Showing posts with label kim soo-young. Show all posts
Showing posts with label kim soo-young. Show all posts

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Udine Far East Film Festival Day VIII Report

Ongoing reports on the 14th Udine International Film Festival which Modern Korean Cinema will be covering onsite.

Splendid Outing
(South Korea, 1978)

The second Kim Soo-young film of the retrospective (after Night Journey, 1977), Splendid Outing was a fantastic island drama that was almost a horror in its design.  It’s also seem to be a huge influence of one of the best Korean films of the last few years, Jang Chul-soo’s Bedevilled (2010).

The film’s central protagonist is a successful businesswoman, which is an anomaly in 1970s Korea.  She owns a high rise, has a big office and seems respected by all of her peers.  She has two children but doesn’t seem to have much time for them.  Early on in the film the pressure starts to get to her and she takes a trip down to the South in her car, at which point she is swallowed up by a mob in coastal town, abducted and brought to an isolated island where she is given to a man who believes that she is his wife.

Once again, notions of female identity in contemporaneous Korea dominate.  Is she being punished for not conforming to the standard role of a woman?  The abundant power she holds is instantly stripped from her and after neglecting her duties as a mother in the home she is forced to care for a new offspring and has no means of escape.

Of course the traditional position of woman in society also comes under the microscope as she is literally stripped of all her freedom and forced to debase herself.  She is beaten and people ridicule her when she tries to explain who she is.  Like a number of other Korean films, old and new, the main character is transplanted from a comfortable urban environment to a rural one.  The islands in Iodo (1977), Splendid Outing and Bedevilled, as well as the villages in Bestseller (2010) and Moss (2010) are presented as spaces of horror, where dogmatic traditionalism or religion lead to horrific acts of abuse.

One of my favorite films of retrospective and the festival, Splendid Outing is a classic Korean film that could win over many spectators if given the chance.

A Woman Chasing a Killer Butterfly
(South Korea, 1978)

This bizarre effort from Kim Ki-young was loved by some and derided by others but it is certainly one of the week’s films that elicited the strongest response.  A Woman Chasing a Killer Butterfly (aka Killer Butterfly) seems like a cultish B-movie but it also has many philosophical overtones as it references Nietzsche and other works, including Leni Riefenstahl’s infamous Nazi propaganda film Triumph of the Will (1934).

I won’t bother providing a synopsis because to be honest I wasn’t really sure what was going on most of the time.  The film seemed relatively clear at first as it went through two pseudo-chapters but its third section, which swallowed most of the narrative, lost me completely.  I was frustrated not to understand what as going on but I was never bored.  Killer Butterfly is furiously inventive and often hilarious though this is not always intentional and poor subtitles from an old copy didn’t help matters.

Compared to Kim’s other films I was surprised at the lack of a polished mise-en-scene, which leads me to imagine that this was made in a rush.  This would also explain the choppy plotting and uneven pacing.  That said, I will definitely give this another chance some day, if I’m presented with the opportunity, as I think there was much that I didn’t catch during this viewing.

Afro Tanaka
(Japan, 2012)

I’ve been lucky to see some wonderful Japanese comedies this week, including Sukiyaki (2011) and The Woodsman and the Rain (2011), but it’s true that sometimes, Japanese humour can be a little dry.  The films of Miki Satoshi (In the Pool, 2005; Adrift in Tokyo, 2007), which I had a chance to see earlier this year at the East Winds Festival, walk a dangerously fine line but just about get away with it.  Afro Tanaka has a lot of charm and is frequently inventive but it pushes this style of comedy to an extreme and at times it was too much for me handle.  However, the audience in the theater certainly seemed to be enjoying themselves and true enough the film has many laugh out loud moments so perhaps this just wasn’t one for me.

Tanaka is a young man with an enormous afro who has yet to have a girlfriend.  He is invited to the wedding of a childhood friend and must now find a companion so as not to lose face.

I couldn’t quite make sense of the ridiculous afro, it was funny for a moment but over the course of the film, which stretched to nearly two hours, it starts to become a bit of an eyesore.  The script contents itself with situational comedy for the most part which is a shame as I think some more focus on the characters and a stronger plot may have yielded a much stronger film.

The Bounty
(Hong Kong, 2012)

This HK movie world premiere was attended by director Fung Chih-chiang as well as the producer, costume designer, production designer as well as a co-star.  An action-comedy about a bounty hunter tracking down a fugitive on a little island in Hong Kong, The Bounty had its moments but was not a satisfying effort.  Chapman To, the star, was hilarious but this pales in comparison to his performance in Vulgaria (2012).  There wasn’t much to the plot which in and of itself isn’t really a problem for this kind of a narrative but it dragged on for far too long.  There was a clear ending point which seemed to work quit well but then the film trundled along for another half an hour which really spoiled it.

Maybe the film would have played better if it had remained a straight comedy but as it stands its slide into melodrama was poorly conceived and killed any momentum that the film had built early on.  There were elements of the film I liked, the comedy mostly worked in the early stages and as already mentioned Chapman To was good, he’s a very reliable performer in this type of role, but overall this is not a film I could recommend to anybody besides diehard HK film fans.

(South Korea, 2011)

Previous MKC Review

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).

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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Udine Far East Film Festival Day V Report

Ongoing reports on the 14th Udine International Film Festival which Modern Korean Cinema will be covering onsite.

Yesterday was very much a Korea-centric day.  It began with a 5:30am wakeup so that I could log onto Skype for an interview at 6:00am with someone in Korea, but this had nothing to do with Udine.  After writing my Day IV Report I went to the festival centre to take in the second double bill of the 1970s Korean film retrospective.  Following that I had the chance to see one of last year’s biggest Korean hits, one I’d been aching to see.

The evening’s panel was on the ‘Darkest Decade’ retrospective and featured curator Darcy Paquet and noted Korean film director and scholar (currently professor at K’Arts) Kim Hong-joon.  The talk began with a short video by Kim where he discusses March of Fools, a 1975 Kil Ha-chong (director of the previous day’s Pollen) film that was unfortunately not available for the FEFF.  The talk was fascinating and both panelists drew on their extensive knowledge of Korean cinema and shared some choice anecdotes. I only wish it could have gone on longer!

I didn’t catch the next Korean film screening as I had already seen (and reviewed) it so I took my leave to go back to the hotel early since the last three nights had yielded less than 15 hours of sleep.

No retrospective films today but I’m hoping to catch Dangerously Excited (South Korea, 2012), which screened before I arrived, in the press library.  I'm also looking forward to the The Woodsman and the Rain (Japan, 2011).

Rainy Days
(South Korea, 1979)

First up was Rainy Days (aka Rainy Season) which is one of the last films that Yoo Hyun-mok ever made.  Yoo is rightly famous for directing Obaltan (aka Aimless Bullet, 1961), which, along with The Housemaid (1960), is considered one of the defining works of Korean cinema.  Rainy Days may not have the visceral impact of his previous classic, but then again Obaltan was made during a brief transition period in the early 60s during which censorship was very lax.  This film is borne out of different circumstances and a careful examination of it reveals how a clever director like Yoo is able to bend the limitations of studio filmmaking, in a heavily censored era, to his advantage.

The film is set in a small rural community during the Korean war and while ostensibly an anti-communist film I couldn’t help but think that he was also making a statement about the society and political atmosphere in contemporaneous Korea.  Fear of recrimination is a large part of the film but perhaps even more so is hypocrisy, which has actually been an overarching theme in all the films that have so far been screened in the retrospective. 

The film if beautifully made and these works continue to surprise me with the high degree of sophistication with regards to their film technique.  Another great film from Yoo Hyun-mok and I hope to see it again soon, as I must admit that I was a little (very) tired during the screening after my late night finish and early morning start!

Night Journey
(South Korea, 1977)

The first thing that struck me about Kim Soo-young’s Night Journey was its star Yun Jeong-hie, who picked up numerous international accolades for her exceptional performance in Lee Chang-dong’s Poetry (2010).  She made an enormous amount of films in the late 60s and 70s but of course precious few are available now.  I may even have been slightly uncomfortable seeing the woman who played the sweet grandmother in Poetry in such a lascivious role.

Kim’s film is a brief and focussed affair which examines the role of the independent, city-dwelling woman in Korean society circa the 1970s.  She plays a bank clerk having an affair with her supervisor but she is left sexually unsatisfied and even the hope of getting a husband out of the ongoing encounters is dashed as he finds the institution of marriage ‘lame’.

Hypocrisy rears its ugly head again as women are given the short shrift in Kim’s film as their changing role in society is ill-accepted by its patriarchs.  She may work in a bank but there is never a question that she could ever rise up to management.  She is referred to as an 'old maid' at work and thus is under pressure to get married because at this point in time, Korea offers no other recourse for a woman approaching middle age.

I loved how Kim’s film was short and to the point, it managed to say a lot in 76 minutes and I’m still going over it in my mind.

(South Korea, 2011)

Punch was Korea’s third most successful film last year which was a bit of a surprise but after seeing it, it quickly becomes clear why this film raked in so much cash: it’s a winner.  An exceptionally well-crafted studio fell-good hit, Punch has a lot going in its favor but its anchor is Kim Yun-seok, the formidable star of Tazza: The High Rollers (2006), The Chaser (2008), Running Turtle (2009), TheYellow Sea (2010) and this summer’s hotly anticipated The Thieves (2012).  Kim is a joy to watch on screen, he’s known for very intense roles but for me the common element that binds all his roles together is just how funny he is.  He’s extremely droll and his droopy eyes are able to convey such a range of emotion and I honestly don’t know how he does it.

Everyone had a great time with this and the whole theater was in stitches throughout most of the film.  Kim certainly plays his part but the supporting cast is also superb.  Anyone who had a chance to see Moby Dick (2011) earlier this week will have recognized Kim Sang-ho, the stout little actor with the bald head and frizzy hair who brightens up even the worst film, and he has been in some atrocious ones, such as last year’s woeful Champ.

Punch is a coming of age story about a resourceful but reserved young man who has grown up without a mother and in a poor and unconventional setting.  His teacher (played by Kim) lives next door and constantly harangues him, though it is obvious that he is affectionate towards him.  Themes of multi-culturalism, religion and acceptance abound in the narrative and while the going is often light and frothy, the subtext is clear and very well integrated.  This kind of a film, which inevitably takes detours into sentimentalism, is of the sort which often gets into trouble with suffocating melodrama and disingenuousness but director Lee Han has a firm command of the material and his film has a lot heart and it does pack a but of a punch.  Highly recommended for all-comers.

Penny Pinchers
(South Korea, 2011)

Previous MKC Review

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.