Wednesday, May 13, 2015

New Korean Films: The Taste of Love and The Love of Taste (2015 Week 18)

Love Clinic
(연애의 맛)

By Fabien Schneider

Two doctors are opening their cabinet on the same floor. One of them is Kil Shin-seol, an urologist who knows everything about men’s sexuality, while the other is Wang Sung-ki, an obstetrician who knows more about female sexual attributes than their minds. But both of them have barely even had relationships, thanks to their own behaviors and fears. As they become fond of each other, they also start to treat each other as their own patients.

While all the recipes of the typical rom-com can be found in this new production, the fact that the story revolves around sexuality can be seen as a breeze of fresh air. While this genre is one of the staples of Korean cinema, hardly do we see sex treated without taboo or as anything else than a source of easy jokes. This film could be different, despite the trailer being as conventional as possible. Director Kim Aaron had made La La Sunshine (2008) and Hello My Love (2009) before a long hiatus. The male lead is Oh Ji-ho, seen in The Grand Heist (2012) and Sector 7 (2011), while the female lead, Kang Ye-won, is far more famous, with her main roles in Miracle on 1st Street (2007), Haeundae (2009), Quick (2011) or one of our favorites of last year, My Ordinary Love Story (2014). She was also cast earlier this year in the popular TV program Real Men. With a large distribution and critics noting that it manages to be funny without resorting to gross jokes, this film could also carve its way through the box office.

An Omnivorous Family's Dilemma
(잡식가족의 딜레마)

This time last year, an outbreak of disease among livestock compelled the government to take drastic measures, namely to bury alive flocks of pigs. The director of this documentary, Yun, suddenly comes to the realization that she knows very little about the life of pigs and decide to go see a pig farmer. But as she gets emotionally involved with the pigs and gets to know more about the process of the meat industry, she becomes aware of what she eats and can no longer eat pork. Her dilemma is made all the more difficult as her husband and her son both enjoy eating meat. She tries to make them change their habits.

Korean people have been very concerned by what they’re eating for some time now, thanks to various scandals of livestock illness and hygienic malpracitce. In 2008, in the wake of the FTA with the USA that would permit the import of US beef, thousands of people protested in the streets as they believed that would catch mad cow disease. The consumption of meat has never been higher in Korean history, as the country can now afford what was once seen as a luxury. Finding a restaurant that suits a vegetarian regime can be a nightmare. Director Yun Hwang has made her specialty documentaries about the treatment of animals in our society, and this new film seems like the logical next step in her career. Local critics have pointed out that she manages to treat this serious subject with originality and humor. The film will be distributed only in larger cities.

Watch here the trailer in Korean.

Roaring Currents: The Road of the Admiral
(명량: 회오리 바다를 향하여)

The people behind the all-time most popular Korean film Roaring Currents go back to the story of Admiral Yi Sun-Shin by following his steps in the last days prior to the Battle of Myeongryang depicted in the blockbuster, and unraveling the true story of this mythical figure.

What better way to grab a few more bucks after a successful film than making a film about it? Let’s take the director of a film whose authenticity was doubtful at best to make a historical documentary about the same events. The trailer is particularly nasty in its own way, as it starts by showcasing a few comments made online that ponder over the idealization of the events seen in Roaring Currents. How dare they, seems to respond the trailer. Even worse: the Japanese Wikipedia, always a truthful source of information, states that the Japanese invasion was a success and that the Joseon Kingdom actually lost that battle. Now this is getting serious, Korean pride is at stake. It’s our duty as Korean citizens to show them the truth. Never mind that at no point does the trailer hint at interviews with true historians, the only ones whose positions would matter. Let’s stick with the director and some of the cast who follow by foot the itinerary of Yi Sun-shin who must have studied that historical period that in detail in order to make conclusive accounts about what really happened. Choi Min-shik probably had better things to do than taking part in a wannabe documentary. The comments and reviews online are quite interesting, as many people express their disgust over yet another attempt at using nationalism to attract Korean audiences, while others complain over the fact that this is a glorified TV program that is being screened in theaters. This film will be screened throughout the country.

Watch here the trailer with English subtitles.

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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