Showing posts with label kim min-hee. Show all posts
Showing posts with label kim min-hee. Show all posts

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Review: RIGHT NOW, WRONG THEN, Stars Shine in Classic Hong Sangsoo

By Pierce Conran

Following Hong Sangsoo's career guarantees for viewers, at the very least, one thing - developing a keen eye for detail. The auteur's films are remarkably similar to one another, from their lecherous male director/professor characters and conversations over bottles of soju, all the way down to their repeating details and occasional (but abrupt) camera zooms and pans.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Locarno 2018 Review: HOTEL BY THE RIVER, A Wonderfully Performed New Drama from Hong Sangsoo

By Pierce Conran

Six months after the premiere of Grass at the Berlinale, prolific auteur Hong Sangsoo is back with another black and white drama which once again reunites him with his leading actress Kim Min-hee. Having just debuted at the Locarno International Film Festival, where it picked up the Best Actor Award for lead Ki Joo-bong, Hotel by the River employs less narrative trickery than most of the director's films and builds from a series of slight vignettes into a moving story of an ageing poet trying to take stock of his life in what may be his waning days.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Review: THE HANDMAIDEN, Park Chan-wook's Deeply Engrossing and Highly Sexual Tale of Female Sexuality

By Pierce Conran

Following his Hollywood foray Stoker, Park Chan-wook returns to (mostly) home soil for his sumptuous and sensual adaptation of Sarah Waters' Fingersmith. Transposing the novel's setting from Victorian England to 1930s Korea and Japan, when the former was a colony of the latter, The Handmaiden is a deeply engrossing, highly sexual and at times darkly humorous tale of female sexuality brought to life in spectacular fashion.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

News: Hong Sangsoo and Kim Min-hee Start Filming 5th Collaboration

By Pierce Conran

Hong Sangsoo and Kim Min-hee are teaming up for the fifth time on a new project that began filming earlier this month. As usual their are no plot details for what is simply Hong Sangsoo's Untitled 22nd Project for now. The film comes amidst a busy year that saw Hong release three films, all with Kim, and will co-star Jung Jin-young (seen in Claire's Camera), Kwon Hae-hyo and Kim Sae-byuk (both in The Day After).

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Review: CLAIRE'S CAMERA, Hong Sangsoo's Low-Key Cannes Holiday

By Pierce Conran

Love him or hate him, Hong Sangsoo has been remarkably consistent with his films, which both offer viewers a familiar framework and new variations on his favorite themes. His 20th work Claire's Camera debuts this weekend as a Special Screening in the Cannes Film Festival, after shooting at the festival last year. The brief (68 minutes) film reunites him with his In Another Country (2012) star Isabelle Huppert and muse Kim Min-hee for the third time (with a fourth collaboration, The Day After, also premiering at Cannes in a few days in competition).

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Review: THE DAY AFTER Offers Bitter Portrait of Infidelity

By Pierce Conran

Returning to black and white for the first time since The Day He Arrives (which screened in Un Certain Regard in 2011), Hong Sangsoo returns to the Cannes competition section with The Day After, a focused rumination on love and betrayal which is, much like his other 2017 films On the Beach at Night Alone and fellow Cannes-invitee Claire's Camera, an act of bitter self-reflection.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Berlinale 2017 Review: ON THE BEACH AT NIGHT ALONE, Hong Sang-soo's Most Personal and Cruel Film to Date

By Pierce Conran

A new year has arrived and with it the challenge of reviewing a new work from Korea's arthouse darling Hong Sang-soo. On the Beach at Night Alone, which borrows its name from the title of a Walt Whitman poem and premieres at the Berlin International Film Festival, his third time there in competition after Night and Day and Nobody's Daughter Haewon, certainly does not depart in any significant way from the stylings and themes of his body of work to date.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Review: Straightforward Action in NO TEARS FOR THE DEAD

By Hieu Chau

Writer-director Lee Jeong-beom made a big splash in 2010 when his confidently made action feature The Man from Nowhere became a box office hit in South Korea. It made a believable action star out of its lead, Won Bin, and had an emotional core that helped it lean closer towards other, well-established action films of its ilk such as Luc Besson’s Leon: The Professional (1994) or Tony Scott’s Man on Fire (2004). Lee follows a similar format with his newest ultraviolent follow up, No Tears for the Dead, which at times feels like it could have been another Tony Scott film.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Hong Sangsoo Taps Jung Jae-young, Kim Min-hee and More for 17th Film

Prolific auteur Hong Sangsoo is getting ready to shoot his 17th (as yet untitled) film this month after fixing his leading cast. Previous collaborators Jung Jae-young (Our Sunhi, 2013) and Yu Jun-sang (The Day He Arrives, 2011) will be joined by Hong first timers Kim Min-hee (Helpless, 2012) and Ko Ah-sung (Snowpiercer).

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Moby Dick (모비딕, Mo-bi-dik) 2011

Conspiracy theory thriller

I am quite a fan of conspiracy thrillers, indeed I believe that the genre has produced some of the most fascinating, engaging and thoroughly cinematic films of our times. Whilst its roots go back much further, I am reminded of the New Hollywood cinema of the 1970s, the point at which it was probably at its most popular. Anyone who has seen the little film that Francis Ford Coppola managed to wedge in between making the behemoths that were parts I and II of The Godfather, has probably never forgotten The Conversation (1973), and its profound atmosphere of paranoia. Another of the most enduring successes of that decade was All the President’s Men (1976). Granted, it had quite a story to start off with but it was also one of the most well-crafted and exciting films to come out in that period. Lately, conspiracy has featured frequently in films but it is no longer the sole focus of the vast majority of narratives. Although there are still some fantastic examples, such as the sadly cancelled AMC series Rubicon (2010) and one of this year’s best films (if not the best at this point), Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (2011), the conspiracy theory genre has steadily lost its allure.

In Korean cinema, conspiracy plays a similar role as it does in other international cinemas, namely as a narrative device to create conflict, inject tension and allow for twists and reveals. Almost always, there is one recurring element at the heart of these conspiracies, Korean cinema’s trump card, the ever-present and threatening North Korea. Moby Dick isn’t particularly different from other Korean films featuring these tropes, the main difference is that here it is the narrative’s principal focus. As one would expect this is both to its advantage and to its detriment.

It seems that it is the mission of Chungmoro (Korea’s Hollywood) to create at least one Korean version of every style of film ever made. Moby Dick is the country’s first press-centric conspiracy theory thriller and to give one other example, one of this week’s Korean platform releases is The Client (2011), Korea’s first courtroom drama. Don’t get me wrong, I am quite happy to see the industry stretch its wings into every conceivable narrative dimension, lest it get stale for perpetually depicting melodramas or violent thrillers of the ‘Asia extreme’ variety. The negative side is that things often miss the mark, but the tradeoff is that we expect a lot from Korean films, especially how they reinvent genre.

Balam Bridge

Following a mysterious explosion on Balam bridge in 1994, journalist Lee Bang-woo (Hwang Jong-min) is approached by Yoon Hyuk, someone he used to know from his hometown, who claims that things aren’t as they seem. Lee enlists the help of fellow reporters Son Jin-ki (Kim Sang-ho) and Sung Hyo-kwan (Kim Min-hee) to unwrap a deep conspiracy.

Moby Dick alas is fairly straightforward and this poses two problems: as a conspiracy thriller it may be effective and hit more or less the right notes but it is also simplistic, when conspiracy, along with film noir, are the only genres where things shouldn’t be too easy to follow; the other problem, although this may be more aptly classified as a disappointment given my expectations, was that it did not reinvent the genre in any way and pretty much played out like you would expect a well-made Hollywood thriller to.

Problems like these could easily derail a film but I am pleased to report that the film’s other qualities are indeed its redeeming ones. Technically the film is quite impressive, or perhaps par for the course by excellent Korean standards. I especially liked the muted colors and the emphasis on lines and angles in the framing of the shots across the city. Since the film is set in 1994, shortly after South Korea became properly democratized but also not long before 1997’s devastating IMF crisis, this style works in its favour. Despite new civil liberties afforded civilians and a relaxation in censorship towards media in general, there is an air of reticence that pervades the diegetic world of the film. Though set only 17 years ago, it nearly feels like a period film, this is a testament both to the nation’s progress in that timeframe and to the skill of the mise-en-scene.

Lee Bang-woo in the Press room

The cast, headed by Hwang Jong-min, is very strong and perhaps the main cause for recommendation. Hwang is typically excellent as a brash and cocky reporter who has been down on his luck for a few years. Kim Sang-ho, who seems to be in at least every second Korean film these days, plays the affable buddy reporter with an effortless charm. The rest of the cast, rounded out by Ku Jin and Kim Min-hie, is all uniformly impressive.

I can’t say too much about the director, Park In-je, as the film, like so many in Korea these days, came from a first-time cineaste. I’m not quite sure why so many Korean directors seem to only get one credit. On the one hand it could be construed as democratic as many get a chance to helm a feature although I daresay that it is a shame so few talented individuals get the opportunity to develop their craft. I digress, this is a discussion for another day. Sadly I don’t know who wrote this film, after a quick search the information did not readily pop up online, but I do think that while the conspiracy theory element of the plot wasn’t as convoluted and far-reaching as I would have liked it to be, the script was nevertheless a solid genre effort that thankfully did not veer into sentimental melodrama.

Moby Dick is another strong genre offering from Korea that kept me engaged from start to finish. Though I was disappointed by the functional but straightforward conspiracy element, this didn’t prevent me from enjoying myself thoroughly.


Kim Sang-ho, Kim Min-hee and Hwang Jong-min

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