Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Review: Grand and Mysterious, THE AVIAN KIND Soars

By Pierce Conran

A great many gems have emerged from the Korean independent scene of late, but some worry that the milieu lacks the unique voices that it used to cultivate 10 to 15 years ago. Director Shin Yeon-shick may already be on his fifth film, but with his latest work The Avian Kind, the filmmaker has positioned himself as a fresh and distinct voice, challenging the realist aesthetic that defines the contemporary indie field.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Review: CASA AMOR: EXCLUSIVE FOR LADIES, But Really Just a Man's World

By Pierce Conran

Every so often, Korean cinema presents us with a new film, filled with the promise of titillating erotica. Invariably, these turn out to be rather chaste affairs and Casa Amor: Exclusive for Ladies (the original title of which is Working Girl, in English but spelt in Korean), proves to be no exception. However, stylish though it may be, this new work proves more egregious than most, as it hints at the freedom of female sexuality yet ultimately sinks into woefully patriarchal archetypes.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Review: The Past is Present in Lee Yoon-ki's THIS CHARMING GIRL

By Rex Baylon

We love to watch. It’s impossible to deny that fact as advances in technology has made people-watching a popular guilty pleasure. As more and more of our gadgets and software are built to not only connect everyone but also document every banal detail of our lives, it’s become quite easy to learn everything about someone without every meeting them face-to-face. In the realm of cinema, the concept of voyeurism has always been a popular topic for filmmakers. Fritz Lang, Alfred Hitchcock, the Maysles brothers, Michelangelo Antonioni, Michael Powell and many others have devoted entire films or, in rare cases, entire careers to utilizing voyeuristic techniques to arrive at some sort of truth.

News: MEMORIES OF MURDER Coming to the Small Screen

By Pierce Conran

It looks like Snowpiercer isn't the only Bong Joon-ho film getting the remake treatment. I don't normally cover TV news but I thought I'd make an exception for this. Considered by many to be one of the greatest Korean films of all time (it's my favorite), Memories of Murder is heading to the small screen in Korea as Signal.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Korean Box Office: Heroes Top Fathers and Gangsters (2015 WK 5)

By Pierce Conran

A Hollywood film topped the Korean box office for the first time in 2015 while a pair of Korean blockbusters battled for second place. Local films did hold a combined advantage though with a 55% market share in a weekend that saw 2.08 million spectators visit theaters.

Coming Attractions: GRANNY'S GOT TALENT's Schtick Ain't Ready For Television

By Rex Baylon

Bawdy Korean comedies more often than not fall on deaf ears when they reach foreign audiences and Shin Han-sol's new film Granny's Got Talent is no different. Structured on the thinnest of premises, a swearing contest that has drawn various foul-mouthed individuals to compete for the title of master of cursing.

Reel Talk: Busan City vs. Busan Film Festival

Every Friday I appear on a segment called Reel Talk for Arirang TV on the 2 o'clock news, mostly covering Korean cinema.

Just over a week ago, a controversy erupted when Busan City asked the director of the Busan International Film Festival to resign. Events have unfolded in quick fashion, and for this week's Reel Talk I talked about what has happened so far and the possible implications of the situation.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Coming Attractions: THE AVIAN KIND is a Brooding Kind of Film Fowl

By Rex Baylon

Shin Youn-sik is back with a new film in February titled The Avian Kind. Over the last few years, Shin got quite a bit of attention for a pair of films that both premiered at the Busan Film Festival, the contemplative mystery drama The Russian Novel (2012) and the art-meets-life gangster picture Rough Play (2013).

New Korean Films: Trampled Flowers (2015 Week 4)

Shoot Me in the Heart
(내 심장을 쏴라)

By Fabien Schneider

Soo-Myung witnessed the traumatic experience of his mother’s suicide, and has since become a regular of a psychiatric hospital for the last six years. He has developed a form of schizophrenia, but he’s as honest as possible. One day, a new patient comes to share his room: Seung-Min is sound of mind, but has been sent here for no reason by some relatives of his. His only wish is to run away from this place as soon as possible.

Friday, January 30, 2015

News: All Aboard! SNOWPIERCER Spoof Coming This Year

By Pierce Conran

The most well known Korean film of the last few years is coming back to screens, reimagined as an erotic parody. Bong Man-dae, the director of Cinderella (2006) and Playboy Bong (2013), though most well known as a purveyor of softcore erotica, is turning Bong Joon-ho's Snowpiercer into Rice Cake Soup Train (Ddeok-gook-yeol-cha, 떡국열차). That title's a bit of a mouthful (sorry, had to do it) but it makes more sense in Korean. If and when they decide this could target a foreign audience, I'm sure they'll come up with something better.

Review: Stylish And Well Performed, SCARLET INNOCENCE Surprises And Delights

By Pierce Conran

Adapted from a Korean folk tale and starting off as a softly lensed romantic melodrama, you'd be forgiven for thinking that Scarlet Innocence, the latest work from noted visual stylist Yim Pil-sung, must be primed for a local audience. Yet this surprising genre-bending effort, which had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, holds off from showing its true colors until it has lulled you into a comfortable reverie. A successful exercise in subverting expectations, Scarlet Innocence may also prove a watershed moment for Yim, an acclaimed director whose high profile and gorgeously designed works have so far failed to translate into box office returns.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

News: BIFF Director Stays on, Censorship Concerns Linger

By Pierce Conran

Click here to read about the events leading up to this story.

It appears that Busan Film Festival director Lee Yong-kwan will not be leaving his post for the moment. Lee and BIFF executive programmer Kim Ji-seok met with Busan City mayor Suh Byung-soo and culture and tourism bureau director-general Kim Kwang-hee on Tuesday.