Friday, June 29, 2012

NYAFF 2012: War of the Arrows (최종병기 활, Choi-jong-byeong-gi Hwal) 2011

Part of MKC's coverage of the 11th New York Asian Film Festival.

It’s about time I threw my hat into the ring and chimed in on War of the Arrows, the top-grossing Korean film of 2011, which has met with positive reactions from all over the globe.  Early in 2011, if you were familiar with the big films that were scheduled to come out throughout the year, you could be forgiven for expecting Sector 7 and The Front Line to dominate the charts during the summer months.  In the end the former was a cataclysmic failure, likely because it was a terrible film, and the latter fell below expectations, it was a decent film but perhaps a little thin to play well given its subject matter.  One film you may not have noticed, I know I didn’t, was War of the Arrows, a straightforward period action film with mid-level stars and no pretense about it.

Weekly Review Round-up (06/23-06/29, 2012)

Lots of reviews of recent and past films this week including many for Korean doc Planet of Snail which is currently playing in the UK and many films that will be screening at the 11th New York Asian Film Fesitval which is kicking off today and will be covered here on MKC.


NYAFF 2012: Nameless Gangster (범죄와의 전쟁, Bumchoiwaui Junjaeng) 2012

Part of MKC's coverage of the 11th New York Asian Film Festival.

Korean cinema is filled to the brim with genre offerings and one of its most successful areas is with the gangster film.  These are called ‘jopok’ films, which is a Korean word for gangster and we did a whole series on the genre here on MKC not so long ago called ‘Jopok Week’.  Clearly I’m a big fan of gangster films and like many others I grew up on the likes of the Godfathers (Part II is my favorite if anyone cares to know) and Goodfellas (1990) but it didn’t take me too long to get turned onto more far-flung examples of the genre, ranging from Brazil’s City of God (2002), Italy’s The Conformist (1970), France’s Jean-Pierre Melville (Bob le Flambeur, 1956; Le Samourai, 1967) and Japan’s Kinji Fukasaku (Battles Without Honor and Humanity, 1973-76).

Thursday, June 28, 2012

NYAFF 2012: Vulgaria (低俗喜劇 - Hong Kong, 2012)

Part of MKC's coverage of the 11th New York Asian Film Festival.

It’s generally a good rule of thumb to get things started with a bang, be it a film, a dinner, a concert, etc.  In the case of a film festival, I’m always amazed at some of the drab films that get chosen to open events that are supposedly consecrated to the celebration of the medium.  I recall the Dublin International Film Festivals of years past (I used to go to every year when I was based there), one that comes to mind was 2007 when the event opened with Jindabyne (2006), a handsome and languid arthouse circuit film from down under starring Ireland’s own Gabriel Byrne.  However, despite being a good film, it was hardly the kind of work that was going to get me pumped up about cinema for a full 10-day event.

You should start as you mean to continue and as far as a festival is concerned, good does not always mean right.  Looking at this year’s New York Asian Film Festival  (NYAFF) lineup, a little grin curled up my lips as I saw Pang Ho-cheung’s Vulgaria front and center.  I was lucky to catch it earlier this year at the Udine Far East Film Festival (FEFF) and while it didn’t open that event (that honour went to Sunny, another strong kick-off choice), by all accounts it brought down the house.  I say that because I had to catch in the video library but boy did I wish I could have seen it with a crowd.

11th New York Asian Film Festival on MKC

Sadly I can't make it to this year's New York Asian Film Festival since, as you know, I'm halfway around the world but that doesn't mean that MKC won't be covering it! Peter Gutierrez, our US Correspondent will be chiming in with a few pieces on Korean films while I have a few features and reviews up my sleeve as well!

It's a great year for Korean film at the festival with no less than 12 films and a program of shorts being screened. The most exciting element of the package will be the presence of screen legend Choi Min-sik who will supporting his most recent work Nameless Gangster but will also be the subject of a retrospective, with Failan (2001), Oldboy (2003) and Crying Fist (2005) also playing during the week.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Korean Cinema News (06/21-06/27, 2012)

Lots of great news pieces this week, chief among them the fantastic lineup for next month's PiFan!


PiFan Unveils Lineup!

Far too much to go through here but upcoming Korean omnibus Horror Stories will be opening the proceedings and the week will close with Takashi Miike's latest, For Love's Sake. Lots of interesting films in competition and plenty of Korean films will be screened over the 11 days. James and Marsh and I will be breaking down the program over the coming days over at Twitch and we will both be onsite, providing the most comprehensive coverage you're likely to find! (Modern Korean Cinema, June 27, 2012)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Café Noir (카페 느와르, Kape Neuwareu) 2009

The burden of expectation can sometimes be a heavy weight to bear and after a little too much of it, many films simply crumble.  In 2009, an indie Korean film clocking in at three and a half hours began to make the rounds of the festival circuit and attracted some very positive attention.  After a full year screening at various events it was finally accorded a domestic release in late December 2010 but, like the vast majority of independent features, it failed to find an audience in Korea.  A number of people (myself included) patiently awaited its DVD release but it never came… until now.  After premiering at the Busan Film Festival in October 2009, Café Noir was finally released on DVD in June 2012.

While I can’t say exactly why the wait for the disc was so long, I can, to some extent, understand it.  Here is a film with an enormous running time, some heavy source texts (Goethe and Dostoyevsky), painfully long takes and a fairly significant dollop of pretension; it is also the debut film of a long-standing film critic.  Just one of these elements is dangerous enough to ward off all but the most adventurous film viewers but taken together it’s true that this film could only ever appeal to a very select crowd.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Korea Blog: When Does One Find Time to Sleep?

도덕산 (Dodeoksan)

Part of an ongoing series about my trip to and discovery of Seoul...

Just off another very busy week in Seoul and the fatigue is starting to settle in but then again I've probably been pushing myself a little too hard!  After my initial few weeks of discovery here it is time for me to find the right balance between work #1, work #2 and play.

After a long week I made my way into Hongdae on Friday night to meet my friend Matt we were both hungry and looked around for a place to eat. After a while Matt recognized somewhere he had been to before so we went in, were greeted and sat down. Only then, we were told that this particular establishment specialized in the parts of a cow that as a westerner you wouldn't think to eat. Oh well, said I, when in Rome!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Korean Box Office Update (06/22-06/24, 2012)

Miss Go Goes Straight to the Top

Title Release Date Market Share Weekend Total Screens
1 Miss GO 6/21/12 17.70% 268,277 331,169 439
2 The Emperor's Concubine 6/6/12 14.90% 224,090 2,187,575 427
3 Madascar 3 (us) 6/6/12 14.70% 219,150 1,275,303 449
4 King of XXX-Kissing 6/21/12 13.60% 213,630 270,293 424
5 All About My Wife 5/17/12 12.00% 179,158 4,144,011 325
6 Lockout (us) 6/14/12 5.70% 87,409 411,636 284
7 Runway Cop 5/30/12 5.30% 81,741 1,258,758 226
8 Men in Black 3 (us) 5/24/12 4.00% 60,379 3,346,609 221
9 Prometheus (us) 6/6/12 4.50% 58,567 929,723 211
10 Faces In the Crowd (us) 6/21/12 2.80% 40,950 52,982 173

Friday, June 22, 2012

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Korean Cinema News (06/14-06/20, 2012)

A few items on PiFan this week and a number of new trailers, which now feature writeups (originally posted on Twitch).


PiFan to Hold Myung Films Retrospective

The lineup for next month's 16th Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival will not be revealed for another week but we now have our first indication of some of the films that will screened at the event. PiFan will be holding a retrospective of the respected Korean production company Myung Films. The sidebar will be titled "Asian Major Studio Special Program: The Sun and the Moon of Korean Films, Myung Films" and will feature a cross section of some of the company's major works.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Dancing Queen (댄싱퀸, Daensingkwin) 2012

Just when it seemed like star power was starting to fade in Korea, a new vehicle for two of the nation’s most popular performers danced its way into the spotlight, enchanting four million local viewers in the process.  Late last year and earlier this year a host of others (I among them), were calling out Korean stars for their failure to attract audiences to domestic cineplexes.  Song Kang-ho, normally the country’s most reliable star, misfired with Hindsight (2011), the first film in over a decade from Lee Hyeon-sun (Il Mare, 2000) and a short while after Countdown drew even less receipts despite starring what should have been a potent combo with Jeon Do-yeon (Secret Sunshine, 2007; The Housemaid, 2010) and Jeong Jae-yeong (Castaway on the Moon, 2009).  Since the star system has been powerful for so long, arguably too long a time, this shift in what drives a spectator to a theater has been seen as audience’s rejection of the less than-stellar features that the studios marched into the multiplexes, especially hollow blockbusters and these empty star vehicles (though personally I thought the above two films were a little better than what most people made them out to be).

Monday, June 18, 2012

Settling Into the Fast-Paced Seoul Lifestyle

View from 삼성산  (Samseungsan)

Part of an ongoing series about my trip to and discovery of Seoul...

It's nearly been two weeks since I've arrived and I'm amazed at how much I've done despite my hectic schedule, I guess it just comes down to the city's notorious work hard/play hard culture. I only have a little over 20hrs of teaching hours from Monday to Friday but throw in my writing duties for MKC, Twitch and VCinema, as well as exercise and learning Korea and my day goes from 7am to 11pm, with meals kept very short. After 11 I can finally take some time for myself, which usually means watching a Korean film (or part of one), but that almost falls into the work category as well. Sleep comes over me at around 1am and after 6hrs rest it starts all over again.

Now I am certainly not complaining, I'm busy but I am also focussed and glad that I know exactly what I'm doing. For the first time in a while I feel like the master of my own destiny and the fact that most of my workload is voluntary is a testament to that fact. That said, while I did some work over the weekend, I also took the opportunity to discover Seoul some more, catch my first new Korean film in theaters and, best of all, to meet friends old and new!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Korean Box Office Update (06/15-06/17, 2012)

Concubine Seduces the Box Office For Second Straight Week

Title Release Date Market Share Weekend Total Screens
1 The Emperor's Concubine 6/6/12 21.60% 379,354 1,720,595 536
2 Madascar 3 (us) 6/6/12 18.00% 311,454 1,000,913 557
3 All About My Wife 5/17/12 13.60% 238,402 3,820,013 370
4 Lockout (us) 6/14/12 11.10% 201,263 237,522 373
5 Runway Cop 5/30/12 7.90% 145,036 1,098,518 282
6 Men in Black 3 (us) 5/24/12 7.50% 135,452 3,231,814 332
7 Prometheus (us) 6/6/12 8.80% 129,265 801,391 322
8 Sadako 3D (jp) 6/14/12 4.90% 71,346 87,953 261
9 Don't Click 5/30/12 3.00% 57,234 837,617 254
10 The Thing (us) 6/14/12 1.50% 27,886 33,462 173

Friday, June 15, 2012

Weekly Review Round-up (06/09-06/15, 2012)

Lots of reviews for new releases this week, including As One and Arirang which are currently screening in various English-language territories.  Sector 7 was also just released in the US on Blu-ray.


All About My Wife

As One

(The Korea Blog, June 8, 2012)

(Seongyong's Private Place, June 14, 2012)

(Reuters, June 13, 2012)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

KOFA Treasures: Lee Doo-yong's The Oldest Son (장남, Jangnam) 1984

Ongoing series on classic Korean film recently made available for free and with English subtitles on Youtube courtesy of the Korean Film Archive.

I can find something to like in just about any Korean film, even some that are frankly terrible, such as last year’s Marrying the Mafia IV, but there are some that I simply can’t abide.  For the most part, the culprits tend to originate from the same genre: the family melodrama.  Granted, there are numerous exceptional Korean melodramas but by force of there being so many, the ones that scrape the bottom of the barrel are remarkably turgid and torpid, judging by any standard.  A recent example is The Last Blossom (2011), which I patiently suffered through despite almost boiling over with rage as a result of its manipulative machinations.

While these films generally aren’t big revenue drivers, many of them still go into production and are brought to us by the hands of hackneyed talent.  Sometimes, as I watch these films, I ask myself: why do they exist?  What led us to this point?  While melodrama is typically the main form of entertainment in Korea, it seemed to me that these particular films are leftovers from a derelict sector of production, which ambles on, quietly churning out these hollow and shallow features.  Naturally, the next piece of the puzzle was to identify and seek out what had come before.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Korean Cinema News (06/07-06/13, 2012)

Some festival news this week, including for PiFan which I am happy to announce that MKC will be covering on site this year!  Also some big summer trailers and a pair of great interviews this week.


PiFan's Network of Asian Fantastic Films Selects Indonesia for Spotlight
Well this is a pretty neat and interesting development, the Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival's (PiFan) Network of Asian Fantastic Films (NAFF) has selected Indonesia as for its spotlight this year.  Following Taiwan, China, Singapore and Japan, this is a major boon for Indonesian cinema and likely has something to do with the added exposure afforded by the phenomenal success of last year's The Raid.  NAFF seeks to promote genre film in Asian cinema and they selected the country based on their belief that it is "a rising Mecca of Asian genre films", hearty praise from the continent's biggest fantastic film festival.  Here is a little more info on the 5 projects that have been chosen from NAFF's own press release:

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Pacemaker (페이스메이커, Peiseumeikeo) 2012

The marathon, the pinnacle of athletic achievement, that most glorious sporting edifice to the strength, tenacity and persistence of mankind, of all popular sports, it is viewed as the grandest testament of endurance and it is only fitting that, following in its subject’s footsteps, Pacemaker should proudly take on that mantle by becoming the year-to-date’s greatest cinematic endurance test.

Sports movies are rarely too fixated on the physical activities they depict, they are merely gateways into their characters, sometimes they can be metaphors and they always hope to add some entertainment value.  Korean cinema is particularly astute in its appropriation of generic tropes and it should come as no surprise that the sports film has become prevalent in the local industry.  Rather than exploit a sport for it aesthetic or escapist potential however, Korean hitmakers have long seized on their melodramatic potential.  So thoroughly has this line been pursued that any sport is fair game, local popularity doesn’t really factor into it.  The results speak for themselves: how else could the country’s most successful sports movie be about South Korea’s ski-jumping team (Take Off, 2008)?

Monday, June 11, 2012

First Week in Seoul

Downtown Gwangmyeong

Part of an ongoing series about my trip to and discovery of Seoul...

Well it's been nearly a week since I touched down in Seoul and while it is a little strange, I'm thrilled to finally be here.  I don't have much time so I'll give you the basics, I live in Gwangmyeong which is technically in Gyeonggi-do (the neighboring province that encircles metropolitan Seoul, but I am connected to the urban sprawl.  It's an okay neighbourhood, if a little rundown, and I have everything I need.  Job is going well and the school is very nice, food and phone were provided (though I will be upgrading to a better device when I get my Alien Registration Card).  I also get a free apartment but this I don't have too many great things to say about, it's functional and of course a little small but it's not very nice and I look forward to upgrading in the not too distant future but it'll do for the moment.

So what have I done since I've been here?  Quite a bit considering I've worked for 4 days and updated MKC a lot in that time.  On Saturday I had the pleasure of taking my first trip to the Korean Film Archive (KOFA), where I saw Kim Soo-young's wonderful Mist (1967) which was presented by Darcy Paquet (@darcypaquet), who gave a fascinating talk following the screening.  KOFA treated us to dinner afterwards and I also finally got to meet Jason Bechervaise (@koreanjase) who I've been in touch with for some time.  Was a great afternoon/evening and I look forward to more of the same!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Korean Box Office Update (06/08, 06/10, 2012)

The Emperor's Concubine Beats Aliens and Animals

Title Release Date Market Share Weekend Total Screens
1 The Emperor's Concubine 6/6/12 23.60% 511,462 976,696 613
2 Madagascar 3 (us) 6/6/12 16.60% 354,516 635,636 561
3 All About My Wife 5/17/12 13.70% 298,564 3,424,239 393
4 Prometheus (us) 6/6/12 14.80% 272,774 549,092 515
5 Men in Black 3 (us) 5/24/12 11.40% 254,952 3,016,581 396
6 Runway Cop 5/30/12 8.50% 194,779 860,995 351
7 Don't Click 5/30/12 7.20% 175,819 744,844 343
8 Snow White and the Huntsmen (us) 5/30/12 2.50% 57,104 605,619 235
9 The Avengers (us) 4/26/12 0.70% 16,148 7,040,163 71
10 The Taste of Money 5/17/12 0.30% 5,493 1,156,868 91

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Shower (소나기, Sonagi) 1979

One thing that I’ve noticed time and again in Korean cinema, especially when I began to discover it many years ago, was the use of rain.  What struck me about it was its prevalence but most of all its impressive depiction on screen.  The first point is mostly due to the climate in Korea, which shares more with the wet climes of my native Ireland than Hollywood’s perpetually clear and balmy days.  The latter comes down to a keen appreciation on my part of the aesthetic and technical brilliance of the nation’s film industry.  Of course there’s also more to it than the above points, which are merely practical.

‘Pathetic fallacy’ is a term used to denote the attribution of human emotions to inanimate objects.  In poetry and literature, as well as in film, it typically references the metaphorical use of nature.  Rain is one of the most frequently used devices for pathetic fallacy used in art or media and in cinema it works particularly well due to its heavy physical presence and its potential to heighten the mise-en-scene through visual and aural means.  But in Korean films it has been brought to a new level as just about every important Korean work of the last 15 years has featured an important scene whose staging and emotional impact have been amplified by rainfall.

Friday, June 8, 2012

June 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.

June 6

The Emperor's Concubine

June 7


June 21

2 Doors
Miss Conspirator
The Heaven Is Only Open to the Single
The King of XXX-Kissing
Two Weddings and a Funeral

June TBC

A Company Man
Boys, Dreams and Sansevieria
I Am

Weekly Review Round-up (06/02-06/08, 2012)

First Weekly Review Round-up live from Seoul!  A few write-ups on As One and Kim Ki-duk's Arirang this week as they are release in Australia and the UK respectively.


As One

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Korean Cinema News (05/31-06/06, 2012)

First Korean Cinema News update live from Seoul!  However, pretty light this week as I get myself up to speed in my new home.


Clint Mansell To Score Park Chan-Wook’s Vampire Film Stoker
When you’ve got the director of Oldboy (2003) making an intimate vampire film, you know the score will be as important as the lead actors.  In the case of Park Chan-wook‘s English-language debut, Stoker, that certainly seems to be the case.  He’s recruited Clint Mansellto score the film, which stars Oscar-winner Nicole Kidman and Alice in Wonderland herself, Mia Waskiowska.  (/Film, June 5, 2012)

Korea's Oldest Silent Film Revived
As the black and white film began rolling, a four-piece band — keyboard, violin, cello and piano accordion — played music and a narrator explained the first scene of the film Crossroads of Youth (1934) at Ewha Centennial Hall located in Jeong-dong, central Seoul, Saturday.  The silent film was revived with a modern twist after enormous effort from staff including a programmer, a director, a composer, musicians, singers and a narrator.  (The Korea Times, May 30, 2012)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Korean Box Office Update (06/01-06/03, 2012)

Men in Black Stays Up Top While Domestic Releases Nibble at Its Heels

Title Release Date Market Share Weekend Total Screens
1 Men in Black 3 (us) 5/24/12 26.20% 533,557 2,455,318 540
2 All About My Wife 5/17/12 22.30% 474,494 2,784,894 474
3 Runway Cop 5/30/12 15.30% 334,254 453,570 431
4 Don't Click 5/30/12 12.40% 295,733 353,034 360
5 Snow White and the Huntsmen (us) 5/30/12 11.80% 261,558 452,589 443
6 The Avengers (us) 4/26/12 4.60% 96,753 6,996,984 281
7 The Taste of Money 5/17/12 2.40% 50,357 1,131,158 248
8 Madagascar 3 (us) 6/6/12 2.60% 39,738 40,912 186
9 As One 5/3/12 0.80% 19,625 1,856,843 139
10 Inazuma Eleven Go (jp) 5/24/12 0.40% 10,872 81,756 96

Sunday, June 3, 2012

MKC Leaves for Seoul

Part of an ongoing series about my trip to and discovery of Seoul...

Well the day is here and as I'm about to leave so I'll keep it short.  I'll be touching down in Seoul in 23 hours with my scant 28kgs of baggage.

I'm supposed to have internet in my new apartment but if there is any problem upon arrival please bear with me as I get myself set up in a few days.  Though baring any major problems I expect the flow of news and content to go uninterrupted, only the box office update will be delayed due to the flight.

See you on the other side!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Weekly Review Round-up (05/26-06/01, 2012)

The Taste of Money, which was presented late last week at the Cannes Film Festival, gets a big serving of reviews this week but Im Sang-soo may be eating some humble pie for a while.  A Screen Daily poll ranked his film as the least popular among the competition's 22 offerings.


(Seongyong's Private Place, May 31, 2012)

The Taste of Money