Saturday, January 31, 2015

New Korean Films: Trampled Flowers (2015 Week 4)

Shoot Me in the Heart
(내 심장을 쏴라)

By Fabien Schneider

Soo-Myung witnessed the traumatic experience of his mother’s suicide, and has since become a regular of a psychiatric hospital for the last six years. He has developed a form of schizophrenia, but he’s as honest as possible. One day, a new patient comes to share his room: Seung-Min is sound of mind, but has been sent here for no reason by some relatives of his. His only wish is to run away from this place as soon as possible.

I know it doesn’t really look like it, but this is actually an indie production, coming from the new studio called Little Big Pictures. The director is making his first step in a feature film, after having graduated from the Korean National University of Arts. Knowing that, it’s quite a feat to have invited such a cast. Lee Min-ki was a preeminent TV drama actor ten years ago, but has since been active on the bigger screen more (Very Ordinary Couple, 2013) or less (Quick, 2011) successfully. Yeo Jin-Goo has been used to play second or supportive roles in a lot of movies and TV dramas, but has recently appeared in the starring role of Hwayi: A Monster Boy (2013). With this couple of young actors, and a director that we don’t know yet, no one can predict the final result. However, the trailer doesn’t give me much confidence. The reviews have been mitigated so far, but the movie will have a massive distribution and is already making his way toward the upper ranks of the box-office.

Lost Flower: Eo Woo-dong

(주인없는 꽃: 어우동)

During the Joseon era of the 15th century, Eo Woo-dong is a noble woman who has been forced to marry the prince, while being secretly in love with a commoner. She decides to run away and becomes a gisaeng, a courtesan who entertains nobles, thus sitting on the border between the social classes.

Eo Woo-dong is one of the most interesting figures in Korean history. In a society that allowed almost no rights to women, she managed to make her own path as both as a woman and as an artist (she was a composer and a poet). Think of her as the Lady Diana of the Joseon dynasty, but better. The Korean title of this movie keeps this nuance: “A flower without owner”. Her personal story has been reinstated and elevated to the rank of legend in the 20th century, as she expressed values expected from a modern woman. That’s why she’s often been the material source of plays, films and novels. It has been adapted to the screen for the first time by Lee Jang-ho in 1985, and more recently as a TV drama in 2007. Despite all of this background, the producers somehow decided to sell their movie in the most obnoxious way. The catch-line of this movie sets the agenda in a way that brings back the position of women to the dark ages depicted: “The age of lust; take the woman who was coveted even by the king.” You got it; they objectified this symbol of emancipation of women in order to blatantly entice an exclusively male audience. I hope it’s only a matter of bad marketing and it doesn’t reflect the content. But the movie seems to rely heavily on sex scenes, since they announced that it took four days and three nights to shoot all of them. The movie will be released only in a few cities, is obviously rated mature, and the reviews are not so great.

Watch the Korean trailer here.

Bitch Heart Asshole

In the same street, in front of the cleaner’s shop, Jeong-nam sells knockoffs while Jin sells her body. Once, Jeong-nam saved Jin from being beaten by her pimp, but she seems not to remember him. When she finds Jeong-nam dropped in the trash by some displeased clients, she invites him to stay at her place. Soon enough, they start living together and dreaming of a better life.

Inan had a lot of experience in film before directing his first long feature, Ordinary Days, in 2010. He started as a photographer for posters, made film trailers and music videos, while also writing and directing his own short movies. With this movie that was presented at the last Seoul Independent Film Festival, he wants to deal with memories and the convenience of being able to erase them. It will be screened only in three indie theaters, in Seoul and Gangneung, and is rated mature.

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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