Saturday, June 22, 2013

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.

This week promises to be particularly bloody with two horrific thrillers that will try to attract same audience. Director Kim Seong-hong has made ​​films since 1990, but is best known for Missing (2009), an average thriller, and for writing the scenarios of the Two Cops trilogy (1993-1998). What I find particularly interesting about this film is to realize that the role of the psychopath doctor is played by Kim Chang-wan, a true cast against type. Kim is first and foremost one of the legends of South Korean rock, having founded with his brothers in the 70s a psychedelic rock band called Sanullim. You may have never heard of this name but it’s not the case of their songs, since he’s the one who wrote the haunting yet wonderful song - I love it - featured at the beginning and the end of Peppermint Candy (2000). He appeared as a cameo in several films such as Windstruck (2004) and Antique (2008), and his only major roles were in Jungle Story (1996) and Happy Funeral Director (2000). Unfortunately, this is the only argument that seems to be in favor of this independent production. Ideally, the film would propose a scathing social critic of the glorification of cosmetic surgery in the Korean population, but this is apparently not the case. In terms of distribution alone, Doctor seems to take a very slight advantage over A Puppet with 101 theaters and more searches done on Naver and Daum.

Watch the Korean trailer here.

A Puppet

A psychiatrist receives a visit from Hyeon-jin, the girlfriend of his best friend, who suffers from hallucinations. By practicing on hypnosis on her, he gradually discovers her terrible story. As he takes care of her, he feels greater feelings for her. He finally let his skills be used in his own interest by making her come every Sunday coming at his place, always at the same time.

There are just too many similarities between these two films. Both use medicine as a means of manipulation and the similarities are even found in their posters: black, focus on anxious faces, white the titles of the films covered in blood. It appears to be a generic horror movie after watching the trailer. This is the first film for director Kwon Yeong-rak, and the biggest "star" is Gu Ji-seong, a top model who has appeared in racing and e-sport competitions, here in her first role ever in a film. Cine21 journalists didn’t pull the punches, as both critics give it the minimum score, even calling this film the most traumatic of the semester. A Puppet is currently behind Doctor in both search engines and ticket reservations.

Watch the Korean trailer here.


Wanny is a teenager who dreams of becoming a ballerina and has been training intensively every day. Her single mother, Holly, is a dancer too, but as a hostess in a club close to an US military base.

This is yet another film that holds little promise, with a rookie director and a story already seen many times in Korean cinema, but whose sole asset is to put a celebrity in the lead role. Wanny is interpreted in her very first role by the idol Minah from the girls-band named Girl's Day, created in 2010. Despite her presence, the film seems to have generated very little interest on the internet and may well go unnoticed. To make matters worse, the film will be shown only in a few theaters around Seoul and Busan, and has already picked up a very negative review from Cine21, which compares it to a "missed shot of a teargas canister." You can make up your own mind by looking at all these crying people in the trailer. Yep, I’ll try to avoid this one.

Watch the Korean trailer.

A Wedding Invitation

Qiaoqiao decided to take a break with Lixing to officially allow them to follow their own promising careers, but in reality to protect him emotionally from her serious illness that she has kept for herself until now. They pledge to each other to meet again five years later, but when that time finally comes, she discovers that Lixing is now engaged to another woman.

All producers will tell you that the market that interests them the most at the moment is China's, both growing and in craze for foreign films, but also difficult to access for foreign productions. It is not surprising to see CJ invest in Chinese co-productions, especially since the Chinese public has become fond of Korean romanticism. It's Oh Gi-hwan, author of A Gift (2001) and The Art of Seduction (2005), who finds himself at the head of this project, to lead the Taiwanese actor Eddie Peng (Jump Ashin! In 2011, Cold War in 2012) and the Chinese actress Bai Baihe, who had starred in the successful film Love is Not Blind in 2011. The film made it to second place at the Chinese box office, just behind another romantic comedy Finding Mr. Right, with a total of more than 5 million admissions. The future looks less glorious in Korea, as the film is being eclipsed by the competition, but still distributed by CJ in thirty theaters, like a mere formality. The film was reviewed by MKC this week and is clearly not an indispensable film to watch, but given the low standard set with these four new releases, it is perhaps the only Korean film that is worth watching.

Watch the English trailer here or read MKC's review 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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