Sunday, March 31, 2013

MKC Thought Leaders' Corner: March 2013

This month, the experts chime in on what various things they're noticing in the current Korean film industry. This month's question:

Are you noticing any trends in Korean films these days?

Many to thanks to all the contributors for their time and insightful comments. Responses listed alphabetically, followed by the thoughts of MKC's teammembers.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Lee Man-hee's The Road to Sampo (삼포 가는길, Samo Ganeungil) 1975

Korea is not known for road movies and given that the country is smaller than many US states, this hardly comes as a surprise. Nevertheless, some of its most celebrated films take place on the road. Displaced characters have trudged along Korea's weather-beaten paths in search of a home in many a Korean film. Examples include Im Kwon-taek's Sopyeonje (1993), a mournful paean to the Pansori tradition (a style of sung folk narrative featuring a vocalist and a percussionist), and Lee Man-hee's ebullient swan song, The Road to Sampo (1975).

New Korean Films: The Shifting Sands of Indie Films (2013 Week 13)

(by Fabien Schneider)

This week is the calm before the storm: I have only two independent films to introduce to you, and both will only have limited distribution. But this is not a reason not to be interested in them, because they are two quite original projects.

Following Sand River

(모래가 흐르는 강)


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

14th Jeonju Film Fest Reveals Lineup!

The Jeonju International Film Festival (JIFF) will be returning for its 14th edition next month when it gets underway on April 25th with its opening film Foxfire, the new film from Laurent Canet, who was behind the 2008 Palme d’Or winner The Class and will also serve as the president of this year’s international jury. JIFF will come to a close on May 3 with a screening of Haifaa Al Mansour’s Wadjda, the first Saudi Arabian film to be directed by a woman.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Korean Box Office: Strong Start for Very Ordinary Couple (03/22-03/24, 2013)

Strong Start for Very Ordinary Couple

March is generally not a busy period for movies and South Korea is no exception. After a rocket-fueled start which saw records fall as local films dominated (Miracle in Cell No.7, The Berlin File, New World, etc.) and almost completely shut out Hollywood, things have settled down considerably as the industry lies in wait for what is likely to be a gargantuan summer season. That said, at 1.69 million admissions, business was up slightly and the market share occupied by domestic films was still very strong at 67%. 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Re-encounter (혜화,동, Hye-hwa, Dong) 2010

(by refresh_daemon)

Re-encounter is a Korean independent film that managed to garner a number of awards from festivals as well as a couple of high profile nominations, so it has been on my radar for some time. After watching it, I can easily see how its exploration of loss and coming to terms with unresolved hurt in the past, coupled with a subtle, yet memorable performance from lead actress Yu Da-in managed to convince festival juries and audiences. The film's attention to detail when it comes to the title character's behavior wraps its personal drama together well and although the final act is a touch more forced than the rest of the film, by the time the credits roll, the examination of Hyehwa's character has won so much good will that it's hard not to appreciate the film.

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.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Fribourg 2013: National Security (남영동1985, Namyeong-dong 1985) 2012

Playing at the 27th Fribourg International Film Festival (March 16-23, 2013)

Corruption, injustice and terror have always been a sad reality of politics. Over the years, many filmmakers have gone to great lengths (sometimes even putting their lives in peril) in a bid to give a voice to the victims of political malfeasance and to shed light on the frequently covered-up truths within the halls of power. Notable examples include Pontecorvo’s The Battle of Algiers (1966) and Costa-Gavras’ Z (1969). Among the pantheon of political works it is true that those that endure are the ones that shock; works that can elicit an audible gasp from audience members. However, a filmmaker must be careful not to go too far and should also pay due consideration to narrative and filmic requirements when presenting a politically charged narrative on screen.

Chung Ji-young made a big comeback following a 13-year absence this time last year when Unbowed debuted at the 16th edition of the Busan Film Festival. Hot on its heels and proving that it wasn’t a fluke, he has returned with a searing indictment of the brutal Chun Doo-hwan administration that terrorized Korea for the better part of the 1980s.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Fribourg 2013: Your Time Is Up (누구나 제 명에 죽고 싶다, Nuguna Je Myeonge Juggosipda) 2012

Playing at the 27th Fribourg International Film Festival (March 16-23, 2013)

I discussed the Korean Academy of Film Arts, or more precisely their graduation feature projects, for my recent piece on When Winter Screams, a film I enjoyed with some reservations. Now it’s time to take a look at the other major 2012 KAFA production. Your Time Is Up has had a more successful festival run so far, largely because it was programmed alongside Lee Don-ku’s excellent Fatal during last October’s Busan International Film Festival in the New Currents section. Due to the exposure afforded by that selection, this KAFA project has found itself competing with Jang Kun-jae’s Sleepless Night and about a dozen other films during this month’s Fribourg International Film Festival.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Fribourg 2013: Meaningful Stillness in Jang Kun-jae's Sleepless Night (2012)

Playing at the 27th Fribourg International Film Festival (March 16-23, 2013)

Of late, Korean Cinema has made for rather bleak viewing. Hushed up sexual violence has been very prevalent but politics, torture and much else besides have also found their way into these recent narratives. For this reason, among many others, I am particularly grateful for Jang Kun-jae's magnificent sophomore feature Sleepless Night. His new film, though not without its portrayal of injustice and hardship, is a film about happiness, or at least one loving couple's pursuit of it in modern day Seoul.

Korean Box Office: Warm Bodies First Foreign No.1 of 2013 (03/15-03/17, 2013)

Warm Bodies First Foreign No.1 of 2013

Business was once again a little slow this weekend in what is generally on off period for the movies in Korea. That said both admissions (1.63 million) and local market share (60%) were marginally up from last year. However it was a Hollywood film that took the top spot, breaking an 11-week streak of local chart-toppers. It was also the first non-Korean first place finish of 2013.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Fribourg 2013: A Brand New Life (여행자, Yeo-haeng-ja) 2009

Playing at the 27th Fribourg International Film Festival (March 16-23, 2013)

Oomie Lecomte’s film A Brand New Life fills an interesting position in the pantheon of Korean cinema. It is a woman’s film made by a foreigner, and by that token alone it is somewhat of an anomaly. While decidedly European in many aspects, it still succeeds in engaging with many thematic elements commonly associated with Korean cinema. In addition, the film is set in 1975 and features a storyline where characters with unfortunate pasts come and go as circumstances beyond their control dictate.

Friday, March 15, 2013

When Winter Screams (설인, Seolin) 2012

I’ve made no secret of my admiration for Korea’s wonderful film schools, which are responsible for some of the best professionals working in the industry today. One such institution is the Korean Academy of Film Arts (KAFA), a government-sponsored school affiliated with the Korean Film Council that sports such illustrious alumni as MKC favorite Bong Joon-ho. A few years ago, KAFA began to make full-blown feature length films as graduation projects (with the support of industry giant CJ Entertainment) and the results have been formidable. 2010 featured the one-two punch of Bleak Night and End of Animal while 2011’s crop included Choked and Mirage.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

New Korean Films: The Coming of New Indie Filmmakers (2013 Week 11)

(by Fabien Schneider)

This week is all to the glory of independent cinema since the Korean Academy of Art Films delivers two films from its students and a third debut movie completes the series. But don't get your hopes up, success will only smile upon My Paparoti, as this one has all the cards in hand to propel itself to the top of the box office. There is also a particular challenger that I decided not to include in my article despite being quite interesting for what it tells about the foreign interests in the Korean market: The Fifth Execution, a Russian film co-produced with South Korea and the U.S., where the main character is embodied by Kim Bo-seong, a famous actor of the 90s who starred in the trilogy of Two Cops, a few comedies and some soap operas.

Your Time is Up 

(누구나 제 명 에 죽고 싶다)


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

An Ambitious Korean Gangster Film: New World (신세계, Sinsegye) 2013

Ever since I discovered Korean cinema, I’ve been a fan of the industry’s frequent experimentations with genre. Almost every film that comes out of the country seems to be an amalgamation of different tropes but there is one genre that has remained for the most part untouched: the gangster film. When Korean filmmakers decide to make a gangster film, they tend to leave experimentation aside and instead look to emulate some of world cinema’s most beloved criminal narratives.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Between Memory and Awareness: Jiseul (지슬) 2012

(by Fabien Schneider)

MKC is co-presenting Jiseul as part of this year's CAAMFest. Film screens on March 15th & 19th. Click here for more details.

Film watched at the 19th Vesoul International Film Festival of Asian Cinema

As soon as the moving silhouettes detaching themselves from the ambient darkness begin to raise their voices, the fire that provided their scant comfort peters out. Suddenly, all of them realize that they are now trapped in the black under a few meters of rock. They do not know how many days they have lurked there like hibernating animals, but one thing is certain, they still need to wait one more day. And then another. Who knows when this nightmare will come to an end? With little historical context, the young director O Muel ruthlessly immerses us into one of the darkest episodes of the Cold War. One that is seldom documented in South Korea, and that the U.S. has preferred to ignore. With a careful, solemn aesthetic, the director tackles the process of remembrance, one equal to that of the dramatic event. Though it will surely be appreciated by the local population as the outlet that they expected for so long, the film remains too hermetic to allow a foreign audience to understand the true value of its drama. Spectators have to make due with a simple introductory text, insufficient and somewhat dubious from a historical perspective.

Monday, March 11, 2013

KBO: New World Holds Firm During Slow Weekend (03/08-03/10, 2013)

New World Holds Firm During Slow Weekend

Title Release Date Market Share Weekend Total Screens
1 New World 13/02/21 30.90% 508,893 3,369,650 555
2 Miracle in Cell No.7 13/01/23 16.70% 291,884 12,177,983 433
3 Psychometry 13/03/07 14.80% 242,319 297,330 429
4 Oz: The Great and Powerful (us) 13/03/07 13.60% 208,962 228,696 425
5 Jack the Giant Slayer (us) 13/02/28 8.60% 147,478 885,989 364
6 Zero Dark Thirty (us) 13/03/07 3.50% 61,171 72,222 258
7 The Berlin File 13/01/30 3.40% 56,401 7,100,309 287
8 12 Chinese Zodiac Heads (cn) 13/02/27 2.40% 41,665 296,010 187
9 Stoker (us) 13/02/28 2.40% 38,430 343,752 204
10 b (In) 13/02/21 0.90% 17,266 302,550 168

Sunday, March 10, 2013

New Korean Films: Is There Room For Yet Another Thriller? (2013 Week 10)

(by Fabien Schneider)

This week will probably see no new hit for Korean films and thus should maintain the established order at the box office. With a short movie for film buffs and a collection of independent short films in very limited distribution, only Psychometry has the ability to attract thousands of spectators, but finds itself in the worst possible situations, being released after two big successful thrillers.




Why Hollywood Genre Flicks Need Korean Film, Not Korean Filmmakers

(by Peter Gutiérrez)

Here’s a snobby confession for you: I don’t read the New York Times much for insights into international cinema. But when it recently ran a piece entitled South Korean Crossover in Hollywood, I had to pay attention. Rather predictably it compared and contrasted Bong Joon-ho, Park Chan-wook, and Kim Ji-woon, taking an approach that cited previous waves of foreign-born directors arriving in the US and making the entire issue seem like one of immigration.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

BIFF 2012: Perfect Number (용의자X, Yong-eui-ja-X) 2012

Part of MKC's coverage of the 17th Busan International Film Festival.

I originally saw Bang Eun-jin’s sophomore film Perfect Number at the Busan International Film Festival last October. I am a big fan of the Japanese book (‘The Devotion of Suspect X’ by Keigo Hegashino) that it was based on and as I felt that the story would be a great fit for Korean cinema my expectations were very high. Too high it seems as I found myself a little disappointed by a film delivering something I wasn’t expecting.

A reclusive math teacher is smitten with his next-door neighbor who lives with her niece. One day her ex-husband comes to visit and a violent altercation ends with his lifeless corpse hitting the ground. The teacher has heard what transpired and knocks on their door. Quiet, composed and intelligent, he offers to help his distressed neighbors.

Monday, March 4, 2013

KBO: New World Repeats up Top, Stoker Unconvincing (03/1-03/03, 2013)

New World Repeats up Top, Stoker Unconvincing

Title Release Date Market Share Weekend Total Screens
1 New World 13/02/21 29.40% 849,376 2,530,048 604
2 Miracle in Cell No.7 13/01/23 25.10% 777,968 11,704,634 577
3 Jack the Giant Slayer (us) 13/02/28 19.40% 545,550 659,854 507
4 The Berlin File 13/01/30 6.40% 189,296 6,997,749 362
5 Stoker (us) 13/02/28 5.80% 165,408 240,639 329
6 12 Chinese Zodiac Heads (cn) 13/02/27 5.20% 162,566 217,242 300
7 Delhi Safair (In) 13/02/21 2.50% 83,606 280,563 263
8 The Giant King (us/th) 13/02/21 1.00% 33,808 149,067 180
9 Sky Force 3D (us, hk) 13/02/28 0.90% 30,991 43,496 183
10 An Ethics Lesson 13/02/21 0.60% 18,065 215,985 147

Saturday, March 2, 2013

MKC Thought Leaders' Corner: February 2013

This month, we take a look at the star system in Korea. February's roster of experts take a look at the many stars in the Korea film industry, many of them hailing from the realms of Kpop and Kdrama. This month's question:

How valuable are stars in the Korean film industry?

Many to thanks to all the contributors for their time and insightful comments. Responses listed alphabetically, followed by the thoughts of MKC's teammembers.