Showing posts with label hallyu. Show all posts
Showing posts with label hallyu. Show all posts

Thursday, October 6, 2011

White: The Melody of the Curse (Hwa-i-teu: Jeo-woo-eui Mel-lo-di) 2011

I don’t frequently get excited about horror films but White: The Melody of the Curse was somewhat of an exception. I had consistently heard good things about its directors, Kim Gok and Kim Sun, a pair who have been churning out low-budget indie horrors since 2003. Sadly, I have not had a chance to see any of them yet. White is their first big budget, commercial film, and it is also fairly ambitious, especially from a technical standpoint despite employing a number of done-to-death (excuse the pun) clichés. The other reason I was curious to see this film was its subject matter, as the narratives takes place within the fiercely competitive K-Pop milieu. While I do not know very much about this global Hallyu phenomenon it does fascinate me and upon hearing about this project, I felt the topic particularly conducive to horror.

K-Pop idols
The story gets underway very succinctly and involves a pop band which has fallen from grace. One of them, Eun-joo (Ham Eun-jeong), a former back-up dancer, serves as the team leader and is ostracized due to her background. Her benefactor arranges for them to record in a new studio, which is fancy and high tech but harbors a mysterious past. Eun-joo discovers a secret compartment behind a mirror in the dance hall and within it an old videocassette featuring an old K-Pop routine. This becomes the group’s new song, which, as the title suggests, is indeed cursed. One by one, each girl who is given the coveted center position is subjected to awful accidents and a bit of haunting for good measure. Eun-joo seeks to uncover the secret of the tape with a little help from her friend before it’s too late.

One thing about horror films is that everyone who watches them is looking for something different: some want a good story; others a few good scares; and others still are in it for the blood and guts. White delivers on all three of these but probably not to an ultimately satisfying degree for any. I appreciated the K-Pop setting with its fan obsession and competition between performers but the story that is set within it features a too-good to be true haunted location, a cursed video, and a long-haired and decomposed ghost seeking revenge. This is very unoriginal stuff and a little disappointing. Next, while there are some good scares, some of the set pieces are borderline ridiculous and have the potential of eliciting an undesired reaction. Finally, there is some slightly gruesome violence but these moments are infrequent and lack cinematic flair, which is odd considering how well made the film is.

Strong use of colours and production design
For me some of the strongest sequences were those in between the scares which were either investigatory, expository, or relationship-based. One reason they worked quite well is that they are so well shot. It is not often with this kind of film that the production values prove a real asset, A Tale of Two Sisters (2003) comes to mind, but that was always designed as a ‘prestige film’. The colors, framing, and especially the use of the locations were at times beautiful, foreboding, and menacing. The set pieces themselves also display strong mise-en-scène but I found it less convincing than the other scenes. This may have been because there was a tendency to overdo it, mostly on the editing side. Rarely, in my opinion, does fancy, hyperkinetic editing add something genuine to a film. As much as I can appreciate its value for horror, which is so often low-budget, quick cuts all too often rob a scene of tension, which needs to be earned.

There isn’t too much to say about the performances, which mostly veer into caricature, but everyone seems to handles themselves relatively well here. A couple of the starlets are also K-Pop singers, I wonder if this added anything to their performances. Arguably, not a great deal is required for these kinds of performances.

Generic staple,  à la ring
Despite the reliance on very generic staples, especially of local Asian horror cinema, in my eyes White was a cut above recent K-Horror entries, a lot of which have been disappointing, save for a a few gems like Possessed (2009) and the brilliant Bedevilled (2010), although the latter probably lends itself more to the revenge thriller categorization. However, given people's very different tastes when it comes to horror, I would suggest that you would do best to approach this one with caution. I enjoyed myself and am looking forward to the next Kim gok and Kim Sun film, hopefully they will give us something a little more ambitious. Perhaps that is why there is something lacking with White, at times it feels like a test run.

Reviews and features on Korean film appear regularly on Modern Korean Cinema.  For film news, external reviews, and box office analysis, take a look at the Korean Box Office UpdateKorean Cinema News and the Weekly Review Round-up, which appear weekly on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings (GMT+1).

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Korean Cinema News (09/05-09/13, 2011)

I'm away in Dublin for a few days so this update is a little lighter than usual. Some features on the rising popularity of Korean literature and a lot of acquisitions of Korean films for international distribution.


Top 6 Art Cinemas in Seoul
For anyone sick of watching the same 10 movie stars go through the same motions in every blockbuster, these six art cinemas around Seoul offer less commercial, more experimental films on their screens. Keep in mind that most of the movies are shown in their original language with Korean subtitles, unless otherwise noted by the theater: 1. Cinecube; 2. Arthouse Momo; 3. Spongehouse; 4. Sangsang Madang Cinema; 5. Seoul Art Cinema; and 6. Media Theater i-Gong. (CNN, September 5, 2011)

Korean director Kim Ki-duk Retrospective at Busan
The 16th Busan International Film Festival, which will be held from October 6-14, 2011 will present a Retrospective of Korean director Kim Ki-duk. Ki-duk made his debut with Five Marines in 1961 and went on to make 66 films in his career. His last film was Yeonggwangui 9 hoimal in 1977. Eight of his works will be screened at the festival: Five Marines (1961); The Barefooted Young (1964); The North and South (1965); Buy My Fist (1966); Horse-year Bride (1966); I Will Be a King for the Day (1966); Monster Yonggari (1967) and; Until That Day (1969). (, September 6, 2011)

The Day He Arrives Invited to England, Brazil, Austria Film Fests
Korean film The Day He Arrives has been invited to films festivals in England, Austria and Brazil, adding to the fast-growing list of international film events that have called on critically acclaimed director Hong Sang-soo's newest movie. (, September 7, 2011)

It’s BIFF Now, The P Is Out
South Korea’s largest and most star-studded film festival – and one of the largest in Asia – is getting a new home and a new acronym. It’s now the Busan International Film Festival, instead of the Pusan International Film Festival. BIFF, not PIFF. Organizers of the festival, which this year runs from Oct. 6 to 14, held news conferences in both Seoul and Busan on Thursday to announce the opening and closing films and some of the winners of various prizes. (The Wall Street Journal, September 8, 2011)

Song Il-gon's romance Always will open next month's Busan International Film Festival (6-14 Oct 2011). Always stars So Ji-sup as a former boxing champ traumatised by the death of an opponent who died during a match. After falling in love with a blind girl, played by Han Hyo-ju, he returns to the ring. The event will close with Harada Masato's drama Chronicle of My Mother. Based on Inoue Yasushi's autobiographical novel, the Japanese film was awarded the Special Grand Prize at the recent Montreal World Film Festival. (Film Business Asia, September 8, 2011)

Finecut's New Deals Include Arirang to Italy, Day He Arrives to France
Korean sales company Finecut has announced a raft of deals as the Toronto International Film Festival kicks off. Kim Ki-duk’s documentary Arirang has sold to Italy (Punto Zero), German-speaking Europe (Rapid Eye Movies), and Poland (New Horizons) in addition to Japan and Taiwan. Hong Sang-soo’s The Day He Arrives has sold to France (Les Acacias) and Israel (Nachoshon). Night Fishing, directed by brothers Park Chan-wook and Park Chan-kyong, also sold to Italy (Tucker Film) and German-speaking Europe (Rapid Eye Movies). (Screen Daily, September 9, 2011)

Fueled by Need for Fresh Material, Best-sellers Become Box Office Hits
The soon-to-be released Korean film The Crucible has a sure-fire selling point: the film is based on the novel of the same name by Gong Ji-young, one of a few star authors in Korea whose novels have sold more than a million copies. Although cinematic adaptations of best-sellers do not always guarantee success at the box office, they are providing rich fodder for film production companies looking for fresh material. The formula seems to be working, with theaters reporting record attendance numbers. (Joon Ang Daily, September 9, 2011)

Can Literature be Next 'Hallyu' Hit?
After prominent novelist Shin Kyung-sook rose to international fame with her landmark book Please Look After Mom, global interest in Korean literature began to grow. Shin said that Korean literature seems fresh to readers in other countries and its status is bigger than Koreans think. “They seem to be looking for an alternative in humanity and community spirit, which is richly expressed in Korean literature,” she said in a recent press conference. (The Korea Times, September 9, 2011)

Cine Asia/Showbox Pick up Arrow, the Ultimate Weapon and More for UK Release
Cine Asia/Showbox are just unstoppable, it seems. In the shadow of their losses from the Sony fire last month, they have announced several new acquisitions for the fourth quarter of 2011, including recent South Korean action hit, Arrow The Ultimate Weapon. Also included in their plans are Spanish freak-out Neon Flesh, British horror Panic Button, and Korea's selection for the 2012 Oscars, The Front Line. (Twitch, September 10, 2011)

Modern Korean Literature: Searching for Identity at Home and in the World
If you only listen to one nearly two-hour podcast on Korean modern literature, it has to be this one by Ann Choi Wan. Wan takes you from the start of modern literature (Yi Kwang-su, more or less, and she talks about his relationship with modernity and romance and how that doesn’t work out quite that way it does in the west) all the way up to the recent successes of post-modern Korean fiction. (, September 10, 2011)

The Host in 3D Will Premiere at the 2011 Pusan International Film Festival
The Host is set to be shown in 3D for the first time at the 2011 Pusan International Film Festival. The original version was released in 2006 and set a box-office record in a very short amount of time. Even though the original version was released five years ago, the 3D version is expected to give its viewers a whole new experience. It is also expected to be a great hit in the whole Asian film market. (, September 11, 2011)

Well Go Lands Rights To Two Korean Pics
Well Go USA has acquired North American TV, DVD, digital, and VOD rights to the South Korean war drama My Way from CJ Entertainment. Well Go also bought from CJ all North American rights including theatrical to the 3D-animated actioner Tarbosaurus. (Deadline, September 12, 2011)
Arrow, The Ultimate Weapon with Park Hae-il, Ryoo Seung-yong and Moon Chae-won has maintained its success during the Chuseok holiday as it crossed 6 million admissions. According to the Korean Film Commission, Arrow, The Ultimate Weapon was released on August 10th and has so far recorded 6,172,643 audiences. (, September 13, 2011)


Director Hong Sang-soo: Part 1
(, September 7, 2011)


(Modern Korean Cinema, September 12, 2011)

Korean Cinema News is a weekly feature which provides wide-ranging news coverage on Korean cinema, including but not limited to: features; festival news; interviews; industry news; trailers; posters; and box office. It appears every Wednesday morning (GMT+1) on Modern Korean Cinema. For other weekly features, take a look at the Korean Box Office Update and the Weekly Review Round-upReviews and features on Korean film also appear regularly on the site. 

To keep up with the best in Korean film you can sign up to our RSS Feed, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Korean Cinema News (07/11-07/17, 2011)

A good amount of news this week, including updates on American films tied to Korea, blockbusters opening locally, film festivals, and a great article from Tom Giammarco. Interview, trailers, and box office at the bottom.


Josh Brolin First Name Linked to Spike Lee's Oldboy
After being confirmed last week, Spike Lee's rendition of Oldboy (2003) is rumored to star Josh Brolin. (, July 12, 2011)

Quick Opens in Korea
Motorcycle summer blockbuster Quick opens this weekend in South Korea and will most likely provide cheap, forgettable thrills. (The Korea Times, July 12, 2011)

The Last Stand on Track at Lionsgate
The Last Stand is now a confirmed project at Lionsgate pictures, they will have domestic and international distribution rights. The pic will aslo be produced by Lorenzo di Bonaventura through Bonaventura Pictures. (Business of Cinema, July 13, 2011)

Indian Women's Film Festival Spotlights Korean Cinema
The 4th Samsung Women's International Film Festival which takes place in Chennai, India, from 15-21 July, will feature a section film by acclaimed artist Park Chan-ok. (The Hollywood Reporter, July 13, 2011)

What May Be Borne Out of a Clash Between Kim Jee-woon and Arnie
Korean helmer Kim Jee-woon and returning action star Arnold Schwarzenegger are set to work together on The Last Stand. Given their strong personalities and divergent backgrounds, what will each bring to the project? (indieWIRE, July 13, 2011)

Sector 7 Will Showcase Korean 3D
The filmmakers of the upcoming blockbuster Sector 7 are hoping that the film will showcase Korea's nascent 3D capabilities and believe it should be able to compete on the same level as Hollywood films. (The Korea Herald, July 13, 2011)

City Hunters Star Meets with Hollywood Producer
American film producer Terence Chang flew to Korea to meet with Lee Min-ho, star of the top-rated City Hunters K-Drama. (soompi, July 13, 2011)

Jang Hoon Returns With The Front Line
Jang Hoon's third feature, after Rough Cut (2008) and Secret Reunion (2010), is a big-budget with an A-list cast. More than anything The Front Line showcases the brutality and depravity of war. (The Korea Times, July 14, 2011)

Cats in Korean Horror
Tom Giammarco examines the history of ghostly cats in Korean cinema. Armed with his encyclopedic knowledge of Classic Korean film he runs through a series of films from the 60s, 70s, and 80s.(, July 14, 2011)

Secret Expose Being Shot in North Korea
An undercover team of journalists are smuggling out footage of everyday life in North Korea. They have been trained and are being lead by a Japanese reporter. (Radio Australia, July 15, 2011)

Dubbing Takes Over With Rise of 3D Films
Korean viewers, who normally watch American films with subtitles are taking a different tack with 3D films as many of these are now being dubbed. (Joong Ang Daily, July 15, 2011)

Korean Films on Display at Dallas Asian Film Festival
The Asian Film Festival of Dallas got underway and will showcase a number of Korean films, including: Bedevilled, Cyrano Agency, Dance Town, Enemy at the Dead End, and Midnight FM. (, July 15, 2011)

PiFan Gets Underway
The 15th Puchon (Bucheon) International Fantastic Film Festival (PiFan) got off to a good start as 2000 people attended the opening ceremony. Many shows have sold out in advance and their is great selection of Korea and foreign films on display. (The Korea Times, July 17, 2011)

Korean Wave Stars in Movies
A comprehensive list of Hallyu idols from K-Pop or K-Dramas who have crossed over into movie roles. (soompi, July 17, 2011)


Kim Jae-hwan Talks About New Documentary
Documentarian Kim Jae-hwan discusses his new documentary The True-taste Show, he believes that documentary that draw their focus on the media will be more prevalent in the future. (, July 12, 2011)


A pair of new trailers, including one for one of Korea's most successful and long-running franchises.

Harry Potter Draws in the Crowds

The last Harry Potter opened big and has so far scored 1.7 million viewers. A huge figure but not as impressive as the recent record-breaking Transformers, which held well with over 600,000 admissions and is very close to the 7 million mark. Sunny is also a fraction behind that mark as it continues to do well with nearly 200,000 more spectators. The Cat played well in its sophomore frame and Quick and The Front Line sold a good number of preview tickets in advance of their full release this coming week. (, July 17, 2011)

Korean Cinema News is a weekly feature which provides wide-ranging news coverage on Korean cinema, including but not limited to: features; festival news; interviews; industry news; trailers; posters; and box office. It appears every Wednesday morning (GMT+1) on Modern Korean Cinema. For other weekly features, take a look at the Korean Box Office Update and the Weekly Review Round-upReviews and features on Korean film also appear regularly on the site. 

To keep up with the best in Korean film you can sign up to our RSS Feed, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.