Showing posts with label pierce conran. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pierce conran. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Top 10 Korean Films of 2014

2014 was an interesting year for Korean cinema. From a financial standpoint, the industry remained strong and produced its most successful film of all time (Roaring Currents), even if sales weren't quite able to reach the peaks of the preceding two years. However, from a qualitative angle, the picture was far less rosy. Early in the year, studio slates looked promising but many of the finished products, while undeniably polished, felt overworked and lacked originality. This speaks to growing concerns over corporate influence in the industry's current creative streak. Some feel that talented and especially younger filmmakers aren't being afforded the freedom they used to.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Review: Unsettling I AM TRASH Revels in Depravity and Dysfunction

By David Bell

Following earlier instalments of Mother is a Whore (2010) and Father is a Dog (2012), Lee Sang-woo completes his thematic trilogy of family dysfunction with I Am Trash (2014), an unflinching depiction of a Seoul street sweeper’s plight to liberate his brothers from sexual deviance after their convicted-paedophile father returns home from prison.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Review: Borderline Life - DEAR DICTATOR Re-Frames the Gaze South

By David Bell

Renowned for his unflinching examinations of the socially, economically and culturally marginalised within South Korean society, Lee Sang-woo’s surefooted seventh feature Dear Dictator (2014) presents a wry meditation on the lives of several disadvantaged South Korean youths exposed to the propagandist gaze of a mysterious North Korean onlooker.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Review: K-Horror TWO MOONS Scrapes the Bottom of the Barrel

By Pierce Conran

I’m glad that I’m not a particularly big horror buff, because if I was, Korean cinema would seem like a real letdown these days. The last few years have done little to convince anyone of the quality, and frankly necessity, of K-horror. Once a strong niche revenue driver for the industry, with a number of interesting if not always stellar entries finding their way to theaters and DVD, of late about three increasingly lackluster productions get dropped on the marketplace per annum. It’s a story of diminishing returns, as the genre seems to be on the way out. At least until something or someone can come along to save it…

2012’s third K-horror Two Moons, following the soporific Don’t Click and the frustrating Horror Stories, is definitely not the messiah that will save the struggling genre. Director Kim Dong-bin previously made the horrors Ring Virus (1999) and Red Eye (2005), both of which were warmly received by audiences or critics. With pretty much nothing going for it, his latest is one of the worst K-horrors to be released in years.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Review: The Philosophical Mystery A FISH

By Pierce Conran

Independent cinema in Korea has been gaining a lot of steam over the last few years, and now, as filmmakers become bolder or seek to distinguish themselves from the pack, stories are becoming more ambitious and the technical tools used to tell them more sophisticated. Case in point is A Fish, an elliptical shaman mystery shot in 3D. Unlike what we’ve come to expect from the format, this is a far cry from big-budget spectacle. It’s a slow art film with a metaphorical and sometimes impenetrable narrative.

A bold and ambitious debut, Park Hong-min’s A Fish is a challenging work that is certain to infuriate just as many viewers as it may enchant. I won’t pretend to have understood it particularly well, but I can say that I was swept up in the strange world it conjured up on a remote Korean island, full of intrigue, spirituality and unanswered questions. Many times I found myself drawing comparisons to David Lynch, whose dream-like narratives have long fascinated and delighted me. But Park’s film is no mere copy: it is a singular work from an exciting new talent in the field.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Top 10 Korean Films of 2013

The time has come once again for me to sit down and think about all the new Korean films I had the opportunity to see in 2013 and come up with my favorites. This year, I had a lot to choose from for this ritual as I've seen about 120 local films, so the task proved more difficult than usual.

With 127 million tickets sold and a remarkable nine Korean films featuring in the yearly top ten at the box office, 2013 was a huge year for Korean cinema. Prosperity does not always mean quality and the last few years have been disappointing as far as commercial Korean films have been concerned. Thankfully, in 2013 the industry succeeded in both attracting viewers to multiplexes and putting out high quality fare. That said, I still find myself more partial to the more fertile grounds of independent cinema, as seven low budget films made the list this year. While two films truly blew me away over the last 12 months today's industry still isn't putting out quite the same amount of gems as it was around ten years ago.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Revenge Week: Dirty Blood's Dangerous Payback

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

As a society Korea has been slow to change despite its economic growth. At times it can seem like a gigantic, perpetually simmering pot of discontent that seems dangerously close to boiling over. One aspect of Korean society that is often brushed under the carpet is repressed sexuality and while it isn’t something you will encounter much in TV dramas, music and the news, the Korean film industry, of late, has been vocal in its depiction of the widespread abuse that rages through the country. Truth be told, it is often used opportunistically and many of the works in question tread a very fine line.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Revenge Week: Don't Cry Mommy - A Necessary Lesson Poorly Delivered

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

It’s a funny thing to think you understand something and then experience it first hand, only to realize how naïve you’ve been about the subject. Truth be told, that’s happened to me a few times since arriving in Korea. Having lived in so many places before and being well versed in Korean cinema, my hubris and I felt quite comfortable in our knowledge of a country we’d never been to. My ego has taken a few digs since then but far more devastating has been my steep learning curve regarding social issues.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Revenge Week: 26 Years - The Ultimate Revenge Narrative

Part of MKC's Revenge Week (July 8-14, 2013). This is not a new piece but it just seemed too a propos not to include.

Just like anyone else, I come from a country (Ireland) with historical scars that refuse to completely fade away. The sad fact is that these days my connection with my home is tenuous at best. Nevertheless, as we approach the centenary following the Easter Rising of 1916, this terrible event that saw a group a passionate Irishman stand up to their English oppressors, only to be brutally suppressed, is still an indelible part of who I am.

Revenge Week: Top 10 Korean Revenge Films

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

Korean cinema may not only be a purveyor of revenge fare but there's no denying the country's particular flair for churning out gripping vengeance-fuelled narratives. However, unlike gangster fare or romcoms, revenge films are a little harder to identify, especially when it comes to making a list like this. Outside of a few obvious contenders, it took a lot of ground work and research before even writing a word, as, again and again, I had to keep asking myself "does this count as a revenge film"?

Monday, June 3, 2013

Korean Box Office: Star Trek Leads Hollywood Onslaught (05/31-06/02, 2013)

Local fare continues to be overwhelmed at the Korean box office as it scored a meagre 17% market share compared with a much healthier 54% last year. What's more, despite a number of blockbusters on offer, business was also down with only 1.69 million tickets sold overall, down from 2012's 2.04 million during the same weekend.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Korean Box Office: Furious 6 First with Franchise Best Opening (05/24-05/26, 2013)

Summer's heating with yet another Hollywood tentpole platforming. However, business dipped significantly to 1.83 million admissions, down from last year's 2.24 million. The local market share was also down to 30%.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Channeling the Classics: The Russian Novel (러시안 소설) 2012

Though I scarcely have the time to read these days there are a few classic works of literature I always go back to. On the one hand the French Naturalists taught me morality and on the other the great Russian novels forced me to grapple with existentialism and taught me about love. Tolstoy, Dostoyesky, Pushkin, Lermontov, and more had the ability to tip the balance of life from one extreme to the next, all in the flick of a page. Leafing through ‘Anna Karenina’ was a two-week journey through the human kaleidoscope of love and suffering, while the brief weekend it took to absorb ‘A Hero of our Time’ was like a torrid love affair, which, like its protagonist, shone bright and brief.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Korean Box Office: Iron Man 3 Threepeats up Top (05/10-05/12, 2013)

Iron Man 3 stood strong for a third week but overall business took a dive as it fell under the two million mark, with only 1.8 million tickets sold. Good weather and a lack of strong new titles were likely to blame for the slow cinema traffic. That said the Korean market share shot up significantly to 33%, still not a great result compared to the past few months but nonetheless a slight increase over last year.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

A Look at Korean Comedy and Mr. XXX-Kisser (아부의 왕, 2012)

Many films passed through Korean theaters last year and a great number of them made their presence felt. But of course for every chart-topping hit there were many projects that failed to make their way to profitability. One such film that came and went during the sweltering summer months was Mr. XXX-Kisser (aka The King of Flattery, and I can’t see why they didn’t stick to that far superior English title), a mid-level comedy with no huge stars and very modest ambitions.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

UDINE 2013: Korean Horror Comedies and Ghost Sweepers (점쟁이들, 2012)

Korean cinema has proven on many occasions that it can be quite brazen when it comes to generic codes. It can sometimes seem like a kid has been let loose in a well-stocked kitchen as he begins to mix and match the most incongruous ingredients in an oversized pot. While many concoctions have succeeded in offending viewer’s delicate palates, just as many bizarre recipes cooked up in the studios have delighted and surprised film lovers around the world.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Korean Box Office: Iron Man Still Top Dog (05/03-05/05, 2013)

The story at the Korean box office was much the same as last week with Iron Man 3 continuing to reign supreme. Total admissions came in at 2.47 million (a fraction below last year) while the local market share was once again weak at only 14%, about half of last year's figure.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Korean Box Office: Iron Man 3 Has Gargantuan Debut (04/26-04/28, 2013)

There was only one game in town this weekend as the blockbuster Iron Man 3 almost set a new opening weekend record (currently held by Transformers 2). It was slim pickings for everything else. Total business powered to 2.63 million (up from 2.09 in 2012) and the local market was all but non-existent, failing to reach 10%, a lot lower than the 27% recorded last year when The Avengers opened.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Jeonju 2013: Lebanon Emotion (레바논 감정, 2013)

Part of MKC's coverage of the 14th Jeonju International Film Festival.

In the world of cinema, things aren’t always as they seem. A film presents itself to us in a certain way, its details on screen carefully selected by its director. The new Korean film Lebanon Emotion takes a risky approach with its narrative. It puts forward two main characters, immediately giving us a few details concerning their recent past. Beyond this, however, their backstories remain clouded and it becomes clear early on that the story may largely be allegorical. Mystery and surprise are among the most potent elements of any narrative, but too much (or too early) and they can have an adverse effect.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Jeonju 2013: December (디셈버, 2013)

Part of MKC's coverage of the 14th Jeonju International Film Festival.

These days, in a bid to stand out from a crowded field, a lot of young filmmakers experiment with their chronologies. While there’s nothing wrong with experimenting with form, it’s very important to have a strong narrative before playing around with it. Jeonju competition film December follows this trend, but does it get away it?