Ordinary People (소시민) – ★★☆☆☆

Ordinary People (소시민)

Ordinary People (소시민)

Jae-pil is about to have the worst Sunday of his life. From the moment the hapless salaryman wakes up in a grotty motel, he is beset by a host of problems – his bullying manager demands Jaepil ‘massage’ some figures or else lose his job; his estranged wife begins divorce proceedings while filing for custody of their daughter Soo-in; his nagging sister is demanding money to donate to  her church; and he has just become the prime suspect in a murder case. One thing’s for sure – this Sunday is going to be hell.

A humorously dark tale, director Kim Byung-june’s Ordinary People is an entertaining slice of ironic satire that pokes fun at the insane challenges of the everyday salaryman. Striking the tone just right during the first half, the film spirals into theatrical silliness in the second, subverting the intelligent mockery for obvious gags.

Aside from a rather oddly dramatic preface during the opening credits, Ordinary People begins in promising fashion as director Kim explores the insanity within the mundane tasks bestowed upon the middle-aged Korean office worker. Using central protagonist Jae-pil as a cypher, he piles on the absurd stresses such employees endure with an impressively dark and often subtle wit, balancing the tone well between realism and farce as Jae-pil is pushed to breaking point. The title perfectly reflects director Kim’s brand of humour – these characters and events are indeed ‘ordinary’ in the lives of many Koreans yet there is a comedic ridiculousness to it all that he works hard to emphasise.

Jae-pil is told to 'massage' some figures for his company

Jae-pil is told to ‘massage’ some figures for his company

However, just as with this year’s other darkly satirical film (and Jeonju Film Festival winner) Alice in Earnestland, Ordinary People takes an ill-advised turn at the halfway mark. Through a misunderstanding in an apparent murder case Jae-pil is considered a suspect, from which the events and characters all suddenly descend into farcical comedy the likes of which wouldn’t be out of place on a Korean ‘gag concert’ TV show. The dry and ironic humour of the first hour comes undone as the Jae-pil’s situation comes increasingly ludicrous and the acting evermore theatrical, culminating in the eye-rolling introduction of colourful chubby gangster trio the Bear Brothers. Director Kim is certainly aware as his protagonists recount how bizarre the events have become, yet it continues to escalate until the film reaches its overly long conclusion with trite melodrama.

While the introduction to the characters and their relationships are in need of tightening, both Jae-pil and his sister are great devices through which to explore the stresses of contemporary Koreans. Jae-pil is a likeable protagonist and one who the audience genuinely want to succeed despite his occasionally frustrating whiny impotence to his problems. His sister, however, is largely pushed to the margins of the story, a real missed opportunity as her role as an intelligent journalist who quit due to marriage could have provided further great ironic satire from a female perspective, as well as offered a fun counterpoint to Jae-pil’s misadventures.

The situation escalates when Jae-pil finds himself in trouble with the law

The situation escalates when Jae-pil finds himself in trouble with the law

Verdict:

Director Kim Byung-june’s Ordinary People begins in darkly satirical fashion through ironic jokes at an average salaryman’s expense, yet following such a promising opening the film missteps into absurd theatrical comedy at the halfway point before ending with trite melodrama. Yet the potential displayed in the first half means Kim’s future films are ones to watch out for.

★★☆☆☆

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Busan International Film Festival (20회 부산국제영화제) Festival News Korean Film Festivals 2015 Reviews

Right Now, Wrong Then (지금은맞고그때는틀리다) – ★★★★☆

Right Now, Wrong Then (지금은맞고그때는틀리다)

Right Now, Wrong Then (지금은맞고그때는틀리다)

Arriving in Suwon City a day earlier than scheduled, film director Chunsoo (Jung Jaeyoung (정재영) bides his time by wandering around the local landmarks. By chance, he runs into pretty artist Heejung (Kim Minhee (김민희) and persuades her to join him for a cup of coffee. As the two spend the day together conversing awkwardly over meals and drinks, Chunsoo and Heejung become closer.

Then, events play out again with Chunsoo’s more gentlemanly manner and Heejung’s greater sense of independence arousing slight variations in their burgeoning relationship.

Director Cheon-soo persuades artist Hee-jeong to have coffee

Director Chunsoo persuades artist Heejung to have coffee

Undeniably charming and beautifully told, director Hong Sangsoo‘s Right Now, Wrong Then is a genuine delight. The stirringly sensitive drama is the kind of story only the acclaimed auteur could produce, capturing the endearing awkwardness of human interaction with keen insight and is wholly deserving of its accolades – namely the Golden Leopard (Best Film) and Best Actor for Jung Jaeyoung at its premiere in Locarno International Film Festival, with more undoubtedly to follow.

It’s become almost a cliche in itself to point out director Hong’s interest in capturing the subtleties of human interaction, the awkward clumsiness of smart men over confident women, of repeating scenarios with slight adjustments in characterisation that result in rather different outcomes, but as he does it so insightfully it’s hard not to constantly acknowledge his deft skill in such areas. With Right Now, Wrong Then director Hong wonderfully succeeds in capturing the beauty of such moments with an endearing humour and grace that is captivating, conveying a palpable charm that was somewhat lacking in his prior effort Hill of Freedom.

Right Now, Wrong Then is in fact two films in one, and much of its pleasure is derived from juxtaposing both stories. In the first installment, film director Chunsoo is shy, secretive, and akin to a wannabe philanderer; in the second he is a shade more confident, honest and direct. The differences that arise through his interactions with artist Heejung, who is shy and passive in the first tale before later becoming more independent and assured, are subtle yet profound as conversations take alternate trajectories that greatly effect them both, resulting in radically different outcomes for their relationship.

Hee-jeong and Cheon-soo drink and converse as they grow closer

Heejung and Chunsoo drink and converse as they grow closer

In lesser hands such simple tales of strangers meeting would be mildly entertaining, yet actors Jung Jaeyoung and Kim Minhee fulfil the roles with astonishing nuance and depth, propelling the drama into one of the best K-films of the year. Jung, who previously worked with director Hong in Our Sunhi, excels as the sensitive Chunsoo by conveying the character’s social ineptitude wonderfully with awkward mannerisms and speech, while also managing to capture a unique sense of charisma with his forthright honesty later in the film. It’s clear why Jeong was the recipient of the Best Actor award at Locarno and he’s sure to add further trophies to his cabinet as Right Now, Wrong Then screens at more international festivals.

As Heejung, Kim Minhee is absolutely captivating. Her performance is unquestionably deserving of high praise and accolades. Her facial expressions and quirks, particularly during some of the film’s pivotal and revelatory scenes, contain so much palpable emotion that they resonate long after the credits have rolled. With Right Here, Wrong Then, and with her upcoming turn in Park Chan-wook‘s Fingersmith, Kim Minhee looks set to become one of the K-Film industry’s most sought after actresses.

The subtle differences in characterisation result in alternative outcomes

The subtle differences in characterisation result in alternative outcomes

Verdict:

Director Hong Sangsoo’s Right Now, Wrong Then is a charismatic, endearing tale of burgeoning relationships only the celebrated auteur is capable of telling. Wonderfully subtle, insightful, and humorous, the drama is a heartwarming tale of human interaction and the possibilities of tender new emotional experiences.

★★★★☆

Busan International Film Festival (20회 부산국제영화제) Korean Film Festivals 2015 Reviews

BIFF 2015: Hidden Masterpieces of the 1960s

BIFF 2015

BIFF 2015

As part of its 20th anniversary celebrations, the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) will play host to a special series of screenings entitled Korean Cinema Retrospective: Hidden Masterpieces of the 1960s.

With hostilities between the two Koreas resulting in a truce 1953 and the South’s subsequent emphatic drive for redevelopment, the ’60s proved to be a burgeoning period for cinema with filmmakers producing an average of 200 films per year.

This period of modernisation is to be celebrated by screening 8 of the lesser known films from the decade, some of which were considered lost for all time until a discovery earlier this year by a travelling film operator unearthed 450 sought after classics. His donation of the film reels to the Korean Film Archive has resulted in filling in many of the gaps of Korea’s cinematic heritage which, after restoration, can finally be experienced on the big screen.

Below are the films in the Hidden Masterpieces program to be screened at BIFF, two of which can be viewed on the Korean Film Archive’s youtube channel.

Hidden Masterpieces of the 1960s

A Bloodthirsty Killer (살인마) (1965)

Director Lee Yong-min (이용민)

A Bloodthirsty Killer

A Bloodthirsty Killer

Classic K-horror A Bloodthirsty Killer uses the genre to explore the social and cultural issues of the era. Aeja is a cheerful and content woman living a comfortable existence with her husband, yet her happiness inspires incredible jealousy in those around her resulting in her murder at the hands of her mother-in-law and niece. Following Aeja’s untimely death, strange things begin occurring as her spirit returns from the grave seeking revenge.

The film blends Eastern and Western generic conventions in depicting the new affluent classes emerging in the ’60s, and the subsequent jealousy of those less fortunate.

Jealousy of the emerging affluence in the '60s is a key theme

Jealousy of the emerging affluence in the ’60s is a key theme

The Body Confession (육체의 고백) (1964)

Director Jo Keung-ha (조긍하)

The Body Confession

The Body Confession

The role of women in 1960s Korea was fraught to say the least, but for single mothers it was extremely taxing. The Body Confession examines the life of a middle-aged mother of three daughters living in Busan, who will do anything to see that her children receive the best of everything in life. To do so, she secretly works as a madam at a brothel, sacrificing all she has for her family’s wellbeing. Yet with troubles beginning to arise for each daughter she struggles to cope.

The Body Confession is in many ways a companion piece for last year’s Ode To My Father, but from a female perspective and with far more depth.

To watch The Body Confession online, click here.

The fraught existence of a single mother is examined

The fraught existence of a single mother is examined

The Cash Is Mine (현금은 내 것이다) (1965)

Director Lee Sang-eon (이상언)

The Cash Is Mine

The Cash Is Mine

The Cash Is Mine is an early noir gangster film and, as Nameless Gangster and  Gangnam Blues more recently explored, depicts the criminal underworld as an instrumental part of Korea’s development.

When local gangster Young-jun kills an old man at the behest of his syndicate, he comes to feel an enormous burden of guilt. With detectives closing in on him, Young-jun’s desire to make amends results in taking care of the old man’s daughter Eun-joo, protecting her despite great personal risk. Can he be both criminal and saviour, as well as evade incarceration for his transgression?

Rivals meet in this early noir crime thriller

Rivals meet in this early noir crime thriller

The DMZ (비무장지대) (1965)

Director Park Sang-ho (박상호)

The DMZ

The DMZ

The DMZ was long thought lost until its sudden discovery in 2006. Amazingly the film was shot on location – a dangerous prospect at the time – with the permission of the U.S. 8th Army and the Military Armistice Commission, and carries a strong anti-war message.

The war drama follows two young children who become lost in the DMZ due to moving from the constant battles between North and South. As they walk around the perilous environment they are exposed to the horrors of war, witnessing corpses and weapons of destruction, as they attempt to survive on rations they occasionally find.

Two children become lost in the DMZ during conflict

Two children become lost in the DMZ during conflict

The Door of the Body (육체의 문) (1965)

Director Lee Bong-rae (이봉래)

The Door of the Body

The Door of the Body

The Door of the Body explores feminist issues from a unique perspective, as rather than succumb to roles of ‘the wife’ or ‘the mother’ the lead protagonist wishes to use the growing liberal attitude of the era to become a businesswoman.

Arriving in Seoul from the country, Eun-sook sets her vision on owning her own beauty salon and begins working as a masseuse and prostitute to generate the required capitol, which she wisely invests in stocks and shares. Yet when Eun-sook falls in love with a con artist he manages to cheat her out of all her savings, leaving the young woman destitute and forced to find another way to achieve her dream.

A woman strives for independence during the tough era

A woman strives for independence during the tough era

The General’s Mustache (장군의 수염) (1968)

Director Lee Seong-gu (이성구)

The General's Mustache

The General’s Mustache

A real rarity in 1960s Korean film, The General’s Mustache blends live action detective drama with animated sequences, highlighting the advancements being made in the industry at the time.

When young photographer Kim Chul-woon is discovered dead in suspicious circumstances, two detectives are assigned to the case though answers prove elusive. Tracking one particular lead take the investigative team to a novelist, who informs them Chul-woon was writing a story called ‘The General’s Mustache’ as well as revealing that he was in a passionately intense relationship with a girl.

To watch The General’s Mustache online, click here.

The mystery of the man's death deepens when his relationship is revealed

The mystery deepens when the dead man’s relationship is revealed

Trees Stand on Slope (나무들 비탈에 서다) (1968)

Director Choi Ha-won (최하원)

Trees Stand on Slope

Trees Stand on Slope

Trees Stand on Slope is arguably the big film in the program, as it’s one of the 450 films recently rediscovered and donated to the Korean Film Archive, now finally restored and ready to be experienced on the big screen.

The story, based on Hwang Sun-won’s novel, is a violent tale of jealousy, revenge and guilt examining issues from the Korean War. Envious of the love between best friend Dong-ho and his girlfriend Suk, Hyun-tae arranges a secret night with a prostitute while Suk is away. Beside himself with remorse, Dong-ho does the unthinkable which sends Hyun-tae into a downward spiral that sees him commit heinous acts of criminality.

Trees

Jealousy proves the be the downfall of three close friends

When Night Falls at Myeongdong (명동에 밤이 오면) (1964)

Director Lee Hyung-pyo (이형표)

When Night Falls at Myeongdong

When Night Falls at Myeongdong

Issues faced by women in Seoul are portrayed within When Night Falls at Myeongdong, a film that examined the gender imbalances in the capital as it dramatically became one of the most affluent in Asia.

In the bars of Myeongdong are scores of young attractive women, all of whom are waiting to find a handsome and rich suitor to marry and take them away from their miserable existence of drinking with strangers. One such woman is especially popular due to her incredible beauty, although she is notorious for being picky. Yet when a bank manager arrives one night and they hit it off, she may well have found her path to freedom.

Temptations arise in the bars of Myeongdong

Temptations arise in the bars of Myeongdong

Busan International Film Festival (20회 부산국제영화제) Festival News Korean Film Festivals 2015

12 Deep Red Nights : Chapter One (십이야 : 깊고 붉은 열두 개의 밤) – ★★☆☆☆

12 Deep Red Nights

12 Deep Red Nights: Chapter 1

Horror omnibus films are consistently prevalent in Korean cinema, particularly arising at film festivals where directors – who are typically between projects – use the medium to showcase and experiment with their respective aesthetics through the short story form.

Last year’s horror anthology MAD SAD BAD opened the 2014 Jeonju Int. Film Festival and featured three talented directors experimenting with 3D technology for addition frights. Horror Stories kicked off the 2012 Bucheon Int. Fantastic Film Festival, depicting three tales encapsulated within a larger framework, while sequel Horror Stories 2 appeared at BiFan the following year.

Yet while the format allows directors to experiment with their craft, it also inevitably results in comparisons regarding which tale is more effective, an unfortunate byproduct director Oh In-cheon smartly circumvents by helming all four stories within 12 Deep Red Nights: Chapter 1.

1st Night - Driver

1st Night – Driver

Following his well-received feature debut Mourning Grave, director Oh’s 12 Deep Red Nights: Chapter 1 articulates four tales of woe in the dark recesses of Korea after dark which, while competently helmed, disappointingly lack flair and creativity. While disorientating scenes of the urban nightlife are effective, the omnibus seems to be more akin to a practice run for future endeavours as director Oh experiments with pacing and generating suspense, with actual scares in very short supply. That said, it’s interesting how horror is derived from commonplace features of life in the peninsula.

In 1st Night – Driver, a young socialite calls for a driving service to take her home and begs the driver to kill her, promising to bestow all her wealth as a reward. For foreign audiences the notion of this industry will undoubtedly be initially difficult to digest, yet once accepted as commonplace in Korea the tale becomes an intriguing one. Tension is generated well as the driver struggles with the morality of the situation, yet the climax is a letdown.

2nd Night – PM 11:55 sees a female office worker return to her apartment, unknowingly followed by a hooded figure. Tasked with completing a translation assignment before midnight, the woman achieves her goal with five minutes to spare. Yet as she unwinds, the hooded figure begins consistently ringing her door bell and refuses to leave, with the woman unable to contact the outside world for help. PM 11:55 sets up a sense of panic well, clearly inspired by real circumstances. However director Oh seems unsure how to end the story, which comes to an unsatisfying, abrupt end.

2nd Night 11:55

2nd Night 11:55

The next tale, 3rd Night – atmosFEAR (or literally Sounds of a Man) is the most impressive in terms of generating an increasingly heightened aura of suspense. An audio technician requires ambient sound for his latest project, and uses his equipment to record the sounds that occur at night. After capturing conversations of couples arguing, he traverses a countryside area for natural ambience. Yet upon hearing a girl’s scream, he follows his recording equipment to investigate the source. While the camerawork and props are employed to created palpable tension, the finale is easily the most disappointing of all the short stories.

Finally, 4th Night – Secret Night tells the tale of junior office worker Yeong-min who attempts to steal company secrets. This segment is the most narratively driven and complete tale within the film, exploring the fraught dynamic between senior and junior company staff in Korea alongside issues of blackmail. Yet while Secret Night is the most structured tale, it’s also the most bland and laborious due to the overly long running time and drawn out story.

4th Night - Secret Night

4th Night – Secret Night

Verdict:

Depicting four tales of nightly horror, omnibus 12 Deep Red Nights: Chapter 1 is a competent yet uninspiring addition to director Oh In-cheon’s filmography. The anthology serves more akin to a practice run for future endeavours rather than an inventive take on the genre. While suspense is generated well throughout each story disappointment quickly follows, and is a mediocre effort by a usually solid director.

★★☆☆☆

Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival (제 19회 부천국제판타스틱영화제) Festival News Korean Film Festivals 2015 Reviews

The Chosen: Forbidden Cave (퇴마: 무녀굴) – ★☆☆☆☆

The Chosen: Forbidden Cave (퇴마: 무녀굴)

The Chosen: Forbidden Cave (퇴마: 무녀굴)

N.B. This review is based on the Bucheon Fantastic Film Festival 2015 edit, screened at the closing ceremony.

Psychologist Jin-myeong (Kim Seong-gyoon (김성균) is unique in his trade as one of the few professionals who considers supernatural phenomena when treating clients, performing exorcisms with apprentice Ji-gwang (Kim Hye-seong (김혜성) when the need arises. Due to his unorthodox methods Jin-myeong has earned a notable reputation, attracting the unwanted attention of documentary producer Hye-in (Cha Ye-ryeon (차예련). Yet they are forced to combine their efforts when a disturbing new case occurs, as art curator Geum-joo (Yoo Seon (유선) is at the mercy of a particularly vindictive spirit, the secrets of which originate from forgotten childhood memories and a ghostly cave.

Geun-joo's possession proves an extremely difficult task for psychologist:exorcist Jin-myeong

Geun-joo’s possession proves an extremely difficult task for psychologist/exorcist Jin-myeong

With a solid premise but poor execution, director Kim Hwi’s horror/thriller The Chosen: Forbidden Cave is heavy on frustration and light on scares. As the closing film for BiFan’s 2015 edition, the festival’s claim of the film’s ability to ‘punch up the horror scene’ in the industry is unfortunately pure hyperbole as The Chosen is, aside from a few well-constructed set-pieces, a bland addition in dire need of a re-edit.

The Chosen: Forbidden Cave begins in intriguing fashion as Jin-myeong lectures on the importance of shamanism when considering diagnosis, with a handful of scares to sell the concept. Yet from there the narrative rapidly descends into chaos as characters and themes randomly arise and recede, with the audience expected to instinctively know their place within the story. Jin-myeong appears to have the ability of foresight through dreams yet it is never made clear while a subplot, possibly involving  his wife and a botched exorcism, is never explained; his subordinate Ji-gwang just seemingly appears during consultations while his supernatural gifts – other than furiously shaking a plant during treatments – are not ascertained; documentary producer Hye-in’s history and motivations are not revealed; and most importantly, there is zero logic in the aimless actions of the vindictive spirit that inhabits Geum-joo. Frustration quickly sets in as characters and events occur randomly, with a re-edit, and much greater elaboration and development, sorely needed.

The search for answers to Geum-joo's affliction takes the team into horrific territory

The search for answers to Geum-joo’s affliction takes the team into horrific territory

While the ghost that inhabits Geum-joo is aggravatingly indiscriminate, the haphazard nature allows director Kim to stage a variety of horror set pieces that are generally well-constructed. While they are cliche and form a story more akin to a series of horror sequences than a coherent whole, the macabre scenes serve to present the tropes expected from the genre. Problematically however, as there are so many sequences of this manner, the impact and effectiveness of the horror is lost as audiences become increasingly immune.

Furthermore, the use of the 1948 Jeju Massacre as the ultimate source of terror within The Chosen is in particularly bad taste. Not that the tragic event doesn’t lend itself well to the genre, but the manner in which the tragedy is employed and interpreted as antiquated and misandrist, in need of purging by contemporary patriarchy and Christianity, is borderline offensive.

Actor Kim Seong-gyoon fares the best as psychologist/exorcist Jin-myeong within The Chosen. His stoic turn as the broad-minded professional halts emotional investment in the journey yet provides a solid foundation from which the events revolve around. The rest of the cast do not prosper as well. Yoo Seon is generally required to run around screaming and crying, while Cha Ye-ryeon and Kim Hye-seong are present merely to appear attractive and little else.

Horrific truths await in the cave

Horrific truths await in the cave

Verdict:

Aside from a solid premise and the occasional well-constructed horror sequence, The Chosen: Forbidden Cave is a big misstep from director Kim Hwi. The events and characters within the film appear and recede indiscriminately throughout the haphazard narrative while any sort of development is a rarity. The Chosen is a frustratingly bland addition to the K-horror scene.

★☆☆☆☆

Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival (제 19회 부천국제판타스틱영화제) Festival News Korean Film Festivals 2015 Reviews

Sunshine (선샤인) – ★★☆☆☆

Sunshine (선샤인)

Sunshine (선샤인)

North Korean refugee Seol-ji (Dana (다나) was a propaganda poster artist for the Dear Leader prior to her escape. Now settled in a district in Seoul with friend Soon-yeong (Lee Mi-so (이미소), Seol-ji works delivering flowers for a fellow refugee and paints during her spare time. Her skill is such that ambitious documentary director Shin-woong (Kang Eun-taek (강은탁) begs to film her and reveal Seol-ji’s talent to the world, yet she is reluctant due to the ramifications for her family should her North Korean identity be discovered. Agreeing to cancel her face on camera, the duo work together to craft a documentary about art yet quickly learn that Seol-ji’s abilities become problematic when asked to construct something original.

Documentary director Shin-woong begs Seol-ji to be his muse

Documentary director Shin-woong begs Seol-ji to be his muse

Sweet and amiable, writer/director Park Jin-soon’s Sunshine is a rare breed of romantic-drama that leaves audiences with a resonating sense of contentment after the credits have run, yet when probed is ultimately found to be lacking in substance.

Helmer/scribe Park Jin-soon is competent at his craft and Sunshine begins in a promisingly quirky and infectious fashion, as eccentric artist Seol-ji and her rather unorthodox lifestyle are introduced alongside documentary director/borderline stalker Shin-woong who’s so desperate to capture her work on film. Their dynamic is enjoyable as Seol-ji’s reluctance to be filmed and Shin-woong’s persistence to do so clash with predictably entertaining results, informing a hint of romance underpinning the proceedings, while the picturesque Jeju Island scenery ensures the film is an attractive one throughout.

On the condition of anonymity Seol-ji agrees to be the subject of the documentary, and from there Sunshine begins its decline into mediocrity, albeit a very genial one.

A burgeoning romance underpins the collaboration

A burgeoning romance underpins the collaboration

As Sunshine continues in charmingly amicable fashion, a host of subplots are interweaved into the narrative yet none are prioritised, compelling or given resolution. The story gently trundles along as the hints of romance that develop between Seol-ji and Shin-woong are given a slight love triangle twist, as Seol-ji struggles to draw anything original, as Shin-woong has problems at work, and so forth. Yet while such issues are featured, exploration simply isn’t present making it difficult to invest in their respective trajectories. The most glaring area this arises is in Seol-ji’s status as a North Korean residing in Seoul. Scant scenes touch upon the issue but in no real depth, aside from some last minute sequences with best friend Soon-yeong.

Sunshine is an enjoyable viewing experience largely due to actress Dana’s charismatic turn as artist Seol-ji. Dana infuses the character with a disarming innocence and vulnerability alongside passion and integrity, making what could have easily been a bland story into an entertaining one.

Shin-woong notices something specia and hiddenl in Seol-ji's work

Shin-woong notices something specia and hiddenl in Seol-ji’s work

Verdict:

Sunshine is an enjoyable romantic drama that leaves audiences content with its genial themes, yet scratching the surface reveals a real lack of substance. Writer/director Park Jin-soon has crafted an amiable and visually attractive story yet one that never explores the host of subplots within, notably regarding North Korean issues. However, Dana’s charismatic performance elevates Sunshine into an entertaining tale.

★★☆☆☆

Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival (제 19회 부천국제판타스틱영화제) Festival News Korean Film Festivals 2015 Reviews

BiFan 2015 – Korean Feature Films Part 2

BiFan 2015BiFan 2015 will run for 10 days from July 16th~26th, and the biggest genre film festival in Asia is bigger than ever.

To celebrate the upcoming extravaganza, here at Hanguk Yeonghwa we are profiling the Korean films due to screened.

In Part 1, we took a look at the K-films present for the closing ceremony as well as within the Bucheon Choice: FeatureWorld Fantastic Cinema, and The Masters categories, respectively.

Here in Part 2 the K-films selected for Vision Express, the rather wordy KAFA+ Next D – “3D, Once Again,” and K-Indie Genre Strikes! are profiled.

To see PART 1 of our BiFan profile, please click here.

Vision Express

Amor (그리울 련) – director Han Cheol-su (한철수)

Hee-yeon's terminal illness doesn't deter boyfriend Tae-woo

Hee-yeon’s terminal illness doesn’t deter Tae-woo

Drama Amor follows the story of terminally ill Hee-yeon who, due to her situation, tries to tell her zookeeper boyfriend Tae-woo to forget about her and move on with his life. Yet one day Tae-woo finds a mysterious woman in a bad situation in a zoo bathroom, and discovers she is related to Hee-yeon.

Antigone (안티고네) – directors Kang Eok-seok (강억석), Kim Sung-pum (김성범), Park Seo-yeon (박서연)

The story of King Yong is told

The story of King Yong is told

Three directors have collaborated together to bring the story of King Yong to the big screen. Judging from the stills that have been released, the period drama has a definite Dogme 95 vibe through the absence of set design. The film retells a classic Greek tragedy, which examines the lives of King Yong and his family as they attempt to flee to Japan.

Purpose of Reunion (동창회의 목적) – director Jeong Dae-man (정대만)

Dong-chul owns a charming bar

Dong-chul owns a charming bar

Director Jeong Dae-man’s entry seems to be one of the more traditional drama offerings that focuses on the complexity of modern relationships. The plot involves Dong-chul, who owns a quaint bar, and wants to hold a reunion. Yet one of his guests is attractive Yujin, and they begin a relationship…but what will his wife say?

Sunshine (선샤인) – director Park Jin-soon (박진순)

Sul-ji is an artistic North Korean exile

Sul-ji is an artistic North Korean exile

Sunshine appears to be the only feature film at BiFan 2015 to explore the division between North and South Korea. The film follows former propaganda designer Sul-ji, now a florist, who is asked to be the subject of a documentary for a down-on-his-luck producer…but what will this mean for her family still north of the border?

KAFA+ Next D – “3D, Once Again”

MAD SAD BAD (신촌좀비만화) – directors Ryoo Seung-wan (류승완), Han Ji-seung (한지승), Kim Tae-yong (김태용)

Ghost (유령)

Ghost (유령)

3D omnibus MAD SAD BAD opened the 2014 Jeonju Int. Film Festival, and features a variety of genres. The best is easily the supernatural drama Picnic by director Kim Tae-yong, while director Ryoo Seung-wan’s thriller Ghost – based on real events of teens who murder due to sns – is also good. Zombie comedy/horror I Saw You by director Han Ji-seung completes the omnibus.

K-Indie Genre Strikes!

12 Deep Red Nights (십이야: 깊고 붉은 열두 개의 밤 Chapter 1) – director Oh In-chun (오인천)

Four horror stories are told in the film

Four horror stories are told in the film

Director Oh In-chun, fresh from 2014 horror/romance Mourning Grave, returns with an omnibus of four chilling stories. Rather than separate tales, the events – titled Driver, PM 11:55, atmosFEAR and The Secret Night – are all interlinked. Director Oh’s film is also intended as the first part of a series of 12 horrors.

Mizo (미조) – director Nam Ki-woong (남기웅)

Mizo and Woo-sang have a violently sexual relatonship

Mizo and Woo-sang have a violently sexual relatonship

Mizo premiered at Jeonju Film Fest 2014. The film depicts the story of a girl left in the trash as a child, who later returns to the area as an adult and forms relationships with the corrupt people living there, preparing her revenge. Mizo is violent and overtly sexual, but then that should come as no surprise from the director of Teenage Hooker Became a Killing Machine.

My Secret Partner (완벽한 파트너) – director Park Heon-soo (박헌수)

Comedy and sex mix to fun effect

Comedy and sex mix to fun effect in this light-hearted take on modern relationships

Also known as Perfect Partner, this raunchy sex-comedy follows a screenwriter and a chef who, due to suffering from a severe lack of inspiration, embark on sexual relationships with their students to help unleash their passions. Yet the young objects of their lust have motivations of their own. Will the controversial relationships prove fruitful?

Ownerless Flower Uhwudong (어우동: 주인 없는 꽃) – director Lee Soo-sung (이수성)

An erotic love triangle features

An erotic love triangle features

Released in January 2015, Ownerless Flower Uhwudong is a rare independent period drama featuring plenty of lust and debauchery through the narrative, which centers on a twisted love triangle amongst the social elite. Director Lee Soo-sung is no stranger to raunchy material having helmed sex comedy Mango Tree in 2013, though his latest marks a big improvement.

Playboy Bong (아티스트 봉만대) – director Bong Man-dae (봉만대)

Tensions arise on the set of an erotic movie

Tensions arise on the set of an erotic movie

Another sexy-comedy to arrive at BiFan 2015 is Playboy Bong. The film explores a film crew that go to Bali to shoot an erotic movie, but the producers are underwhelmed with the early footage. To salvage the film, porn director Bong Man-dae is hired yet when he arrives and begins demanding more erotic scenes, his presence escalates the situation.

Rough Play (배우는 배우다) – director Shin Yeon-shick (신연식)

An actor traverses madness

An actor traverses madness

An unofficial sequel of sorts to Rough Cut, Rough Play premiered at Busan Film Fest in 2013. Written by Kim Ki-duk, the film explores the life of a struggling actor who finally becomes a star, yet as his power rises so does his arrogance, leading to an epic fall from grace. Ironically the film was responsible for catapulting idol star Lee Joon’s popularity, particularly for the inclusion of a bed scene.

The Stone (스톤) – director Cho Se-rae (조세래)

The gentlemen's game of baduk turns violent in the criminal underworld

The gentlemen’s game of baduk turns violent

The Stone combines the criminal underworld with the classic Asian game of baduk. A young genius baduk player uses his skills to hustle local small time gangsters, yet when his ability comes to the attention of a crime boss, the two strike up an unlikely friendship. Through their gentlemanly games, they begin to see the errors of their ways.

To see PART 1 of our BiFan profile, please click here.

For the full BiFan screening schedule, please follow the link here.

Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival (제 19회 부천국제판타스틱영화제) Festival News Korean Film Festivals 2015