Wednesday, October 10, 2012

BIFF 2012: Fatal (가시꽃) 2012

Part of MKC's coverage of the 17th Busan International Film Festival.

Fragile and ephemeral, life is a series of moments, of complicated and random connections that constitute the fabric of our character. Each decision we make affects our path irrevocably: our actions may not always be consequential but they are nonetheless inerasable. Like a thin sheet of glass, our lives can shatter in an instant. The briefest moment can reveal our brittle fragility.

Fatal, a New Currents section debut feature from Lee Donku, begins with a life-altering moment for five people. A young woman has been drugged and raped by a gang of high school students, though one of them is an unwilling participant bullied into performing an act that will torment him for the rest of his life. 10 years later, this now 28-year-old man works for a low-rent clothes manufacturer. An encounter with a Christian group of missionaries on the street prompts him to seek some kind of salvation through religion but when he joins the group he discovers that one of his new colleagues is the woman that he and his friends raped a decade prior.

KCN: BIFF Opens, Korean Film Fests Galore, Pieta to Play US (10/04-10/10, 2012)

The 17th Busan International Film Festival is in full swing while other Korean film fests get ready to unspool their programs and Pieta acquires US distribution.


Discuss the Future of Asian Film
Asian Film Policy Forum 2012, Asia’s only film policy where various Asian countries get together to discuss film policies and aim at development of Asian film industry through improvement of systems, and the 12th Busan International Film Commission and Film Industry Expo, where information about location shooting of each country and up-to-date video technology are available, will be held at Bexco Haeundae in Busan from October 8th to 11th. (KoBiz, October 9, 2012)

Drafthouse Acquires Kim Ki-Duk’s Pieta
The distribution unit of Alamo Drafthouse Cinema has picked up all North American rights to the 2012 Golden Lion winning film, it was announced. The first Korean movie to ever win the top prize at the Venice International Film Festival, Pietà profiles the relationship between a loan shark and the woman who claims to be his long-lost mother. (Deadline, October 9, 2012)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

BIFF 2012: Azooma (공정사회, Gongjeongsahwi) 2012

Part of MKC's coverage of the 17th Busan International Film Festival.

When exploring Korean cinema, you can’t go very far without bumping into a revenge thriller. Park Chan-wook’s ‘Vengeance’ trilogy and Kim Jee-woon’s A Bittersweet Life (2005) are just a few of the more high profile examples. However, of late, this sub-genre has become increasingly popular among independent filmmakers looking to make their mark in the industry. The format seems to supersede horror, sci-fi and other genres as the low-budget debut of choice. The results, however, have been very mixed.

From a narrative standpoint, revenge flicks are rather easy to construct though putting together one that stands out becomes a more complicated task. Azooma, a new offering featuring a female protagonist, doesn’t take great pains to present us with an original story. Instead, it experiments with structure by cutting up a very standard revenge plot and rearranging it. A potentially interesting idea, the execution is sadly undermined by the underdeveloped story, which no matter what way it is sequenced, is bereft of any surprises. Any attempt to feed us new information through a fractured chronology falls flat, as we can already assume it all ahead of its revelation.

Monday, October 8, 2012

BIFF 2012: Park Chul-soo's B·E·D (2012)

Part of MKC's coverage of the 17th Busan International Film Festival.

A small and sensual chamber piece, Park Chul-soo’s new feature B·E·D (his 27th) brings to mind Green Chair (2005), his most significant work of the last decade. However, whereas that erotic film was a fascinating study of an unconventional relationship, Park’s new film can’t seem to move beyond its bedroom antics. Granted, as intimated by the title, a bed is the chief component of the film: It is the principal location and also serves as a heavy metaphor for a man’s lifelong obsession with sex, and, by extension, all men’s carnal fixation.

Based on a short story by Kwon Ji-ye of the same name, B·E·D features a man, presented to us as ‘B’, whose life ‘begins on the bed and ends on the bed’. He has an affair with married woman ‘E’ and later, after she breaks up with him, he marries ‘D’, a single mother and career woman.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

KBO: Masquerade Still Top After Enormous Holiday Week (10/05-10/07, 2012)

Masquerade Still Top After Enormous Holiday Week

Title Release Date Market Share Weekend Total Screens
1 Masquerade 9/13/12 48.00% 849,999 8,220,479 867
2 Taken 2 (us) 9/27/12 16.20% 271,598 2,094,497 507
3 Ghost Sweepers 10/3/12 14.80% 264,961 617,456 479
4 Brave (us) 9/27/12 10.40% 188,398 963,115 478
5 Spy 9/20/12 4.10% 73,413 1,255,749 296
6 Ted (us) 9/27/12 3.00% 49,642 217,239 204
7 Wolf Children (jp) 9/13/12 1.30% 24,286 297,537 124
8 Tad the Lost Explorer (us) 9/20/12 0.50% 10,432 202,045 96
9 Take This Waltz (ca) 9/27/12 0.40% 6,291 19,412 22
10 13 (us) 10/3/12 0.30% 5,760 8,670 108

BIFF 2012: Behind the Camera (뒷담화, 감독이 미쳤어요, Dwitdamhwa, Gamdokyi Micheotseoyo) 2012

Part of MKC's coverage of the 17th Busan International Film Festival.

E J-yong’s new feature Behind the Camera is a follow-up to his popular mockumentary Actresses (2009), which featured famous stars playing themselves as they took part in a Vogue shoot. That film poked fun at Korea’s entertainment industry and its willing participants were not scared to send themselves up on screen. Many of the same stars return here and are joined by numerous others, but this time E takes his game one step further as he includes himself as the main protagonist.

The conceit is simple: E J-yong is making a short film but there’s a catch, he’s directing it from Los Angeles via Skype. Things get more complicated as the film he is shooting concerns a filmmaker directing a film from overseas via skype.

There’s really no better word to describe this film than ‘meta’, a term that frequently made me cast my eyes up to the heavens back in my film studies days. Behind the Camera features a narrative that is consciously seeking to replicate itself. However, while the A plotline (featuring E as the director) is presented as a documentary it is almost impossible to trust the filmmaker. His intentions are very playful and most of the protagonists in the film don’t trust him, so why should we? Fact and fiction become blurred to the point where we are prompted to ask ourselves what we find acceptable as a narrative. E’s point (if he is indeed trying to make any) may be that very little justification is required when seeking to tell a story.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

BIFF 2012: Mai Ratima (마이 라티마) 2012

Part of MKC's coverage of the 17th Busan International Film Festival.

Debut features arrive with a weight of expectation but especially if they come from a major thespian making his first foray behind the camera. Yoo Ji-tae is one of Korea’s most well-known actors, he is a celebrity whose marriage last December was one of 2011’s top entertainment stories. To western audiences he will forever be known as the ageless and dapper antagonist from Oldboy (2003) but he has also impressed in dozens of other features throughout his 15-year career. A handsome and very tall performer, Yoo is perhaps a surprising directorial candidate, especially as few Korean performers transition into that role (the boundaries between Korean film industry professions are starker than Hollywood’s more fluid models). However, Yoo has steadily been earning credibility for himself as a short filmmaker over the past few years.

Mai Ratima, which takes its name from its Thai protagonist, is a film that takes a look at the fate of low-class immigrants in Korea. Hard-hitting and at times whimsical, it is a compelling feature that is thoughtfully constructed and deftly executed if overlong and a little too on-the-nose with its social agenda. Most impressive is Yoo’s engaging mise-en-scene. Saturated in heady hues, beautifully lensed and exquisitely edited, Mai Ratima feels like it is the product of a much more experienced hand, certainly not a rookie offering from a paparazzi magnet.

Friday, October 5, 2012

WKR: Busan Reviews Pour In (09/29-10/05, 2012)

Little late in posting this as I got caught in covering my first Busan Film Fest, starting my new job at the Korean Film Council and moving into a new apartment! That said, plenty of great content from BIFF and will have caught up on all of the Weekly Korean Review updates by weekend's end!

Thanks for your patience!


(Next Projection, October 1, 2012)

(Screen Daily, October 5, 2012)

(The Hollywood Reporter, October 4, 2012)

(Variety, October 29, 2012)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

BIFF 2012 - Opening Film: Cold War (Hong Kong) 2012

Part of MKC's coverage of the 17th Busan International Film Festival.

If Cold War, the opening film of this year’s Busan Film Festival, is heralding a new paradigm for commercial Hong Kong cinema, then I can’t say that it’s something I’m very excited about.  Over-produced and austere, it features strong and slick production values but lacks the confidence, verve or panache of the likes of Johnny To. A potentially interesting tale of internal corruption within the upper echelons of HK law enforcement, the film mostly takes place in brilliant high rises, far from the bustling streets below. The colors are muted, the angles stark, and the production design is far too neat, all of which create a distancing effect: it's hard to get into the rhythm of the film. The lifeless performances, relentless pacing, bombastic staging and needlessly convoluted plot only add to the woes of this disappointing effort from two new directors which ample experience in the field.

Leung Lok-Man and Luk Kim-Ching’s resumes as behind-the-scenes experts, Leung as an art director and Luk as an assistant director (including on the Macau sequences of this year’s Korean blockbuster The Thieves), are readily evident on screen, as the proceedings are immediately swept up in a concisely-edited urban aesthetic. Set pieces, though uneven, are often impressive. Taking a page from To’s book, some of the film’s best scenes are well-constructed sequences of breathlessly combined parallel scenes.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

KCN: BIFF Gets Ready to Take Offf (09/27-10/03, 2012)


Vancouver and London Pay Attention to Korean Queer Film
White Night directed by Leesong Hee-il, who once caught attention with No Regret, has been invited to the Vancouver International Film Festival and the London Korean Film Festival. 6 years after he proved the possibility of Korean style queer film with No Regret, he made a new film White Night, which will be screened at the Dragons and Tigers section of the 13th Vancouver Film Festival (September 27th ~ October 2nd) and the 7th London Korean Film Festival (November 2nd ~ 23rd). (KoBiz, October 2, 2012)

Monday, October 1, 2012

KBO: Masquerade Lords Over Chuseok Holiday (09/28-09/30, 2012)

Masquerade Lords Over Chuseok Holiday

Title Release Date Market Share Weekend Total Screens
1 Masquerade 9/13/12 47.70% 1,379,364 5,234,423 935
2 Taken 2 (us) 9/27/12 27.80% 776,843 962,350 682
3 Spy 9/20/12 9.30% 275,007 840,498 454
4 Brave (us) 9/27/12 7.40% 208,613 223,901 435
5 Ted (us) 9/27/12 2.40% 66,326 83,150 248
6 Ghost Sweepers 10/3/12 1.60% 48,271 53,628 176
7 Wolf Children (jp) 9/13/12 0.90% 28,266 217,147 145
8 Tad the Lost Explorer (us) 9/20/12 0.70% 20,515 127,868 194
9 Pieta 9/6/12 0.60% 18,365 570,949 142
10 Resident Evil 5 (us) 9/13/12 0.40% 10,870 550,480 132

WKR: Masquerade and Coverage from MoMA's Yeonghwa Screenings (09/22-09/28, 2012)

Sorry for the delay for this week's Korean review round-up. I'm transitioning from on job to another, moving out of my apartment, and getting ready for Busan. On that note, there will be no weekly updates during the festival, they will be retroactively added later in October.

Thanks for your understanding!