Tuesday, October 6, 2015

New Korean Films: Let's Make Up the Delay Part II (2015 Week 26-30)

After more than two months of silence, I'm finally back for more discussion about Korean films getting released every week. Since I've missed a lot of interesting films and that I couldn't make my mind to just resume my weekly article as if nothing happened, I've decided that it was better to still present every film released during that period and to add my usual commentary only for the most important of them. This is the second part, covering the films released between June 22nd and August 2ndd, and you can read the first part here.

By Fabien Schneider

Director's CUT
(디렉터스 컷)

After spending a decade making independent short films, Haegang is now ready for his debut long feature. But his life is becoming a mess: his girlfriend just broke up with him, and his former team doesn’t want to have anything to do with him. As he has to work with a new producer, he’ll have to stay strong if he wants to keep his own vision in his film.


Sang-woo’s is eager to any extent in order to make his paralyzed father live longer. But it’s not because he’s a devoted son, he just wants to keep using his father’s fortune all for himself. As the hospital receives Mi-na, a victim of an accident, Sang-woo sees a chance for her father to finally get the heart transplant he needs. He convinces with a large sum of money one of the nurses, Hae-rim, to find Mi-na’s family and get them to accept the organ donation. But Mi-na, whose nickname is Madonna, hides many secrets.

Shin Su-won is a director who made her mark on the festivals circuit by denouncing the wave of bullying that plagues South Korean schools in her last film, Pluto (2012). This is why it’s not so surprising to see that she managed to get a ticket for the prestigious Cannes Film Festival with her third film, under the selection Un Certain Regard. She had already received that honor for her short film Circle Line in 2012. This allowed the film to get much exposure from the international press already, with quite positive reviews, and more locally the film also got a lot of reviews that range from the mildly to the very positive. Mi-na is played by Seo Yeong-hee, who we know for her performance as a vengeful woman in Bedevilled, while Sang-woo is played by Kim Yeong-min, known by the international audience for Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter…and Spring (2003). The film will open in around 60 theaters, which is already a great number for an independent film because it generally implies that the Korean territory is fairly exposed to said film.

Read our review here.

Watch here the trailer with English subtitles.

Red Tomb
(레드 툼)

The Korean peninsula didn’t wait for the Korean War to break out to get its first victims of the ideological conflict. By 1953, thousands of Koreans had already died for being seen as partisans of one side or the other. Among the perpetrators were also the South Korean army, on the order of the then president Syngman Rhee. With the war, these operations were assumed as a prevention from a civil war that would create a new front inside the country. Many innocents, mostly farmers who had no political inclination, were then canned as traitors to the nation, executed and thrown in mass graves.

As a counterpoint to the successful Korean production of the moment, Northern Limit, comes this documentary that is also concerned by the remembrance of victims of the ideological war, except that those ones are for some reasons never considered as national heroes. The National Guidance Alliance, or Bodo League, was a “re-education” group that left-wings sympathizers were invited to join in order to publicly show their anti-communism and their loyalty to Syngman Rhee’s government. But as each region had to attain a quota of new members, they started offering incentives like portions of rice or some help for the field work. On the first days of the Korean War, the president feared that these members would join the red armies and then ordered the execution of all the people enlisted to the NGA. But by the time, it comprised around 300’000 people, most of them being apolitical persons who were only interested by the privilege. You can see in Taegukgi (2004) a representation of this tragic event from the eyes of one of the main characters, but it took many decades for it to be recognized officially, and yet it’s still not generally accepted. Directed by the documentarist Gu Jahywan, this film will certainly appeal mainly to senior citizens, but its exposition may also be limited by the part of the population that absolutely cannot stand criticism of South Korean government. It comes also at a difficult time, since the actual government seems to be prone to accuse criticists as North sympathizers. It will be screened in a handful of theaters, and the reviews have been average.

Watch here the Korean trailer.

Kwon Bob: Chinatown
(권법형사 : 차이나타운)

Ko Jeong-hyeok is a detective whose method of resolving crimes is known for being quite percussive. His violence make him spend more time cleaning his own mess than keeping the streets safe. While on the tracks of a drug smuggler and human trafficker, he doesn’t even pay attention to his girlfriend, who is worried for the disappearance of some homeless people. As his investigation leads him to Chinatown, in Incheon, Jeong-hyeok cross the way of the Black Society, a Chinese gang whose members are skilled martial art fighters, and they are looking for the same person.


A middle-aged screenwriter has fallen in love with a young man who failed his high school and now currently looking for job. When one of their three cats named “Hope” dies, the couple’s respective families decide to take action against this “amoral” relationship and urge them to break up. Their last string of hope is cut when Ga-eul has a miscarriage.

Read our review here.

Watch here the trailer with English subtitles.

The Piper

In the aftermath of the Korean War, a father, Woo-ryong, go for a journey with his son in order to find a treatment for the latter’s tuberculosis. Thinking of having found a shortcut, they take a path in the mountains that doesn’t appear on any map and end up in an unknown village unspoiled from the war. But despite the pleasant view, the village is actually plagued with rats. Woo-ryong knows how to get rid of them by playing his pipe, and so offers his help to the village leader who therefore agrees. However, as Woo-ryong get acquainted with inhabitants, he starts to uncover the hidden truth behind the grace of which benefits the village.

Loosely based on the European folk tale of the Pied Piper of Hamelin as well as the Korean folk believes about evil spirits, this film seems to be a very original take on the horror genre. Director Kim Gwang-tae isn’t new to mingling elements of different cultures, since he had made Untold Scandal in 2003, an adaption of the classic French novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses but set during the Joseon dynasty. With Ryoo Seung-ryong as the lead actor, the film is already assured to find its audience, since his name as recently been constantly linked to successes: Masquerade in 2012, Miracle in Cell No. 7 in 2013, and Roaring Currents in 2014. Also of importance is one of the best young actresses, Cheon Woo-hee, who gained her fame with her sensational performance in Han Gong-ju in 2013. This should make CJ Entertainment really confident in its production, what with their hundreds of screens booked. The reviews have been mildly positive, but this is one of the strongest Korean contestant that can hope to topple the actual domination by US productions.

Watch here the trailer with English subtitles.

Three Summer Nights
(쓰리 썸머 나잇)

Three friends are going by the sea in Heaundae to spend a nice weekend together. The first one is desperately trying to pass the bar exam for the eighth time. The second one works in a call center but dedicates his life to his favorite girls-band. The last one is an aphrodisiacs seller. As their nights reach an unprecedented ethylic level, their weekend become far more chaotic than expected.

Watch here the Korean trailer here.


Right after his failed career in ice hockey, Yang Ming is walking in the street when he notices Su-ho, a terminally ill child who has just fainted. He thus meets the child’s mother, who despite her lack of maturity has managed to raise alone her son so far. Yang Ming becomes Su-ho’s babysitter despite her mother’s restraint for having a foreigner raising her child. But she soon realizes that Yang Ming is also soothing her mind. Howere, a shoking truth is about to be revealed soon.

Watch here the trailer with English subtitles.

Miryang Arirang
(밀양 아리랑)

The inhabitant of Miryang have been told that electrical towers have to be built on their terrain. Most of them, worried about their health and this appropriation of their territory, decided to oppose this decision and to fight against this project. After three years of demonstrations and petitioning, they suddenly see their village being invaded by thousands of police officers who blocked all accesses.

Watch here the Korean trailer.

Queer Movie Butterfly: The Adult World
(퀴어영화 나비 : 어른들의 일)

Cheol-su is now an adult. Despite the fast he was looking for a decent job, he ends up working at a host bar. There, he soon develops his social skills and meet many clients seeking passion. One day, he meets a new client who doesn’t leave him indifferent.

Watch here the international trailer.

The Assassination

In Shanghai, during the Japanese occupation of Korea, the Korean interim government decides to help an elite sniper and her companions escape from prison so that they could assassinate the Japanese Army’s commander. An agent of the government successfully undertakes the evasion of the sniper, but the whole plan has been revealed to the Japanese authorities by a snitch, and now they are unknowingly being tracked by a hitman.

It may not be obvious at the first sight, but Director Choi Dong-hoon seems to have a thing for action films with a vintage flavor. Be it The Big Swindle (2004), Tazza (2006) or his last film The Thieves (2012), you can always feel his love for the good old heist films of the 60’s and 70’s. While this one is technically not about a theft, there is still the same formula of a bunch of colorful characters teaming up to perform a risky task. Showbox, the production company, seems to have been eager to reiterate the unbelievable success of The Thieves, which had broken all records for a Korean film. That’s why they gathered once again la crème de la crème among the Korean stars, many of them returning from The Thieves. First of all, Jun Ji-hyun, also known as Gianna Jun, now takes the front stage. She’s made an incredible come-back under the spotlights with The Thieves and then with last year’s TV drama My Love From The Star. Also keep in mind that she’s been famous in the whole Asia continent since My Sassy Girl (2001). Among the veterans from The Thieves are also Lee Jung-jae and Oh Dal-su, while Ha Jung-woo joins the party, now that he’s gained some credence with Kundo : Age of the Rampant (2014) and The Berlin File (2013). Most of these actors have already played together in several films, so the chemistry between them should be a given. It’s yet to be seen whether this film drags much on nationalism or manage to portray a somewhat more nuanced opinion about that difficult time. The distribution will be colossal with more than 1’500 screens already booked, which means that almost every theater has scheduled it, and the reviews have been quite positive. There is absolutely nothing in the way for a renewed huge success. And the icing on the cake is that this film has been already sold in many Asian territories, and also in North America, Germany, Australia and New Zealand. So, what could go wrong?

Watch here the trailer with English subtitles.

12 Deep Red Nights
(십이야 : 깊고 붉은 열두 개의 밤 Chapter 1)

Four frightening stories are happening in the middle of night. A taxi driver is asked by a woman to end her life in exchange of a lot of money. While an interpreter is rushing through corrections to send her text still in time before the deadline, suddenly someone rings at her apartment. A sound designer looking for ambience sound for a drama goes late at night to a public park to avoid people, but when he listens to his recordings he hears a woman screaming. A young employee goes back to her office in the middle of the night to copy secret documents on a USB key, but is found out by one of her colleagues who is jealous of her.

Watch here the trailer with English subtitles.


Min-soo has been laid off from his company after having spent eight years working for them. He tried to hide his unemployment to her fiancé, but when she eventually finds out she decides to leave him. In order to retrieve her, he’s looking for easy ways to gain money and starts stealing cars while also taking a job of driver. One day, he unexpectedly meets again his former boss during one of his rides, and as his superior is despising and humiliating him, Min-soo ends up killing him in a fit of rage. He realizes that he has some skills in killing, and instead of guilt he feels a lot of pleasure.

Read our review here.

Watch here the trailer with English subtitles.

Tasty 2: Happy Together
(고녀석 맛나겠다2 : 함께라서 행복해)

A young T-rex sees her mother die because of an earthquake and his father getting killed by another T-rex called Bald. Now the only survivor of the family, he had to run away from Bald. Thanks to the new friends he meets on the way, and soon discovers that herbivore and carnivore dinosaurs can live together. Years later, Bald threatens again the peaceful life of the dinosaurs, but now the young T-rex is ready to avenge his parents, following his father’s advice to rely on something stronger than strength.

Watch here the Korean trailer.

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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