Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Busan 2017 Review: METHOD Gets Booed Off the Stage

By Pierce Conran

Bang Eun-jin scales things down significantly for her fourth work, the theater world forbidden love story Method. Lacking any chemistry between its leads, this facile mirrored narrative proves to be Bang's least impressive work as it trudges through thinly drawn and tired themes.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Busan 2017 Review: MICROHABITAT, a Poignant and Lively Debut

By Pierce Conran

Perhaps the most impressive Korean debut at Busan this year, the thoughtful and entertaining Microhabitat is a convincing showcase for star Esom and and an even more impressive calling card for director Jeon Go-woon, who becomes the first woman in the Gwanghwamun Cinema group to helm a feature, and her debut may well be the collective's best yet.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Busan 2017 Review: MERMAID UNLIMITED Offers Limited Chuckles

By Pierce Conran

Indie filmmaker O Muel has been churning out films for around a decade on his native Jeju Island, which each explore the history and society of the popular getaway in different ways but always from the perspective of the local community. For the majority of his career he's vacillated between low-key, parochial comedies and more soberly artistic fare and with Mermaid Unlimited, following 2015's somewhat impenetrable art piece Eyelids, he's firmly back in the former camp, albeit with a little more social examination than his other light offerings.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Review: THE FORTRESS, Sublime Political Allegory Closes Its Doors to the Uninitiated

By Pierce Conran

One of the most impressive casts of the year lines up in the austere and languid period siege drama The Fortress. Led by Lee Byung-hun, Kim Yun-seok and Park Hae-il, performances are strong all around in this magnificently shot and movingly scored but admittedly unhurried meditation on the nature of duty and hierarchy in Korean society. Heavy on political metaphors, this powerful film has found favor with local critics but may prove difficult for the uninitiated.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Busan 2017 Review: LAST CHILD, a Powerful Tale of Guilt and Grief

By Pierce Conran

Grief and guilt get a thorough review in Shin Dong-seok's debut film Last Child, one of three Korean films competing in this year's New Currents competition in Busan. A trio of powerful performances ground this emotionally gritty tale and lure us into a complex web of suffering but while the director for the most part avoids the overly depressing aura of similar stories, a shoddy climax undermines the measured work that precedes it.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Review: I CAN SPEAK Should Keep It Down

By Pierce Conran

A pleasant comedy-drama makes way for bald-faced histrionics in Kim Hyun-seok's overly calculated new offering I Can Speak. Veteran name Na Moon-hee and younger star Lee Je-hoon are an engaging pair at the film's center but when the story's true intentions are revealed nothing is safe from the manipulative wrangling taking place behind the scenes, which seeks to elicit a strong emotional reaction from local viewers.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Busan 2017 Review: MISSING, a Compelling Women-Led Kidnap Drama

By Pierce Conran

The kidnap thriller is a popular genre in Korea but E.Oni's Missing proves to be a refreshing addition to the crowded genre, buoyed by a pair of fine performances by Uhm Ji-won and Gong Hyo-jin in a story forged by compelling and twisting themes of female identity and motherhood in a patriarchal society. The film ends on a slightly disappointing note with a soft climax but the buildup and characters make the journey there more than worthwhile during its svelte 100 minute running time.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Busan 2017 Review: AFTER MY DEATH Breathlessly Ponders High School Suicide

By Pierce Conran

The New Currents competition gets a jolt of energy with Kim Ui-seok's livewire debut After My Death. Much like fellow competition title Last Child, the grief and guilt surrounding a high schooler's death also forms the crux of this film, but what separates them is a focus on the group rather than individual characters and punchier pacing that drives towards an intriguing finish.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Review: A SPECIAL LADY, the Wrong Kind of Remarkable

By Pierce Conran

Two years after Coin Locker Girl, Kim Hye-soo returns as a woman gang boss with a bold wig in Lee An-gyu's debut A Special Lady. Unfortunately, the freshness of her earlier gang saga makes way for an abundance of hollow flash in this tired and frustrating genre pic.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Busan 2017 Review: HIT THE NIGHT Flips Genders in Talky Game of Cat and Mouse

By Pierce Conran

Following quickly on the heels of her surprising debut Bitch on the Beach, which bowed at the Seoul Independent Film Festival last year, Jeong Ga-young gets her first Busan berth with Hit the Night, which once again features the director in the lead as a curious, loquacious and sexually aggressive young woman.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Review: THE OUTLAWS, Familiar but Punchy Thriller Shows Us New Side of Seoul

By Pierce Conran

Buff and lovable star Ma Dong-seok takes on his best leading role to date in the gritty crime tale The Outlaws, which adds laughs and punch to a modest story framed around Chinese-Korean hoods and local law in a low-rent Seoul neighborhood. First time director Kang Yoon-sung keeps things simple and on-track but knows when to juice up the tempo to avoid any slack in this surprisingly effective Chuseok holiday offering.