Tuesday, October 6, 2015

New Korean Films: The Inner Beauty of Cinema (2015 Week 33)

Beauty Inside
(뷰티 인사이드)

By Fabien Schneider

Wu-jin has a very strange condition that makes him wake up every day with a new appearance. If ordinary life is already difficult when your face changes daily, having a relationship seems nearly impossible. But Wu-jin decides to confess both his love and the truth to Yi-su.

We usually see a lot of adaptations of novels or comics, but this is one of the very cases when a whole film is based on a… commercial. “The Beauty Inside” was an US viral video made by Intel and Toshiba, and somehow the idea came to Director Baek Jong-yeol to take this premise to make his first film. Of course, he and NEW, the production company, must have been tempted by the prospect of bringing as many popular actors as they wanted. This is surely not an easy feat to hire an extensive cast, but it is all the more difficult to make them play uniformly the very same character. Among them are Park Shin Hye (Cyrano Agency in 2010, and she starred in many TV dramas), Ko Ah-sung (Snowpiercer in 2013), Lee Beom-su (Forbidden Quest in 2006), Cheon Woo-he (Han Gong-ju in 2013), Kim Sang-ho (Haemoo in 2014) and Juri Ueno (the Japanese star of the Nodame Cantabile films in 2009 and 2010). And let’s not forget Han Hyo-joo in the role of the love interest, who we know from Ad-Lib Night (2006) and Cold Eyes (2013). I was quite excited by the concept of this film, because it would have allowed the director to tackle a lot of social issues that the country is currently facing. Since Wu-jin is sometimes a woman, there is clearly an occasion to make a statement for homosexual relationships. I don’t know he made of it, but some critics complained about the conventional romantic story, and that it missed an opportunity to deal with one’s own identity behind one’s look. Many critics also noted that it’s quite ironic for a film about the inner beauty to feature so many pretty faces in the leading roles, and that the beautiful images lack substance. Not all the reviews are so negative, of course, but it’s already a letdown. The film will open on 650 screens.

The Chosen: Forgotten Cave
(퇴마: 무녀굴)

Jin-Myeong has the privilege of practicing two activities that are not commonly seen together: psychiatry and exorcism. He and his assistant have been tasked with the healing of a woman who shows strange symptoms. When they try to perform their exorcism, they realize that they’re facing a greater devilish power than they thought.

After his debut film The Neighbors (2012), Kim Hwi gave a shot to the horror genre by taking part to the omnibus film Horror Stories 2 in 2013. He seems to have been delighted with this experience since he’s now coming back with a feature film entirely dedicated to freak you out. This is a loose adaptation of a novel published in 2010 by Shin Jin-O, “Forgotten Cave”, which itself is based on a legend that is about a cave on Jeju Island. With such content, it’s not surprising to see that this film was premiered at Bucheon Int. Fantastic Film Festival. In the leading role is Kim Sung-kyun, an actor who debuted recently and that Kim Hwi had already cast in The Neighbors. There is also Yoo-sun, seen in Gabi (2012) and Moss (2010). This film will have a wide distribution, with 331 screens, and has got only average opinions from the critics.

Watch here the trailer in Korean.

Now Playing
(오늘 영화)

Three love stories involving watching films or making them. A factory worker decides to fulfil the promise he made to a girl he met last night at a nightclub to go to the movies together. But the restaurant where he planned to go didn’t register his reservation and they’re now killing time in the theater. A film school student is having a hard time finishing his graduation film. The scenario is not to his professor’s liking, his producer still thinks that it’s too ambitious, and he keeps fighting with his actress who doesn’t get into her character. A couple enters a competition to get financial aid for their project of documentary about love. But when they have to pitch their project, their views on the characters and the cinematography differ to the point where they break up. Even though, they’re granted with the aid and so meet again to try to make it happen.

In this omnibus film are gathered four indie directors, with each of them having a long experience in making short films. While Kang Kyeong-tae, Ku Kyo-hwan and Yi Oksep are totally unknown to an international audience, Yoon Seong-ho got some recognition with his debut feature film Milky Way Liberation Front in 2007. This film opened last year edition of the Seoul Independent Film Festival since it was actually produced by this festival. It has been highly recommended by the local critics who laud the fresh and playful mood of the whole project. But it will sadly be limited to 17 screens at its release.

Watch here the trailer in Korean.

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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