Showing posts with label jeon do-yeon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label jeon do-yeon. Show all posts

Friday, August 31, 2018

Review: MEMORIES OF THE SWORD, Remembering Better Sword Fighting Flicks

By Pierce Conran

The wild card in the quartet of major Korean releases released in 2014's high summer season (alongside Assassination, Veteran and The Beauty Inside), the star-driven period spectacle Memories of The Sword proved to be a perplexing experience with jarring tonal shifts and unclear aims. Not even Lee Byung-hun and Jeon Do-yeon, two of Korea's most dependable stars, rise above the material, while newcomer Kim Go-eun is an awkward anchor to the film's emotional heft.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Cannes 2015 Review: THE SHAMELESS Delivers Hardboiled Melodrama with Top Drawer Performances

By Pierce Conran

"Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist"
Pablo Picasso

Today's Korea, whether looking at its entertainment, fashion or culinary scenes, is a society awash with fusion. Nowhere is this more true than in its cinema, as since the late 90s Korean filmmakers have never shied away from playing with genre. Many artists and artisans would do well to take note of the above quote by Picasso (though I imagine he wasn't the first to say it) before dishing out cookie crust shrimp and potato pizzas or dumping a motley crew of genre fare into a blender and calling it a script. However, while these hybrid experiments have frequently backfired, a surprising amount have been successful, including modern classics like Bong Joon-ho's The Host (2006) and Jang Joon-hwan's Save the Green Planet (2003).

Monday, February 9, 2015

Review: THE CONTACT Provides a Glimpse of Romance at the Speed of the ‘90s

By Chris Horn

The romance genre is always teetering on the edge of a dangerous precipice: an original plot and strong chemistry between the leads are the essential yet often elusive elements of successful romance. In 1997, Jang Yoon-hyeon struck gold, courting both viewer and critical approval with his hit romance The Contact. While it has its share of self-indulgence, it ultimately deserves its reputation as a refreshing genre film.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

News: Jeon Do-yeon And Kim Yoon-seok In Talks for New Lee Yoon-ki Film

By Rex Baylon

For those Korean film fans that have an affinity for quiet settings and slightly damaged female characters, the films of Lee Yoon-ki have acted as cinematic catnip. Having made a reputation for himself in the film festival circuit for Rohmerian style dramas featuring female protagonists muted by some tragic event in the past the director has been off the radar since 2011 after the release of his fourth feature, Come Rain Come Shine. There have been various rumors about forthcoming projects and though none have added up to much news has surfaced that award-winning actress Jeon Do-yeon (Secret Sunshine, 2007; Happy End, 1999) and superstar Kim Yoon-seok (Thieves, 2012; The Chaser, 2008) are in talks to star in Lee’s fifth feature, titled A Man and a Woman.

Produced by b.o.m Film with an agreement by CJ Entertainment to distribute the finished picture, the new project would reunite Lee with Jeon after their 2008 collaboration My Dear Enemy, which played at several festivals around the world and became a critical darling. The only thing confirmed about the script is that the film will focus on the passionate relationship of middle-aged lovers. Of course, all this pondering on the plot will be moot if the two actors can’t reach an agreement with Lee and the producers.

Though Jeon and Kim have shown strong interest in working with Lee on this project both actors already have full schedules this year with Jeon Do-yeon appearing with Lee Byung-heon in the period drama Memories of the Sword and Kim Yoon-seok pulling double duty on Sea Fog and the upcoming Tazza sequel.

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).

To keep up with the best in Korean film you can sign up to our RSS Feed, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Review: Jeon Do-yeon Shines in WAY BACK HOME

By Pierce Conran

Following a two-year break after the disappointing Countdown, Jeon Do-yeon makes an exceedingly welcome return to the big screen in Way Back Home. With a role that suits her to a tee and under the considered direction of Pang Eun-jin, fresh off last year’s Perfect Number, Jeon is a marvel in what may well become an end-of-year hit for CJ Entertainment.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Revenge Week: Amour Noir - The Tragic Outcome of Happy End

Part of MKC's Revenge Week (July 8-14, 2013).

Amour noir as a genre in film has always been popular with Korean audiences. From as far back as Kim Ki-young’s The Housemaid (1960) to present-day period erotic thrillers like The Concubine, the archetypes and storylines found in these films have been fodder for countless melodramas, love stories and crime pictures. For those that may be unfamiliar with this unique genre subset, an amour noir encompasses unhappy marriages, adulterous spouses and an eventual conspiracy to murder.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Love in the Time of Debt: My Dear Enemy (멋진 하루, Meotjin Haru) 2008

Part of Rex Baylon's ongoing feature on director Lee Yoon-ki.

To speak about love in a contemporary real world setting and ignore the logistics of survival has been the bane of the romance genre. In order to sidestep these problems filmmakers in the past have either focused their eye to the upstairs-downstairs drama of the 1% or offered up sentimental stories of shopgirls being wooed by nebbish young suitors. Modern day romantic comedies haven’t fared any better since most are concerned with merely finding one’s true love and quickly fading out once our two lovers are finally together. The romance genre’s evolution through the years has ignored the economics of love in favor of offering up quirky characters in contrived situations.

In Lee Yoon-ki’s My Dear Enemy money is the impetus for the two ex-lovers reuniting and the reason why they spend the entire day together. Instead of cloying attempts to tell a story about two people falling in love again while draped on all sides by a scenic urban backdrop we get tense scenes where petty grudges are rehashed and even the happier moments of the past are remembered through a cloudy veneer of regret and nostalgia. Far from offering up an affected view of modern day relationships My Dear Enemy is a realistic character study of the ways that hate and love are used to mask one’s insecurities, it’s a travelogue, a visual and aural document, of Seoul at the cusp of a worldwide economic recession, and a charming romantic comedy.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Fribourg Intl. Film Festival: Huh Jong-ho Interview

Last Friday morning I had the opportunity to sit down with Huh Jong-ho, the director of Countdown, which was screening in the main competition of the festival.  His film was awarded the FIPRESCI award during Saturday's closing ceremony.

Born in 1975, Huh is a graduate of the Korea National University of Arts and was an assistant director on Park Kwang-su's Meet Mr. Daddy (2007) prior to making Countdown, which is his debut film.

We covered a range of topics in our long discussion, including film schools, first time directors in Korea, the future of the industry, plans for his next project and much more.

I would like to thank Director Huh and his translator Kyung Roh Brannwart for their time, as well as Gunnar Gilden, the Press contact for the FIFF for setting up the interview.


Was it your choice to cast Jeong Jae-yeon and Jeon Do-yeon?  And if so, why did you cast them?

It’s really difficult to work with big stars.  As I was writing the scenario I already had these two actors in mind and after finishing it I worked with my producer to get in touch with them and luckily it worked out.  Jeong Jae-yeong, the main actor of the film, has had many roles, often playing soft characters.  The way I saw him as a director, I felt he had a very urban feel with a lot of solitude.  I was interested in him from the beginning and he was the first person to be cast in the film.

What was it like to work with them?

With Jeong Jae-yeong, at first the relationship was very professional but now we have become very good friends.

In the last few years, I’ve noticed that there are a lot of Korean films from first time directors and often we don’t hear from them again.  Could you comment on why this happens so often?

As you know there are a few very famous directors who have met with success from critics but are also commercially successful.  This commercial success is a very important factor nowadays, a lot of young directors try to make something great and successful but it has become difficult to meet both of these demands.

With first time directors, is it true that there is an element of control from the studio, where they may not be completely free to pursue the project the way they want to?

Luckily, in my case I was afforded the freedom to do what I wanted to do.  The studios have adopted the system of Hollywood, where the producers are very much involved from the writing itself to the filming where they make comments after each first shot.  So it’s very controlled.  But it’s not just the producers, the investors have a lot of say too.

With Countdown we were very lucky to have a very well known producer, Oh Jung-wan, who has worked a lot with Kim Jee-woon.  He has also worked on many other big films, like E. J. Yong’s Untold Scandal (2003).

South Korea has an extraordinary film school system that has done much to bring the industry to a very high technical level.  As a graduate of the Korea National University of Arts (K’Arts) how do you view the role of these institutions in the industry?

I was very much influenced by my school especially since while I was there, the equipment we used was actually better than that used in the industry.  The ex-president of the school saw Jurassic Park (1993) and then realized that movies have much greater commercial potential than say, selling a car.  So he created the school and made a lot of investments to improve it and made sure it was stocked with the very best equipment.  While I was there I made short films and had access to the best possible equipment for editing and sound.  After I left I didn’t feel that there was much of a gap with what was being used in the industry.  It was an easy transition.

On the subject of K’Arts, your first big job in the industry was as an assistance director for Park Kwang-su’s Meet Mr. Daddy (2007).  Was he your teacher in K’Arts and is that how you got involved in the project?

That’s true, during my last year at the school he was a professor.  Lee Chang-dong was also an assistant director for Park back in the 1990s and after I graduated he became a professor at the school.

After having him as a teacher, what was it like to work for him on set?

It is impossible to theoretically learn how to make a movie so while I was in school I would take my camera, go out and film and I would then talk with professor Park.  Later, as I worked for him, it was great to witness how he works on his own projects.

What are your influences as a filmmaker and which ones did you draw on for Countdown?

I couldn’t find many references for my film as the main character isn’t really a good person and he undergoes a transformation at the end.  I wasn’t able to find a textbook example of this.  But I’m sure that the many Hollywood, Japanese and French films, especially crime ones that I’ve seen have influenced me and can be seen on screen.

Some Western spectators have had trouble with the end of Countdown, namely the melodramatic conclusion that brings to light the backstory of Jeong Jae-yeong’s character.  There are also many other recent Korean films that are similarly constructed.  Could you comment on this phenomenon?

I understand and agree that there are many films that have this melodramatic aspect that is commercially motivated.  But for me the initial inspiration was the ending of the movie, the relationship between the man and the son.  At first the movie wasn’t called Countdown, its initial title was ‘My Son.’  For the beginning of the movie I adopted the action and crime genres as a way to tell the story. 

That’s very interesting, personally my favorite part of the film was the end.  So is there an element, and I'm not necessarily talking about your film, that studios like to throw in melodrama to attract audiences?

In my case it was different, as the studio had already agreed to the initial idea before the script was even written.  The car chases and various actions scenes actually account for very little screen time in the film and they were low budget and thankfully effective.  The studio was surprised to have these scenes added and in any case as a director I am interested in these genres so the film became a bigger project.

In other cases though, as you say, I’m quite sure the studio is very interested in adding these elements.

I was very happy to hear you mention during your film’s introduction at last night’s screening that you are working on a second film.  Could you tell us a little bit about it?

Even last night and when I was making my first movie I realized that there is a complication when different genres are mixed up.  For my second movie I want to be more straightforward and focus on one genre.  The film does not have an official English title yet but its literal name is Happy Country.  It’s set during 1979 and based on the events surrounding the assassination of the Korean president Park Chung-hee by his chief of intelligence.  The main character is not going to be one of the people responsible for the assassination but one of their lawyers who has completely different political convictions but defends his client nonetheless.

That’s very interesting, as there have been a number of successful courtroom films coming out of Korea recently, including Unbowed (2012) and The Client (2011).  Park Chung-hee’s assassination has already been captured in the famous Im Sang-soo film The President’s Last Bang (2005), how will your film compare to that?

Im Sang-soo’s film is more of a black comedy whereas with my point-of-view I’m trying to give an honest account of the characters involved, it will be more dramatic.

The Korean film industry, in its modern incarnation, is still quite young and undergoes constant change.  What do you think the next few years have in store for the business?

It’s true that we had a big setback between 2006 and 2009, less movies were made during that period.  Now it’s coming back again and a lot more movies are being made.  I think that the investment companies have settled down now, before it was a little shakier but it has become more solid.

Before we used to call the film industry ‘yeonghwa pan’ which means it’s a small place where we used to know everyone.  But now there are a lot more people working on different projects.  We even have a big Chinese market and some projects are specifically made for that country.  So commercially we are stronger and I think things will continue that way.  Although with this increasing industrialization we may run a risk of losing the special character of the Korean film industry.  What investors want is for the Korean film industry to become the Asian Hollywood so there is a bit of a danger.

CJ Entertainment is such a huge company and sometimes it seems like their trying to take over the entire world.

Now we don’t always film with 35mm as there are a lot of digital movies and as a result it has become possible to produce movies with very low budgets.  Because of this the contrast has also become quite big.  There are the big budget movies made by CJ but at the same time there are a lot of smaller independent films.  Sadly there is nothing in between.

Yes and that’s a bit of worry.  Although a lot of these smaller films are also being funded by bigger companies.  For instance the Korean Academy of Film Arts’ (KAFA) student features are all partly funded by CJ.

It’s a bit like a big supermarket trying to control everything!

I actually have a question from one of our readers.  Lauren, an English teacher currently based near Busan, wants to know what your favorite Kimchi is!

Kimchi? (laughs)  My favorite is baechu, this is the most common type of kimchi.

Finally, could you please tell us what some of your favorite Korean films are?

I really appreciate Lee Chang-dong’s older movies, especially his humanity which is really profound, not to mention his research.  Whenever I watch his movies I think ‘I’m going to do the opposite, I’m going to make a commercial movie!’ 

Thank you so much for your time, it’s been a pleasure speaking with you.

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 Review Round-up, which appear weekly on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings (GMT+1).

To keep up with the best in Korean film you can sign up to our RSS Feed, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Countdown (카운트다운, 2011) and the Rise and Fall of the Korean Star System

Around the same time that South Korea emerged as a global economic force in the early 1990s as it went about the process of shaking off the gloom from decades of authoritarian oppression, the film industry began to see a lot of changes.  Large corporations began to fund some projects and film production rapidly modernized.  The quality and budgets of films rose.  Another aspect of the industry that began to take shape was the star system.  Given the low market share of Korean films at that point, there weren’t many household names in the local film industry since the larger public would not have been aware of the films much less the stars.  As the 1990s progressed however, a few names became known to local film viewers.  Park Joon-hoon and Han Suk-kyu were some of the first major Korean stars.  To this day they are still popular draws at the box office but then again the rebirth of the industry didn’t happen that long ago.

In the late 1990s, when the domestic film market exploded, the star system blew up along with it.  Very quickly, talent and management agencies began to hoard and commodify promising talent, employing strategies pioneered by the Hollywood star system and its domineering power brokers in the talent management sector.  Soon the hallyu phenomenon added to this escalation of the importance of above the line talent and it was at this point that things began to spiral out of control.  Budgets for Korean films were quite low but agents had driven up the prices of top talent so production costs for the industry began to soar.  Filmmakers were not happy with the direction that the industry was taking but the grip that these agencies held over the entertainment industry proved very strong.

Around the peak of the Korean film industry’s dominance of the box office in the middle of the last decade there began to be a change in star power.  Up until then recognizable actors had proven big draws for audiences but there appeal was starting to diminish.  As the industry saw a dramatic fall in 2007 there was a shift in how projects were designed.  Budgets were too high and had to be slashed, and since top actors weren’t backing up their hefty fees with solid return on investment there weren’t deemed as essential as once was the case.

At the present time even more consternation has been expressed over the bankability of big stars.  Last year there were a number of big flops, some, like Sector 7 and My Way, were huge blockbusters that generated little interest but there were a number of mid-level productions, more modest in their ambition, which were mainly relying on the recognizability of their main stars.  One of these was Hindsight, starring Song Kang-ho, another was Countdown, which featured the promising pairing of Jeong Jae-yeong and Jeon Do-yeon.

Jeong Jae-yeong is the king of deadpan, I dare you to watch Going By the Book (2007), in which he expresses not a single emotion, without falling off your seat laughing.  Over the years he has amassed an impressive array of credits, which have included many recalcitrant gangsters and stoic antiheroes.  In time he has developed into one of Korea’s most dependable leading men and of late has moved audiences to laughter and tears with award-winning roles in Castaway on the Moon (2009) and Moss (2010).

Jeon Do-yeon may very well be the most versatile actress in Korea.  Starting off in TV, she got her start in movies with the successful romance films The Contact (1997) and A Promise (1998) before moving onto different roles such as a gangster’s girlfriend in Ryoo Seung-wan’s No Blood No Tears (2002) and a diffident mother in Lee Chang-dong’s Secret Sunshine (2007) for which she won Best Actress at Cannes.

In Countdown, Jeong plays Gun-ho, an efficient and stoic debt collector who discovers that he has liver cancer.  Five years ago his son died and his organs were donated to a number of people whom Gun-ho now approaches in the hopes of getting a liver transplant.  One of these beneficiaries is Ha-yeon, a con artist who is currently in jail.  She is about to be released and agrees to the operation on the condition that he finds someone for her, the man responsible for her incarceration.

The film boasts a terrific opening but it doesn’t take long for the melodrama signals to turn on.  The death of Jeong’s character’s son, who was afflicted with Down Syndrome, weighs heavily on him.  So much so that the memory of the loss has been suppressed by some sort of ‘han’-induced amnesia.  It should also be mentioned that his parents are disabled.  All this comes within the first 10 minutes.

Sadly, Jeong’s deadpan demeanor in Countdown comes off as glum and a little sleepy while Jeon admirably throws herself into a role that is underwritten and scarcely worthy of her talent.  It’s rather unfortunate that this is the case, especially since the film started out so well.  The problem with the film is that despite all its promise it is critically lacking in originality.  The set pieces are for the most part banal or rehashed car chases and standoffs.  The photography is competent but the editing sometimes leaves much to be desired.

The film is not as witty as it attempts to be and as a result it is far too dry and glum to ever be funny.  The local overcast weather is a also detriment in this film which by all rights should be colorful and exuberant, they should have played with lighting, locations and wardrobe more to counteract this.  It’s a sad state of affairs when the most interesting location is a Lotte department store.

Another issue is that the weight of inevitability looms over the narrative as we are just waiting for the backstory, the seeds of which have already been planted in the opening minutes, to kick in and hijack the narrative.  It’s a long time coming and though it is predictably melancholy and cloying, thankfully it works rather well.  This is due in large part to Jeong, who is afforded the opportunity to add more depth to his character and performance in these final stages.

At the end of the day, Countdown is a mediocre film with a humdrum narrative which happens to feature two big stars.  It’s like a song that thinks it’s cool and savvy, replete with self-assured lo-fi beats and interspersed instrumental bursts, but is really just elevator music.  I am a big fan of both Jeong Jae-yeong and Jeon Do-yeon but now I will need to count down until they both return in better films.


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 Review Round-up, which appear weekly on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings (GMT+1).

To keep up with the best in Korean film you can sign up to our RSS Feed, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Korean Box Office Update (09/30-10/02, 2011)

Weekend of September 30 - October 2, 2011:

Title Release Date Weekend Total
1 The Crucible 9/22/11 911,179 2,501,300
2 The Client 9/29/11 480,049 640,454
3 Countdown 9/29/11 145,775 219,271
4 Arrow, The Ultimate Weapon 8/10/11 91,886 7,245,651
5 Abduction (us) 9/29/11 64,972 82,045
6 From up on Poppy Hill (jp) 9/29/11 61,370 65,924
7 Mr. Popper's Penguins (us) 9/7/11 30,086 916,939
8 Contagion (us) 9/22/11 21,501 207,766
9 The Killer Elite (us) 9/22/11 12,828 147,049
10 Marrying the Mafia IV 9/7/11 11,227 2,345,076
- Leafie, A Hen Into the Wild       7/27/11 4,435 2,183,191
- Pained         7/9/11 3,658 696,117
- Champ         7/9/11 1,215 530,801
- The Day He Arrives         8/9/11 1,013 37,169

Business picked up a little this week over the last two with nearly 1.9 million admissions counted over the weekend. Two big Korean film opened wide and while only five films in the top 10, four of those led the marketplace and took a hefty 87.2% of business. Of the other five films, three were American holdovers (Mr. Popper's Penguins, Contagion and The Killer Elite), and the two midlevel openers were Abduction from Hollywood and the new Studio Ghibli film From Up on Poppy Hill from Japan.

Once again The Crucible (aka Silenced) dominated the marketplace with a staggering 911,179 tickets sold, this represents a huge 33% increase over last week's already impressive opening. With 2.5 million already tucked away (which puts it at No.7 on the yearly domestic chart), The Crucible should well in the coming weeks and may finds itself very high up the chart before long.

Last week yielded some solid preview figures for The Client, and it looked like a good bet to come in first this week. It managed 480,049, a strong number for this kind of film and this time of year but it barely managed to earn half of The Crucible's second weekend, which clearly ate into its potential earnings. However the buzz has been building on this film due in large part to an agressive marketing campaign so it may yet conjure up some big numbers.

The other wide Korean release this week was Countdown, the new thriller starring Jeon Do-yeon and Jang Jae-yeong. Reviews have been good but the film only managed a disappointing 145,755 admissions in its first frame despite the strong pedigree attached. This kind of figure seems to reinforce the notion that star wattage is dwindling at the Korean box office in favor of strong ensemble cast. Last month's Hindsight seemed to suffer a similar fate.

Arrow, The Ultimate Weapon dropped 38% this week for a 91,886 weekend. Its total, which stands at 7,245,651 is within 130,000 of Sunny's chart-topping performance. It should pass it within the next two weeks unless it crashes out very quickly but will not go any further.

Marrying the Mafia IV all but disappeared from the marketplace with a minuscule 11,227 as it finished out its run. Leafie, A Hen Into the Wild, Pained and Champ are still hanging around with very small takes while Hong Sang-soo's The Day He Arrives added another 1,013 to brings its total to 37,169.

The Crucible is all but guaranteed to stay up top next week as there will be no significant openings. The only wide Korean release will be Kim Sang-jin's new film Fighting Spirit, a baseball-themed comedy-drama.

The Korean Box Office Update is a weekly feature which provides detailed analysis of film box office sales over the Friday to Sunday period in Korea. It appears every Monday morning (GMT+1) on Modern Korean Cinema. For other weekly features, take a look at Korean Cinema News and the Weekly Review Round-upReviews and features on Korean film also appear regularly on the site. 

To keep up with the best in Korean film you can sign up to our RSS Feed, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.