Sunday, March 10, 2013

New Korean Films: Is There Room For Yet Another Thriller? (2013 Week 10)

(by Fabien Schneider)

This week will probably see no new hit for Korean films and thus should maintain the established order at the box office. With a short movie for film buffs and a collection of independent short films in very limited distribution, only Psychometry has the ability to attract thousands of spectators, but finds itself in the worst possible situations, being released after two big successful thrillers.




Detective Yang Chun-dong must investigate the murder of a little girl. When he discovers the crime scene, he instantly recalls a graffiti he had seen a few days earlier on the street. He then focuses his research on the author of the painting, a young man named Joon. But when he finally puts a hand on him, Joon tells him that he has the ability to read people's memories by touching them with his right hand.

The big movie of the week is once again a thriller, and you may immediately wonder if this one will have what it takes to compete with New World and The Berlin File. The greatest risk that this film runs in my opinion is that it will be the victim of thriller fatigue in the short term among spectators. Psychometry also features a little less star wattage than other offerings on the marquee. Kim Beom, coming from TV where he has played in more than a dozen soap operas, should appeal to a young female audience. Whereas Kim Kang-woo, the main actor, is a popular star known for his roles in Marine Boy and The Taste of Money. Co-produced by three companies, Miracle Film and Power INT, for which this is the first film, and Gate Pictures, which had previously realized A Cruel Attendance (2006), and directed by Kwon Ho-young who previously brought us Parallel Life (2010), this project seems like a business risk. Moreover, the few critics’ opinions currently available are mostly negative, accusing the film of not delivering on the promise of its synopsis. This did not stop CJ Entertainment from handling the distribution, with more than 160 theaters nationwide planned for its first week. Ranking first in reservations as of early this week, this film will probably have a good debut before subsequently collapsing.

Watch the trailer here.





Kissing forms and breaks couples made up of very different individuals: a romantic comedy director and a writer; a producer and radio presenter; a guitarist and a coffee shop owner; a law student and a part-time prostitute in a "kiss room"; a high school student and the class president; a jobless man and his wife acting in a drama; a vampire and a fighter who seeks revenge; and a priest and a desperate woman.

This independent production of the week is one of those omnibus movies that are frequently released in South-Korea and always provide many surprises. This type of format is explained by the fact that a short film alone would have no commercial future, while together several short films on the same theme can offer a two-hour session that can fit into a schedule of programming in a cinema theater. What is interesting here is that each of the eight directors has a different background and has learned directing differently, which should translate into a mix of styles. The film is produced and distributed by the young company Mano Entertainment, which also earlier Moksha this year. All actors are beginners or have appeared as minor characters in a few medium-budget films. To say that this film will have a limited distribution would be an understatement, since at the moment only six screenings are scheduled this week, split between different CGV theaters, and all of them with the presence of directors and actors.

Watch the trailer here.





After seeing all the films in competition at a festival, a jury meets to decide the winner. But all don’t agree on what symbolizes this award and on what makes a good movie. Director Jeong In-gi gives more room for emotion, while actress Kang Soo-yeon is more interested in the inner messages. The British critic Tony Ryans provides an external perspective on Korean cinema, and the Japanese producer Katsue Tomiyama has difficulty expressing her point of view because of the language barrier. Ahn Sung-ki tries to keep the situation under control and find a compromise.

Here is an outstanding short film for more than one reason, but perhaps the most important of them being that it is the debut directing effort of Kim Dong-ho, 75 years old, who is very widely known among moviegoers around the world as the founder of Busan’s film festival. He who has witnessed many deliberations of jurors during the many editions of his festival has decided to bring his observations in this 24 minute-long film, with the help of directors Kim Tae-yon (Late Autumn, 2010), his assistant directors, and Zhang Lu (Dooman River, 2009) his writer. The cast is equally impressive and iconic, with Ahn Sung-ki and Kang Soo-yeon, two monuments of Korean cinema of the 80s and regulars of the festival. Katsue Tomiyama and Tony Ryans also agreed to play themselves. It will obviously be of very little interest for to a wide audience, but should still collect a number of Korean moviegoers. Unfortunately for them, this film will open only on 5 screens, and all of them in Seoul.

Watch the trailer here.

New Korean Films is a weekly feature which provide an in-depth look at new local releases in Korea. For film news, external reviews, and box office analysis, take a look at the Korean Box Office UpdateKorean Cinema News and the Weekly Korean Reviews, which appear weekly on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings (Korean Standard Time). Reviews and features on Korean film also appear regularly on the site. 

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