Showing posts with label classic korean cinema. Show all posts
Showing posts with label classic korean cinema. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Review: Underappreciated THE DEVIL'S STAIRWAY Is a Sinister Psychological Horror

By Patryk Czekaj

Lee Man-hee’s 1964 film The Devil's Stairway is a strikingly sinister psychological horror that, even after all these years, possesses the ability to frighten even the most devoted fans of the genre. What’s unreasonable to me is that the picture never got enough attention and its darkly sensuous powers somehow failed to garner it the critical attention this hallucinatory work truly deserves. Why The Devil's Stairway to this day remains an underwatched gem of Korean cinema is a mystery. Thus, by writing a bit about its many strong points I’d really like to encourage everyone to see (it’s available for free on Korean Film Archive’s YouTube channel) and experience this eerily inviting film.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Moving to the City: Urbanization in The Ball Shot by a Midget (난장이가 쏘아올린 작은 공, 1981)

Korean Cinema, especially when at its best, frequently explores pressing themes and social realities to thrilling effect. The deeper I delve into classic Korean cinema, the clearer it becomes that this has always been the case. Throughout Korean film history, the only real difference is that the issues mined by filmmakers have changed over time. One such trait has been encroaching urbanization and among the best examples of its representation on screen is Lee Won-se's The Ball Shot by a Midget (1981).

Thursday, April 11, 2013

An Early Korean Youth Film: Early Rain (초우, Chou) 1966

The aftermath of World War II brought about a quick change in social values, which reevaluated the needs and lifestyles of youths around the world. In the US, James Dean and Elvis Presley captured the imagination of millions of young Americans in search of a new identity. A similar thing happened in Japan with the rapid modernization of a strict society that had recently undergone a shameful loss in the Pacific Theatre. Social roles were changing and up and coming directors such as Suzuki Seijun and Oshima Nagisa were taping into a youth culture of revolt that began to brew in the late 1950s.

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).

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

KOFA Treasures: Kim Ki-young's Woman of Fire (화녀, Hanyeo) 1971

Ongoing series on classic Korean film recently made available for free and with English subtitles on Youtube courtesy of the Korean Film Archive.

Aside from a few choice selections, remakes have become something of a bane for contemporary cinephiles.  They are borne out of commercial interests and, for the most part and almost by default, they are unoriginal.  They are also omnipresent on today’s marquees, but this wasn’t always the case.  Despite the good examples that do exist, the announcement of a remake almost never inspires much confidence, but what about when a director remakes his own work?

Surprisingly this has happened quite often, mainly when a foreign filmmaker remakes his own successful work for Hollywood.   Among the oldest examples are Hitchcock’s British and US versions of The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934 and 1956) or Yasujiro Ozu’s I Was Born But… (1932) and Good Morning (1959), both Japanese.  Among the most intriguing ones are Michael Haneke’s almost identical versions of Funny Games (Austria, 1997 and US, 2007): the US version was a fascinating meta-narrative experiment that explored our species' fascination with violence, I’m just not sure it’s what the studio had in mind, despite it being a shot-for-shot copy of the original.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

KOFA Treasures: Lee Doo-yong's The Oldest Son (장남, Jangnam) 1984

Ongoing series on classic Korean film recently made available for free and with English subtitles on Youtube courtesy of the Korean Film Archive.

I can find something to like in just about any Korean film, even some that are frankly terrible, such as last year’s Marrying the Mafia IV, but there are some that I simply can’t abide.  For the most part, the culprits tend to originate from the same genre: the family melodrama.  Granted, there are numerous exceptional Korean melodramas but by force of there being so many, the ones that scrape the bottom of the barrel are remarkably turgid and torpid, judging by any standard.  A recent example is The Last Blossom (2011), which I patiently suffered through despite almost boiling over with rage as a result of its manipulative machinations.

While these films generally aren’t big revenue drivers, many of them still go into production and are brought to us by the hands of hackneyed talent.  Sometimes, as I watch these films, I ask myself: why do they exist?  What led us to this point?  While melodrama is typically the main form of entertainment in Korea, it seemed to me that these particular films are leftovers from a derelict sector of production, which ambles on, quietly churning out these hollow and shallow features.  Naturally, the next piece of the puzzle was to identify and seek out what had come before.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Shower (소나기, Sonagi) 1979

One thing that I’ve noticed time and again in Korean cinema, especially when I began to discover it many years ago, was the use of rain.  What struck me about it was its prevalence but most of all its impressive depiction on screen.  The first point is mostly due to the climate in Korea, which shares more with the wet climes of my native Ireland than Hollywood’s perpetually clear and balmy days.  The latter comes down to a keen appreciation on my part of the aesthetic and technical brilliance of the nation’s film industry.  Of course there’s also more to it than the above points, which are merely practical.

‘Pathetic fallacy’ is a term used to denote the attribution of human emotions to inanimate objects.  In poetry and literature, as well as in film, it typically references the metaphorical use of nature.  Rain is one of the most frequently used devices for pathetic fallacy used in art or media and in cinema it works particularly well due to its heavy physical presence and its potential to heighten the mise-en-scene through visual and aural means.  But in Korean films it has been brought to a new level as just about every important Korean work of the last 15 years has featured an important scene whose staging and emotional impact have been amplified by rainfall.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

KOFA's 'Classic Korean Film Theatre' Youtube Channel Goes Live!

The Korean Film Archive has launched its much anticipated "Korean Classic Film Theater" Youtube channel which features 70 different hard to find titles, all free and with English subtitles.  The films range from 1949's A Hometown in My Heart to Hong Sang-soo's 1996 debut The Day a Pig Fell Into the Well.  Numerous classic Im Kwon-taek, Kim Ki-young and Shin Sang-ok films are featured as well as many of the most important Korean classics of the past decades, including Yu Hyun-mok's Aimless Bullet (aka Obaltan, 1961), Park Kwang-su's Chilsu and Mansu (1988), or the original hostess film, Yeongja's Heyday (1976).

I'm dying to get stuck into the many I haven't seen but I highly recommend Im Kwon-taek's Sopyonje (1993), Kim Ki-young' Ieoh Island (aka Iodo, 1977) and the aforementioned Aimless Bullet.  Truly a phenomenal resource from KOFA and cause for celebration for all Korean film fans!


Full list of films after the jump: