Showing posts with label modern korean cinema. Show all posts
Showing posts with label modern korean cinema. Show all posts

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Modern Korean Cinema Turns 2!

A year ago I took the time to thank you all and reflect on how much Modern Korean Cinema had grown in the preceding 12 months. I also expressed a hope that it could grow and improve in the future. Now, as we pass the two-year mark, things have truly kicked off. The readership is up 500% and the amount of content in our second year has trebled. So the time has come again to extend a big thank you to all of you who have helped to bring the site to where it is today. Without you this wouldn't be possible and there also wouldn't be much a point as this site is about sharing a passion for Korean cinema.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Site Updates During Udine Far East Film Festival

I'll be heading off to Udine early tomorrow morning and just like last month's FIFF, I plan to post daily updates of the films I see at the festival.  I can't wait to get there and meet the many people that, until now, I've only had the opportunity to converse with online.

It's going to be a very busy week with screenings kicking off at 9am and running until 2am (though I may have to miss a few midnight screenings if I want to maintain my sanity).  As such I just wanted to let everyone know that MKC's weekly updates will go on an exceptional hiatus but I will double down when return in nine days.

I hope you enjoy MKC's FEFF coverage and as always thank you for visiting the site!


Monday, April 16, 2012

MKC (and I) Are Moving to Seoul!

source: Deiaemeth

Part of an ongoing series about my trip to and discovery of Seoul...

It occurs to me that some of you make not know where Modern Korean Cinema is based.  I initially set up the site in August 2010 while I was living and working in Los Angeles, USA.  But it wasn't until March 2011 that I really started to throw myself into the project, this was when the first Korean Cinema Blogathon came around which was a fantastic entry and contact point for all that was related to Korean cinema online.

Sadly I was forced to leave America at the end of July after a long battle to renew my visa didn't come out in my favour.  It was a difficult time as it meant I had to leave my friends, my job and, most importantly, my girlfriend, who is simply the best thing that has ever happened to me.  I returned to my childhood home at the base of the Alps in Switzerland and set about getting my life back on track.  I was not able to find suitable employment in the country but after seeing MKC really take off and getting offers to write for books and journals as a result of it, it occurred that the best thing I could do would be to follow my passion.

At the end of last year I made the decision to move to South Korea.  I took my time looking for a position as I had a few engagements throughout Europe during the early part of the year that I didn't want to miss such as the East Winds Symposium in Coventry, the Fribourg Intl. Film Festival and the upcoming Udine Far East Film Festival.  But now the stage is set as last Thursday I signed a contract with a school in Seongbuk-gu, Seoul to teach English.  Will be there once the visa goes through, which looks like mid-May.

I am looking forward to meeting so many people in Seoul and across Korea who have been supportive of Modern Korean Cinema and to finally visit a country that has long held my fascination.  I can't wait to attend the country's many great festivals and savour the peninsula's wonderful cuisine.

I hope that the opportunity will only improve the quality of MKC as reviews of major Korean releases will be up sooner (if I can see them in theatres with English subtitles), more accurate and up to date news should be accessible, I will have a chance to cover the Busan Intl. Film Festival and much more.

So I will take this opportunity to thank you all for visiting MKC and for your continued support, none of this would be possible without you.  I am thrilled to be moving to Korea and if any of you want to meet up for a chat, a drink or some 김치, do not hesitate to contact me at pierconran [at] modernkoreancinema [dot] com!


Korean BBQ with Friends last month in London

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Jopok Week: Im Kwon-taek's The General's Son 2 (Janggunui adeul 2) 1991

The second The General’s Son starts off much as the first did.  Our hero, Kim Do-han, is released from prison in the Mapo-gu district of Seoul by the short, mustachioed Korean detective who seems to have it out for him.  The only difference between this and the last installment’s opening is that instead of being a poor kid living under a bridge, released with nothing and facing an uncertain future, now he is a gang boss and he is welcomed by his minions and the citizens of the neighborhood.  He is adored by all, a foreshadowing of his successful later life in politics.

Whereas the original film indulged in delightful world-building, guiding us through a gorgeous period set of the Mapo-gu district and its myriad of colorful characters, the sequel jumps right into the plot.  Previously the focus was on Kim Do-han’s rise but now he is already on top.  The same gang conflicts arise here but while the action and plot moves thick and fast, it seems deliberately contrived though never complicated.  Actually it could be seen as somewhat prosaic, the story details lots of gang to-ing and fro-ing for the sake of inserting ever escalating brawls.  Make no mistake about it, The General’s Son 2 is primarily about fisticuffs, which is both an asset and a hindrance.

Due to this fixation on sprawling fight scenes, a lot of the film doesn’t make sense.  The love interests arise out of nowhere and are quickly forgotten about, and they are briefly tacked back onto the narrative here and there to patch the plot together.  The unification of the various Korean groups against the greater ill of the Japanese is all but gone, and the main arc pitting Kim’s gang against the powerful Yakuzas adds no agency to the narrative as it is just an expansion of the same sotryline from the first film. 

Some scenes add absolutely nothing to the narrative, for example in one near the end of the film a young man pays for his meal and leaves a bakery, he is then accosted by two of Kim’s goons who tell him to hand over his cash.  He refuses and one of them punches him, he then skillfully beats them up, runs away, and never appears again.  It adds nothing to the narrative and actually gives the impression that a new character has been introduced.  In the end the only interesting thing about it is that the role is played by a very young Jung Doo-hong who will be recognizable to Korean film aficionados as the famed stunt director who has choreographed and starred in many of Ryoo Seung-wan’s films as well as staging the martial arts for a number prominent Korean films in the last 15 years.

Just as in the first, the loud sound effects in the fight scenes are very distracting though with time you do get used to them.  What bothered me more was the use of soft focus on the woefully underwritten female characters, some of the strangest and most inexplicable love interests I have come across in cinema.  It seems that Kim Doo-han, as well as being “Korea’s best fighter”, a patriot, and a local hero, was also quite the ladies man, or so this series of films seems to suggest.  The use of soft focus on the female characters is so pronounced that it is nearly blinding.

This time around Im does not go to great lengths to add any historical gravity to the film, instead he unabashedly crafts a straight martial arts and gangster picture.  Kim Doo-han has already been established as the hero so after his exit from prison Im purposefully refrains from using him in fight scenes since, as is often the case with martial arts films, you have to work up to the big boss, even though in this film he is the protagonist and not the antagonist.  The fights start out with Kim’s small entourage, who I don’t believe were in the first film, duking it out mano a mano with low level aggressors before quickly all being involved in a brawl at the same time.  Then we expand from the unit and the scale of the fights increases more or less exponentially.  It’s perfectly preposterous and some of the stunt work, such as a perfect somersault down a flight of stairs two beats after a light knock to the shins, is hilarious, but the sheer enormity and fake grandeur of these sequences are a lot of fun.

Many Korean filmmakers like to go all out.  After seeing so many mass fights scenes in Korean films, such as Attack the Gas Station (1999), Kick the Moon (2001), and The City of Violence (2006), it’s good to know that the root for these can in fact be traced back to older Korean films and not just Hong Kong action pictures, though admittedly this film would have been inspired by them also. 

Aesthetics resolutely win out in The General’s Son 2 and narrative plays only a small part just like in Lee Myung-se’s stunning Duelist (2005), though this is a far less ambitious project.   In the end, see this one for the fights, we got all the story we needed out of the first one.

See also:

The General's Son (1990)
The General's Son 3 (1992)

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).

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.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Modern Korean Cinema turns 1!

Hard to believe that this much time has gone by but today marks the one-year anniversary of Modern Korean Cinema. I wasn't quite sure what I was doing at first but steadily through the support of all the site's readers, today I am very pleased with the direction that MKC has taken.

I want to thank each and everyone one of you that has ever visited, read, forwarded, retweeted, 'liked', or commented on the site. It goes without saying that this venture would be fruitless without your support. I love doing this site and I hope that it keeps growing in the years to come as I have no intention of stopping or slowing down. If anything I hope to add more elements to the site.

I would like to use this milestone to reach out to you and ask what you think of the site as it stands. Is there anything you dislike, anything that could be improved, or toned down? Any comments or suggestions at all would be most welcome. Once again this site would be nothing without its readers and I aim to please you and provide you with the content you seek.

Again, thank you all so much, it is a pleasure and an honour!