Monday, September 10, 2012

PiFan 2012: Osaka Violence (大阪外道, Japan) 2012

Part of MKC's coverage of the 16th Puchon International Film Festival.

The main prize-winner at this year’s Yubari International Fantastic Film Festival, Takahiro Ishihara’s Osaka Violence, is a gritty film which employs both a realistic aesthetic and deadpan excessiveness to bring home its point. As its title suggests, the film concerns the prevalence of violence in Osaka, it is depicted as the most commonplace of acts, a cyclical ritual that is absorbed from a young age through the ebb and flow of everyday life.

The film begins with a group of young boys loitering on some farmland. The owner comes up to shoo away the trespassers but is subjected to a tirade of disrespect and abuse. They walk off, leaving the old man stunned. Things have changed in Japan and certain elements of society, such as respect, are evolving but not always in a good way. This demonstration of apathy is a logical starting point for the film. The boys’ trip through their Osaka neighborhood introduces us to an increasingly apathetic subset of its inhabitants. First they cross a gangster who is friendly to them and gives them money. Their new found fortune is swiftly taken away by a group of older boys who threaten them but this new gang is in turn beaten to a pulp by an older, burlier gangster who demands a toll for crossing under ‘his’ bridge. Suddenly, their lack of respect towards the old farmer from the opening scene is not so shocking.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

KBO: Hollywood Titles End Late Summer Local Streak (09/07-09/09, 2012)

Hollywood Titles End Late Summer Local Streak

Title Release Date Market Share Weekend Total Screens
1 The Bourne Legacy (us) 9/6/12 29.30% 522,713 619,128 588
2 Traffickers 8/29/12 17.60% 302,258 1,315,355 385
3 The Expendables 2 (us) 9/6/12 13.30% 240,675 278,494 394
4 Neighbors 8/22/12 12.00% 206,259 2,298,476 346
5 The Grand Heist 8/8/12 7.70% 144,076 4,833,965 312
6 The Thieves 7/25/12 7.20% 129,060 12,836,869 323
7 Pieta 8/6/12 3.30% 58,061 68,090 171
8 Step Up 4 (us) 8/15/12 2.50% 45,369 931,745 149
9 Abrahama Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (us) 8/30/12 1.90% 31,749 333,276 230
10 Sammy's Adventures 2 (ge) 8/1/12 0.80% 14,750 1,454,392 107

Preview: The Music of Jo Hyeja (조혜자의 음악) 2012

The New England weird fiction writer H.P. Lovecraft is a man whose reputation precedes his actual work. Known by many primarily for his xenophobic fear of "the mixing of races" and also his influence on Hellboy creator Mike Mignola, it is very rare to see anyone reading his work now. Yet, the man that critics oftentimes looked upon as a second-rate Poe was a huge influence on the development of horror and supernatural fiction in American literature. His Cthulu mythos alone has inspired writers as diverse as Stephen King and Neil Gaiman, musicians like Metallica, and also sword and fantasy games, e.g. The World of Warcraft and Dungeons and Dragons. While in the realm of cinema his vast output has led to countless adaptations of his stories, many of which are of the low budget variety.

For Korean cinema-philes that are going to be in the Los Angeles area around September 28-29th, the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival will be screening The Music of Jo Hyeja, Korea's first foray into the dark atmospheric world of H.P. Lovecraft. The film, directed by Park Ji-hyun and written by Canadian expat Gord Sellar, is an adaptation of Lovecraft's The Music of Erich Zann, a short story about a poor university student who befriends one of the tenants in his building who night after night plays an eerie tune on his violin. The story being a pure product of Lovecraft's unique imagination the melody that the troubled violinist plays is a tune which keeps the demons and odd creatures from entering the world through the windows of the apartment.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Interview: 'Blood Fight in Iron-Rock Valley' Director Ji Ha-jean

An in-depth interview with Ji Ha-jean, the up-and-coming director behind the award-winning low-budget western Bloody Fight in Iron-Rock Valley (2011), last year's PiFan winner for Best Asian Genre Film.

Interpreted by Kim Nemo

Bloody Fight references many classic westerns. What drew you to this genre in the first place?

The two most important references were Once Upon a Time in the West (1969) and the second in Sergio Leone’s Man With No Name trilogy, A Few Dollars More (1965). Inside the film there are thousands of other references, such as Shane (1953), The Man From Laramie (1955) and Robert Aldrich’s Apache (1954).

What were your hopes as you embarked on making a Korean western?

I produced the film as well as directing it and even by independent film standards it had an extremely low budget ($40,000). Filmmakers with that kind of budget usually try to make experimental or dramatic films but I’m a real fan of the western genre and another aim of mine is to become a commercial film director. So I was wondering how I might be able to combine these two aims.

September 2012 Korean Releases

This monthly features previews the coming month's attractions in Korean cinema. All of these monthly posts are available in an archive on the Upcoming Releases page.

September 6

Grape Candy
Wedding Scandal

September 13

Fighting! Family
Han Kyung-jik
Too Old Hiphop Kid

September 20


September 27

Jinsuk and Me

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Neighbors (이웃사람, Yiwootsaram) 2012

Recently, the prevalence of ensemble casts in Korean cinema has been on the rise. It could mean a few things. For one, it’s a sign of a healthy industry with a large production slate and a wide pool of talent. Secondly, it could also be a result of the dwindling fortunes of star-driven features at the box office. Studios may feel safer investing in a film with an array of stars capable of drawing in multiple demographics, especially when reliable properties such as Song Kang-ho (Howling, 2012) and So Ji-sub (Always, 2011) are no longer capable of securing a film a profit.

Last month, The Thieves showed how powerful an impact a well-assembled cast can make on the box office. It is currently the second highest-grossing Korean film of all time and may well ascend to first place (as of this writing held by 2006’s The Host) within the next few weeks. While it had many selling points, first and foremost was its glitzy performers. What then is the appeal of an ensemble cast? From a marketing standpoint it means that a potential viewer is far more likely to see someone that he or she likes in a longer list of stars but perhaps even more enticing is the appeal of the interaction between high-profile cast members who often sport defined on-screen personas.

KCN: Park Chan-wook takes on Western, Pieta at Venice and Busan Heats Up! (08/30-09/05, 2012)

The bis news this week is a new Park Chan-wook project, Pieta premiering at Venice and numerous Busan Film Fest announcements

BIFF 2012

The 17th Busan International Film Festival is exactly one month away and the news is starting to come in thick and fast. MKC will be on site for the entire event:

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

PiFan 2012: The Heineken Kidnapping (De Heineken ontvoering, Holland) 2011

Part of MKC's coverage of the 16th Puchon International Film Festival.

Rutger Hauer’s heyday may have come before my time but as a film lover it still feels as though I grew up with him. My teenage years were spent awash in the dream of cinema and amidst the blur of it all, some films stood out. Among them was Blade Runner (1982) which, I must admit, was a film that I did not immediately warm to but the villain of the piece has stayed with me for the decade since I first I saw it. Horror may not have featured prominently in my cinema diet but I’ll never forget The Hitcher (1986), a film that could easily have been unremarkable were it not for the terrifying presence of its antagonist.

With his pellucid blue eyes, wavy blond hair and harsh features, Hauer has always been a formidable presence on screen. However, more than his physiognomy, it is of course his talent and intensity as a performer that has made him so memorable. He seems to lose himself in his best roles. I hesitate to say that he was a method actor, a term that is ill-suited to genre cinema, but he throws himself so fully into his marginalized characters that he often seems to be in a trance.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Romance Joe (로맨스 조, Lo-maen-seu Joe) 2012

By Rex Baylon

Fractured storylines, unreliable narration and meta-narratives have all become the requisite tools of the trade for films with a postmodernist slant. The realization by filmmakers as far back as the 1960s, when the enfants terribles of France’s Nouvelle Vague tore down the barrier between good "taste" and good "cinema", have not only prompted experimentation in plot and genre, but also, on occasion, led to genuine masterpieces. Of course, there have also been a plethora of over-inflated and pretentious works that have been released to varying degrees of fanfare since then.

In writer-director Kwang-kuk Lee’s debut film Romance Joe (2011) the eponymously named Romance Joe is both an actual character in the movie, played by Kim Young-pil and Lee Da-wit, and an invention: a plot device, utilized by several characters in the film when telling their own personal/invented stories about the pain of love and the ways that fiction and fact can bleed together.

KBO: Traffickers and Local Releases Dominate Chart (08/31-09/02, 2012)

Traffickers and Local Releases Dominate Chart

Title Release Date Market Share Weekend Total Screens
1 Traffickers 8/29/12 26.40% 533,243 749,694 497
2 Neighbors 8/22/12 21.20% 425,597 1,914,969 494
3 The Grand Heist 8/8/12 13.20% 289,126 4,595,784 361
4 The Thieves 7/25/12 12.70% 265,435 12,591,574 365
5 Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (us) 8/30/12 10.00% 188,955 237,799 337
6 Step Up 4 (us) 8/15/12 4.40% 94,188 849,187 194
7 R2B: Return to Base 8/1/12 2.30% 51,498 1,172,907 141
8 577 Project 8/8/12 2.30% 48,395 62,534 191
9 Total Recall (us) 8/15/12 1.60% 34,037 1,206,506 153
10 Sammy's Adventures 2 (ge) 8/23/12 1.30% 29,268 1,438,477 88

Saturday, September 1, 2012

PiFan 2012: Zombie 108 (城Z-108, Taiwan) 2012

Part of MKC's coverage of the 16th Puchon International Film Festival.

Of the many genres out there available for our consumption, the zombie film holds a very special place in our cinematic diet. It is actually a subgenre, being an offshoot of horror but, just like the vampire film, it as been allowed to ascend to its own autonomous position, to be taken into consideration separately from its parent. Naturally, this comes with  particular set of problems.

Zombie films occupy a very narrow field within the medium. As potent as the concept can be, it only encompasses a specific set of tropes and narrative devices which have arguably survived long past their sell-by date. George A. Romero set off the genre in the late 1960s with Night of the Living Dead but 35 years later his own efforts have begun to look tired and recycled. In fact, the most popular zombie films of the last few years have arguably been comedies which poked fun at the genre, such as Shaun of the Dead (2004) and Zombieland (2009), as well AMC’s series The Walking Dead, which employs the novel approach of following a zombie narrative in longform.