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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

New Korean Films: Les Amours des séniors (2014 Week 14)

Salut d'Amour

By Fabien Schneider

The unfriendly and inflexible old man Seong-chil, who is a model employee at Jang-su Mart and proud of his military career and never thinks of other’s feelings, suddenly breaks his outer shell when a woman moves to his neighborhood. Geum-nim looks young despite her age, always smiling in any situation. She takes him by surprise when she offers to him to have dinner together. Even if he tries not to care, he cannot hide his feelings and soon everybody is in the know, even Geum-nim’s daughter and Seong-chil’s boss, and they try to give them advice for their first date. But after having almost forgotten the date, he arrives late for their rendezvous and accidentally discovers her secret.

In an unexpected turn of events, Kang Je-gyu, the director who made the very first South-Korean blockbuster (Shiri, 1999), comes back with what seems appears to be innocuous rom-com for the whole family. This shift of direction can probably be accounted to the huge flop of My Way (2011), a war epic with an international cast and shot on location in China, Russia, Latvia and France. With the failure of a $25 million project, it’s no wonder that Kang Je-gyu is now keeping his feet on the ground to prove that My Way was only a misstep. So far, the film seems to have created interest among the population and will probably do well at the box office. The leads are both actors who have been active for decades: Park Geun-hyung started his career in 1974 and even played in Im Kwon-taek’s Ticket (1986), but his most famous role remains the one he had in the Marrying the Mafia series. Youn Yuh-jung is probably more familiar to international audiences, as she’s a regular of Im's Sang-soo’s films (The President’s Last Bang, 2005; The Old Garden, 2007; The Housemaid, 2010; The Taste of Money, 2012) and Hong Sangsoo’s recent works (In Another Country, 2011; Hill of Freedom, 2014). On a funny note, both actors also played a broken up couple in Boomerang Family (2013). Despite the pitch of the film, it seems to actually be targeting a rather young audience as the trailers emphasizes the offbeat humor caused by an old couple trying to date in the same way that youngsters do. Moreover, the leads are surrounded with a bunch of young supporting characters, most of them being stars of the TV screen or even K-pop idols. Local critics have quite enjoyed the film but with some reservations, and it will obviously be screened in almost every theater in the country.


Oh Sang-mu is a middle-aged man who has spent the last four years taking care of his wife who suffers from cancer. His commitment to his love seems to be flawless, as he dedicates all the time left by his job as manager of a cosmetics company to stay at her bedside. But now she’s succumbed to her illness. At the funeral, a lot of Sang-mu’s coworkers come to pay homage. But among them is the young and pretty employee Chu Eun-ju. Sang-mu then recalls how during these last months his devotion has been put to test by the feelings he started to have for that woman.

Im Kwon-taek is mostly appreciated for the “koreanness” of his cinematography, since he often portrays Korean traditions and customs in his films. That was a decision that he had made at the end of the 70’s when he got sick of fulfilling the quotas demanded by the government and suddenly had aspirations to make artistic films. A few years later, he became an internationally-acclaimed director thanks to Mandala (1981). The following Sopyeonje (1993), Chunhyang (2000) and Chiwhaseon (2002) are often regarded as masterpieces of world cinema, thanks in part to their strong exotic appeal for Western audiences. But we shouldn’t forget that Im Kwon-taek’s more mundane works are still among his very best, and I’m very glad to see him go back to it with his 102nd (!) feature film. It is based on a short story written by Kim Hoon, an award-winning critic and novelist. The original title, taken from the short story, evokes the two motives of the story since this word is a homonym that can either mean “cremation” or “cosmetics”. In the leading role, it’s none other than the legendary actor Ahn Sung-ki who finally meets Im again after having collaborated on so many of his films. In the role of Oh’s wife is Kim Ho-jung, an actress who had been lost under the radar for some time despite having been featured in a few great films like Barking Dogs Never Bite (2000), The Butterfly (2001) or Woman Is the Future of Man (2004). This film had a wonderful run on the festival circuit, with its premiere in Venice, followed by Toronto, Vancouver, Hawaii, Berlin and Hong Kong. Local critics have overall enjoyed this new direction taken by the famous director. It will be widely distributed throughout the country and will appeal mainly to the middle-aged audience.

Watch here the international trailer.

Read our review here. 

Fukushima : Is There a Way Out ?
(후쿠시마의 미래)

A group of people from the Fukushima prefecture in Japan are worried about the future consequences of the disaster at the nuclear power plant. They don’t believe the media nor the government anymore, and make their own measures of radiation levels in the area. In order to see what could become of their home, they travel to Chernobyl, in Ukraine, and visit the deserted town that still has dangerous levels of radiation 26 years after the explosion of the nuclear reactor. People around there are often sick, newborns can have malformations, and the fear of the future has never disappeared from this desolated area.

The nuclear crisis that followed the earthquake in March 2011 has awaken a lot of concern in South Korea. Of course, the geographical proximity of the two countries meant that South Korea could be affected by the nuclear emissions from Fukushima, but Korean citizens also became more wary of the many nuclear power plants scattered around the country. All of the active plants are located on the seaside, so they are prone to the same kind of risks as the one in Fukishima. Many scandals of falsified safety certificates have also forced the government to change its plan for nuclear energy production, but new power plants are still in production. Therefore, this documentary about the disasters in Japan and Ukraine is more like a new voice in the local debate. The director, Lee Hong-ki, has been making documentaries since 1992 and shot this one in 2013. The film will be screened in a few theaters around the country after having had a run in Tokyo earlier this year, and the local critics' reception has been mildly positive.

Watch the Korean and Japanese 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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1 comment:

  1. I give Revivre 화장 (2015) a C- Review: A art-house movie that failed to be art!

    I give Salut D'Amour 장수상회 a C Review: Be cautious of ambitions