Thursday, January 31, 2013

KCN: Jiseul Triumphs while CinDi Bites the Dust (01/24-01/30, 2013)

It's been a little over a month since the weekly Korean Cinema News has appeared on MKC. Apologies for not getting back to it sooner. Work has become a little trickier and I'm still trying to strike the right balance between my personal and work projects.

I've decided to shake things up a little with KCN and try something new. Researching news and then putting them together in an article that is little more than glorified formatting is not the most exciting way to deliver the news (for you as well as myself I imagine). What I will try to do is to sum up what has happened on a weekly basis, give a few of my opinions as well as a couple of links to particularly good articles if there are any. Let's see how it goes, feedback is welcome!


This past week came with both good and bad news for the industry. As you may already be aware, O Muel's Jeju Massacre film Jiseul, which premiered at last October's Busan International Film Festival, has been awarded the Grand Jury Prize in the World Dramatic Competition of the Sundance Film Festival. It's the first time that a Korean film has won an award in Park City and the news concludes a particularly successful week for Korean filmmakers at the event following the positive reception of Park Chan-wook's US debut Stoker.

Miracle in Cell No.7 (7번방의 선물, 7beonbangeui seonmool) 2013

The Korean film industry has many great supporting players but perhaps none more so than the versatile Ryoo Seung-ryong. The dependable and chameleonic performer has been active for many years, however, 2012 was by far and away his biggest. He was excellent as the King’s right-hand man in Masquerade and he shined as the Cassanova-esque next door neighbor in All About My Wife. So popular was his performance as the middle-aged lothario that he has reprised the character for a number of local advertisements (like this one), which I must say I have enjoyed quite a lot. Following all the attention he’s been getting, it’s about time he got his own vehicle, and that’s just what’s happened, or almost. Ryoo takes center stage for the first time in his new film Miracle in Cell No.7.

Yong-gu, a grown man with the mental capacity of a six-year old, is a loving father to Yesung who is falsely accused of killing a young girl. He finds himself in jail where more than anything he misses his daughter. As his cellmates gradually warm towards him, they concoct a scheme to bring his daughter into the prison under the nose of the watchful warden.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

MKC Thought Leaders' Corner: January 2013

Welcome to the first MKC Thought Leaders' Corner! We are thrilled to present this new feature where every month we will ask the top experts on Korean cinema a pressing question regarding the Korean film industry.

Without further ado, here is this month's question:

Given the enormous success of Korean cinema in 2012, is there any cause for concern over a rise in streamlined productions as quality gives way to financial interests?

Many to thanks to all the contributors for their time and insightful comments. Responses listed alphabetically, followed by the thoughts of MKC's teammembers.

Monday, January 28, 2013

KBO: Miracle in Cell No.7 Dominates the Chart (01/25-01/27, 2012)

Miracle in Cell No.7 Dominates the Chart

Title Release Date Market Share Weekend Total Screens
1 Miracle in Cell No.7 13/01/23 42.00% 1,238,809 1,628,475 769
2 Man on the Edge 13/01/09 16.50% 482,961 3,469,054 542
3 Pororo: The Racing Adventure 13/01/23 10.30% 296,695 342,773 451
4 Hotel Transylvania (us) 13/01/17 5.70% 179,874 707,925 357
5 Les Miserables (uk/us) 12/19/12 5.40% 156,426 5,629,952 344
6 Jack Reacher (us) 13/01/17 4.00% 116,100 727,261 320
7 The Impossible (sp/us) 13/01/17 3.20% 97,402 559,576 242
8 Life of Pie (us) 13/01/09 4.60% 86,099 1,480,176 155
9 The Tower 12/25/12 2.80% 83,963 5,133,494 261
10 Conan: the Movie (jp) 13/01/24 2.50% 82,108 102,059 139

Thursday, January 24, 2013

New Korean Films: Pororo Is Back (2013 Week 4)

(by Fabien Schneider)

While last week we had two completely different visions of sexuality and extramarital affairs, this week seems rather to adopt the theme of mental disability, and once more with a production for general audiences on one hand and an independent film on the other. The Korean animation is also set to disrupt the schoolyards, since it is none other Pororo, the president of children, who celebrates his 10th birthday.

Pororo, The Racing Adventure (뽀로로 극장판 슈퍼썰매 대모험) 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Padak (파닥파닥, Padak Padak) 2012

(by Rex Baylon)

Although the United States and Japan have a far more illustrious history when it comes to producing animated features, South Korea has been the industry’s worst kept secret for many decades. At first, merely an outsource center for foreign filmmakers who needed a platoon of talented but cheap inkers and illustrators, this long overshadowed country has in the past few years emerged as a real contender within the animation field. And even though Korea hasn’t produced an animation studio with a ready-made and recognizable style like Pixar in America or Ghibli in Japan this situation has allowed many young animators to forge ahead and create their own unique works, regardless of global economic interests.

In 2011 alone, Yeun Sang-ho’s bleak revenge drama King of Pigs and popular children’s picture Leafie, A Hen into the Wild were released and both attained a level of unexpected success. The former as a searing indictment of school bullying became a critical darling on the festival circuit while the latter became South Korea’s most financially successful animated feature, raking in 2.2 million ticket sales. Unlike the American and Japanese markets that produce content to be exported and exploited by foreign interests these two films were created primarily for Korean audiences with no real expectations that they could travel outside their country of origin. And though a lot of the domestic output by Korean animators is influenced a great deal by the West and Japan their work does have an indelible personal stamp to it. Thus the quality of the animation being released is not only equal to those produced in America or Asia but the films themselves are still inarguably Korean.

KBO: Man on the Edge Maintains its Edge (01/18-01/20, 2012)

Man on the Edge Maintains its Edge

Title Release Date Market Share Weekend Total Screens
1 Man on the Edge 13/01/09 31.40% 876,555 2,501,068 603
2 Jack Reacher (us) 13/01/17 14.00% 389,003 465,281 431
3 Hotel Transylvania (us) 13/01/17 11.50% 335,707 393,587 489
4 The Impossible (sp/us) 13/01/17 9.70% 277,529 339,730 408
5 Les Miserables (uk/us) 12/19/12 9.70% 271,876 5,317,090 373
6 The Tower 12/25/12 9.10% 259,016 4,941,668 406
7 Life of Pie (us) 13/01/09 8.50% 169,036 1,316,624 279
8 The Reef 2: High Tide (us/kr) 13/01/10 1.70% 51,573 248,266 235
9 Cloud Atlas (us) 13/01/09 1.80% 48,035 426,480 235
10 Love 911 12/19/12 0.60% 16,333 2,469,056 97

Friday, January 18, 2013

New Korean Films: Steamy Winter (2013 Week 3)

(by Fabien Schneider)

Despite all the snow that has recently covered the Korean peninsula, there will be no need this week to adjust the radiators to warm up all the movie-goers. By a strange coincidence that only the distribution companies bosses can explain, the two Korean movies opening this week are adults-only, due to their racy content. It will be very interesting to compare their approach and the resulting public reception. In fact, I could have also included in this article the co-produced (China, Korea and Japan) Speed ​​Angels, but I hesitated as it is more of a Chinese film shot in South Korea, and anyway the critics have reported that it’s not indispensable.

Tummy (배꼽)

Monday, January 14, 2013

KBO: Man on the Edge Edges Out Competition (01/11-01/13, 2012)

Man on the Edge Edges Out Competition

Title Release Date Market Share Weekend Total Screens
1 Man on the Edge 13/01/09 30.10% 796,748 1,029,672 599
2 The Tower 12/25/12 19.10% 512,677 4,455,084 482
3 Les Miserables (uk/us) 12/19/12 13.20% 351,246 4,825,497 410
4 Life of Pie (us) 13/01/01 12.80% 246,741 1,019,831 312
5 Cloud Atlas (us) 13/01/09 8.40% 213,580 299,644 382
6 The Reef 2: High Tide (us/kr) 13/01/10 4.60% 129,992 151,226 298
7 My Little Hero 13/01/09 3.10% 85,624 121,372 324
8 Love 911 12/19/12 3.20% 84,309 2,414,195 257
9 Wreck-it Ralph (us) 12/19/12 1.70% 48,509 893,331 220
10 Zambezi (us) 12/25/12 1.10% 31,011 454,896 141

Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Company Man (회사원, Huisawon) 2012

(By Rex Baylon)

There is no archetype in film that is more hip than the lone hitman. From a laconic Alan Ladd in This Gun For Hire (1942) to the Gallic cool of Alain Delon in Le Samourai (1967) or the neurotic hipster played by Jean Reno in Leon: The Professional (1994), cinema has helped to elevate the occupation of murderer into not merely a tragic figure, as gangsters have been, but as something akin to warrior poets. Becoming a hitman, cinematically speaking, means more than just donning on the right costume and learning how to aim a gun though. The hitman figure in films must adopt a philosophy and lifestyle that is wholly alien to the average moviegoer but would not be all that unusual to an Ancient Spartan or Samurai in the Tokugawa era. To live as a hitman means ultimately to be intimate with death in all its forms.

Of course, with all that said there is a certain level of ludicrousness to the whole mythology of the hitman. First of all, to be in such an isolated state for such a prolonged period of time does not breed calm collected assassins but rather emotionally unstable psychopaths; people are social creatures and thus self-imposed social isolation goes against the grain of human nature. And then of course, there is the obvious fact that hitmen are the equivalent of ghosts; whether they succeed or fail, live or die, their personality is subsumed by the identity that they have taken upon themselves to adopt. To be a hitman means giving up not just your identity but also your humanity.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

New Korean Films: Raising Social Issues With A Musical (2013 Week 2)

(by Fabien Schneider) 

After a first week which left the field open to independent productions, CJ Entertainment and Showbox enter into the dance with two medium-budget films that should have difficulty unseating The Tower from its box office perch.

My Little Hero (마이 리틀 히어로)

A music director opportunistically accepts to lead the rehearsal of a troupe for the musical adaptation of King Jungjo’s life. To cast the main role, he organizes a competition on a national TV channel in which applicants are auditioned blindly and thus selected solely on the basis of their voices. He is completely taken aback when he realizes that the chosen boy, Young-kwang, is actually a mestizo. While teaching him the choreography, the music director begins to become more interested in his Philippine origins.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Top 10 Korean Films of 2012

2013 has just gotten underway and what better way for MKC to ring in the new year than to reflect on what has simply been a gargantuan year for Korean cinema. The vaunted 10 million admissions club welcomed two new members as The Thieves and Masquerade rode their way into the top three of the all time Korean box office chart. Indeed commercial cinema across the board enjoyed spectacular success as well over 100 million tickets were sold to domestic films at the Korean box office, a first for the industry. As of this writing seven films have crossed 4 million admissions (with an eighth on the way in the form of The Tower). What's more Kim Ki-duk became the first Korean filmmaker to prevail at one of the big three European film festivals as he took home the Golden Lion from Venice for his 18th feature Pieta. Elsewhere on the festival circuit a flurry of Korean films took home big awards, including Juvenile Offender, Barbie, The Weight, Circle Line, and many more.