing rate, the moving image, and with it the photographic image, has become ever present in society, capturing almost anything and everything in our world.

Edinburgh 2013: Hawking (UK, 2013)

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

Stephen Hawking is one of the most well known scientists of our time, and he will undoubtedly go down in history as one of the greatest minds of all time. When presented with the possibility of seeing a documentary about his life, I suddenly realised that I actually knew very little about Stephen Hawking beyond his book A Brief History of Time and his long-term motor neuron disease. Documentaries serve to discuss real people and real situations, acting as much as educators as they do entertainers or pieces of art. The main problem with them is their chosen medium, as film is so easily edited and changes the way people act in front of it that it at times becomes very hard to take what is presented to the audience as ‘real’.

Edinburgh 2013: Pluto (명왕성, 2012)

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

We often claim that mainstream cinema becomes unbelievable in its attempts at spectacle. This is usually the case, but such statements should force us to examine exactly why we watch films in the first place. What function should films ultimately aspire to in society? Entertainment? Art? Isn't the whole thing, as I tend to think, entirely subjective? Regardless of how we feel, it may be beneficial to rethink the role of spectacle and genre cinema and its ties to reality. As humans, we make narratives about ourselves, about our lives and struggles. However, mainstream cinema demands a certain detachment from reality, as it exists in a strange reality where expected narrative resolutions allow characters to overcome almost any kind of obstacle.

Edinburgh 2013: Day II - Getting the Hang of Things

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

Having gained a better understanding of how a film festival operates, I used my second day to watch some films and better acquaint myself with other festival aspects like the videotheque. Getting to Edinburgh for 9AM was quite a challenge, but it was worth it to finally see Shin Su-Won’s Pluto. What was rather disappointing however, was the lack of people in the screening. It could have been the time of day, or it could have been the lack of awareness about the film itself, but whatever the reason it left me hoping that the two public screenings were well booked. Looking at the schedule for this morning, I noticed that Pluto clashed with Hideo Nakata’s latest horror The Complex and the UK/North-Korea co-production Comrade Kim Goes Flying. It seemed weird to me that three films from the same ‘niche’ were grouped together like this. I guess clashes are inevitable at any festival, film or otherwise.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Edinburgh 2013: I Catch a Terrible Cat (こっぴどい猫, Japan) 2012

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

If there can be one major complaint of post-modern cinema, it is that it is far too aware. Not only of itself as a piece of cinema, but also of the limitations of genre. This can often lead to an over-eager attempt to break or push genre boundaries, or to reject genre in favour of observational, dialogue-heavy, or highly referential cinema. Thankfully, Rikiya Imaizumi’s I Catch a Terrible Cat manages to avoid such pitfalls whilst also providing a rather interesting and playful look at the romance genre.

Edinburgh 2013: Day I - First Impressions at a Film Festival

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

Today was the first time I had ever attended a film festival. I had always longed to go to various different ones, but for various reasons – be it price or distance – I just never managed to make them. Perhaps because of this, film festivals have always seemed like magical places to me; places where you get to see a wide range of films, some of which may never screen in the country again. I have, over the years, looked at many programmes and hoped that some company would release these films in the UK at a later date. For the most part, this never happened.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Breezy Rom-Com A Wedding Invitation Rings A Little Hollow (分手合约, 2013)

In the film business these days, China seems to be the word on everyone lips as its market is in the midst of a breathless expansion. However, strict quotas on foreign imports mean that only 35 international films get to share in the spoils. To get around this system, a number of foreign companies have begun co-producing films with China, though the results thus far have been mixed. The Korean media giant CJ Entertainment has been investing in the mainland for quite some time but they have just scored their biggest hit with the romantic comedy A Wedding Invitation, their first fully-produced film for the Chinese market.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Edinburgh 2013: Introduction to Korean Showcase

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

Following last year’s retrospective of the works of the long overlooked Japanese director Shinji Somai, Edinburgh International Film Festival’s artistic director Chris Fujiwara now brings focus onto two likewise overlooked aspects of global cinema: the films of Sweden and Korea. Film festivals are an interesting concept as they bring films from all over the world to one particular town or city, allowing local cineastes to explore and discover a wide variety of directors and works. Yet, unfortunately, their main flaw is often their attempt to house such a diverse range of cinematic voices over the relatively short space of one or two weeks.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Korean Box Office: Man of Steel Not Quite Great Enough for Secretly (06/14-06/16, 2013)

Business was up again this past weekend as just over 2.5 million tickets were sold, though this was largely a result of two blockbusters ducking it out for the top spot. Each scored over one million, a achievement in itself though not the first time it's happened. Meanwhile, the local market share stood at 45%, ecent given the time of year and on par with last year's figure. However, with only two Korean titles in the top 10, one wonders what that figure might look like with a stronger mix of local fare on the marquees.

Friday, June 14, 2013

New Korean Films: A Short Film Looking Up to the Big Shots (2013 Week 24)

You Are More Than Beautiful
(그녀의 연기)

The father of Cheol-soo, who lives on Jeju Island, is about to die before he seeing his son get married. To fulfill his dream, Cheol-soo calls for the help of a young woman from Seoul, Yeong-hee, who will pretend to be his fiancee. While she is brushing up on the details of their fictional story in the car, Cheol-soo receives a call informing him that his father had been found unconscious. They hurry to get to the hospital and discover the father in a coma. Yeong-hee decides to still act the lie.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Korean Box Office: Secretly Greatly Not-so-Secret in Great Debut (06/07-06/09, 2013)

The fortunes of the Korean film industry took a dramatic turn this weekend following the release of a major local film which set a slew of new records. Business was booming with almost 3 million admissions recorded over the frame, a significant jump over last year's 2.2 million and almost twice as much as last week. However, the better news was that the local market share lept to 77% (compared with 54% in 2012), following a spell when the domestic industry was having difficulty competing with Hollywood.

TitleRelease DateMarket ShareWeekendTotalScreens
1Secretly Greatly13/06/0568.90%2,064,5863,491,5071341
2Star Trek: Into Darkness (us)13/05/3011.30%284,1351,261,090412
3Horror Stories 213/06/055.60%172,776347,311337
4Furious 6 (us)13/05/223.40%97,7071,708,497291
5The Croods (us)13/05/162.60%82,563819,621272
6Olympus Has Fallen (us)13/06/052.10%60,573113,476283
8After Earth (us)13/05/301.20%37,122524,612270
9The Great Gatsby (us)13/05/161.00%28,7581,391,906132
10Nazuma Eleven GO (jp)13/06/050.50%16,26730,21099

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Get Ready for 'Revenge Week' on MKC!

UPDATE: Some unexpected plans have forced me to move REVENGE WEEK on MKC back two weeks. It will now take place July 8-14. Sorry for the delay but this does give everyone more time to contribute! We have already received some great stuff and plenty more is on the way. Please don't be shy and contact us if you would like to take part!

A while back we held a 'Jopok Week' on MKC, focusing on Korea's colorful output of gangster cinema. With reviews, features and guests galore, it was the most fun and engaging week we ever had. It's high time we put on a new event so I'm thrilled to announce that at the end of this month (June 24-30) it'll be 'Revenge Week' here on MKC.

Perhaps more than any other genre, the revenge thriller or drama is ubiquitous with Korean cinema, particularly in the eyes of foreign viewers, many of whom were introduced to the nation's output through classic vengeful fare such Oldboy (2003) and A Bittersweet Life (2005). From Park Chan-wook's highly stylized Vengeance Trilogy and commercial films such as The Man From Nowhere (2010) to independent films such as the austere Bedevilled (2010), there's never been a shortage of revenge-themed films in South Korean cinema.

So why does Korea produce so many revenge narratives? Many theories exist and we hope to explore these during 'Revenge Week' and maybe even throw in a few of our own.

Just like 'Jopok Week' I would like extend an invitation to anyone who would like to contribute a piece on Korean revenge films. Feel free to drop me a line at pierceconran [at] gmail [dot] com.

Reviews and features on Korean film appear regularly on Modern Korean Cinema.  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).

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Friday, June 7, 2013

Jeonju 2013: Experimental Echo of Dragon Explores Myths and Emotion (용문, 2013)

Part of MKC's coverage of the 14th Jeonju International Film Festival.

When it comes to what we expect to see on screen, it’s worth considering sometimes just how strict we can be. Though we demand filmmakers to be creative, our definition of originality is actually quite narrow. As the lights dim and projectors roll, we wait for characters to show up and guide us along through their world and regale, sadden or shock us with their stories. Like many others I often lament the lack of ingenuity that plagues much of modern cinema but stick me in front of a film that does away with all standard forms of narrative (as we know them today) and suddenly I’m at a loss to process what’s unspooling before me.

New Korean Films: North Korean Spy To Save South Korean Market (2013 Week 23)

Secretly Greatly
(은밀하게 위대하게)

Ryu-hwan is a North Korean elite spy trained to kill. He was sent two years ago as a sleeper agent in Seoul. He lives in a small apartment owned by an old lady, for whom he also works. He knows everyone in the neighborhood but is only seen as that naive young guy with the mind of a child. Suddenly two other spies arrive in the area: Hae-rang pretends to be a rookie guitar player in a rock band, and Hae-jin a regular student. Ryu-hwan helps them to settle and get used to their new life, until they are ordered to commit suicide after a change of power in North Korea.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

MKC Thought Leaders' Corner: North Korea in South Korean Cinema (May 2013)

North Korea has been in the news a lot lately for its latest round of belligerent actions. Many believe that Western media has been exaggerating the danger the communist state poses to South Korea's national security. I can't say that I've noticed any especial alarm among the local populace yet there's no denying that the oppressive regime casts a long shadow over the country. Cinema is just one of the places where this is readily evident, so this month I asked the experts:

Has Korean cinema's representation of North Korea changed over the years?

Monday, June 3, 2013

Korean Box Office: Star Trek Leads Hollywood Onslaught (05/31-06/02, 2013)

Local fare continues to be overwhelmed at the Korean box office as it scored a meagre 17% market share compared with a much healthier 54% last year. What's more, despite a number of blockbusters on offer, business was also down with only 1.69 million tickets sold overall, down from 2012's 2.04 million during the same weekend.