Friday, April 19, 2013

New Korean Films: Free Way for the Indies (2013 Week 16)

(by Fabien Schneider)


A famous actress, victim of her success, is found dead. This makes the headlines for a few days, but the matter is forgotten as the case is quickly closed. A reporter decides to investigate to find the truth and associates himself with a woman prosecutor. They find themselves confronted with a powerful and influential group which puts them in danger.

Failing to have an official international title for this film, we will have to rely solely on the Korean title which means "toy", and whose link with the story is quite easy to guess. Produced by Mountain Pictures, to whom we owe the beautifully melancholic Pink (2011) and the romantic comedy Plump Revolution (2012), this new Korean thriller seems pretty generic if I trust the trailer and the official poster (totally uninspired with the same presentation and type as so many others before), and yet the subject will explore the darker side of Korean show business. Choi Seung-ho, director and screenwriter, already made ​​two films that were unnoticed, first  Hello My Love in 2009 through CJ Entertainment, before leaving for the dangerous world of the independents with the musical documentary Fantastic Modern Gayagumer in 2011. Although Norigae is an indie production, it will be screened in most multiplex theaters in the country, giving it an optimal coverage of the population. But it will still be a long way before attracting the crowds, as the film didn’t really arouse much attention among netizens, and as if it wasn’t enough, critics in Cine21 have deplored the film's superficial treatment of its subject that would have deserved more thought. We can find comfort with Ma Dong-seok, who, for once, is appearing in a leading role, since he usually plays the bad guys as in The Unjust (2010) or some random police officer, like in Nameless Gangster (2011).

Watch the Korean trailer here.


A business woman is made late by a meeting in the late afternoon while she would have gone to pick her daughter from school. When she finally manages to break free, there is no one at school and it’s not until a few hours later that she finally finds her in the street with blood running down her legs. Realizing that her daughter was raped, she takes her to the hospital where her husband works. Given the incompetence of justice to find the culprit, she decided to take care of it by herself.

Okay, so I do not know if this is a new habit that the Korean producers are taking, but it’s already the second film that has no international title. Actually, it’s technically is, but it is nothing more than the transcription (false, by the way) from the Korean word used for a married woman or one of a certain age. The real Korean title can be translated into “A Fair Society”. This is the first time that Lee Ji-seung, who was a producer on the ridiculously funny Romantic Assassin (2003) and the undeservedly successful Haeundae (2009), finds himself directing and writing an independent production. With limited distribution and no star on the screen (once again, the only notable actor is Ma Dong-seok), this film will have little career in the theaters, but shouldn’t be so easily forgotten as it was rather well received by the press during its premiere at the festival in Busan.

Watch the Korean trailer here.

Girl Prince
(왕자가 된 소녀들)

Exploration behind the scenes of traditional opera, in which the cast, all-female, enjoyed an unequaled popularity in the 50s. These actresses were from all walks of life and have often made ​​great sacrifices to study their art, which among other things allowed them to disguise themselves as men. Do they still dream of becoming the princes of these stories?

This documentary, whose title means "The Girls Who Became Princes", has received production aid from the Seoul Independent Film Festival, and has enabled the young director Kim Hye-Jung to complete her project in 2011. She then managed by herself to find a few niches in which she could make the film lead a nice career across the country, through a number of specialized festivals which you have probably never heard of, such as the Docu Indie Festival, the Jecheon International Music & Film Festival, the International Women's Film Festival in Seoul, the Gwangju Human Rights Film Festival or the Senior Seoul Film Festival. All these festivals names allow us to make a pretty accurate picture of ​​the direction taken by the movie. It thus seems to also have an underlying discourse on transgender as evidenced by its programming in the Seoul LGBT Film Festival, which could allow it to continue its journey in similar festivals abroad. Meanwhile, it will be available to view this week on only two screens in Seoul, and the opinions of Cine21 remain mixed, but nevertheless I applaud the fact that the director has managed by herself all the production AND distribution of the film.

Watch the Korean trailer here.

Fetus 3D
(태아 3D)

Monitoring the conception of an embryo and its development until birth, as well as the precious bond linking a mother to the child they bear.

Produced by the public television network KBS, and thus indirectly by the Korean government which is still struggling somehow against the declining birthrate (you know where I’m going), this film presents the great distinction of being more of an animated film than the documentary that it’s supposed to be, since it is largely composed of images created in CG showing the inside of the womb. It will be broadcasted in two parts next month on the first channel of the network, but it is only at the theater that you may watch it with the effect of depth. I cannot help but see this as an educational presentation for a middle school’s biology course. I mean that it doesn’t look very interesting and the focus is only made on the feat of representing birth with new technologies. But I still advise you to at least look at the beginning of the international trailer, unintentionally comical as it sounds like promoting a new space opera blockbuster.

Watch the international 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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