Jan 2016 – K-Film Preview

January 7th

Don't Forget Me (나를 잊지 말아요)

Remember You (나를 잊지 말아요)

Remember You (나를 잊지 말아요)

Director: Lee Yoon-jung

Cast: Jeong Woo-sung, Kim Ha-neul

Distributor: CJ Entertainment

Synopsis: When Seok-won loses the past 10 years of his memory due to an accident, he struggles to piece together his existence and discover the life he once had. However upon meeting Jin-young his memories start to return as love blossoms between them.

The Lowdown: Director Lee Yoon-jung developed Remember You from her celebrated short film Remember O Goddess, initially turning to kickstarter to generate funding before superstar Jeong Woo-sung – whom became friends with director Lee while she worked as a script supervisor on The Good, The Bad, The Weird – came on board as both producer and actor. After around two years of production, Remember You is finally being released alongside a significant advertising campaign from distributors CJ.

Catch Him to Survive (잡아야 산다)

Catch Him to Survive (잡아야 산다)

Catch Him to Survive (잡아야 산다)

Director: Oh In-chun

Cast: Kim Seung-woo, Kim Jeong-tae

Distributor: OPUS Pictures

Synopsis: When two friends – one a CEO and the other a police officer – have their phone and gun taken by a group of high school delinquents, they must work together to track down the thieves and recover their stolen goods.

The lowdown: Action-comedy Catch Him to Survive seems quite a departure for director Oh In-chun, who previously impressed with horror-drama Mourning Grave. Judging from the trailer (see below) the film looks set to be a madcap caper with promising chemistry from veteran leads Kim Seung-woo and Kim Jeong-tae (who, ironically, was originally cast in Remember You [see above] before leaving the project due to scheduling conflicts). Catch Him to Survive also marks the big screen debut for four young actors, including Hyuk from Kpop band VIXX.

January 14th

Mood of the Day (그날의 분위기)

Mood of the Day (그날의 분위기)

Mood of the Day (그날의 분위기)

Director: Jo Kyu-jang

Cast: Moon Chae-won, Yoo Yeon-seok

Distributor: Showbox

Synopsis: While on a business trip to Busan, Soo-jung meets lothario Jae-hyun and is instantly repulsed by his suggestion of spending the night together. However when the journey doesn’t go according to plan they are forced to travel together, and the duo find themselves becoming close.

The lowdown: Mood of the Day is another romantic outing for stars Moon Chae-won and Yoo Yeon-seok, who dabbled with the genre in last year’s Love Forecast and Beauty Inside, respectively. Their collaboration appears to be quite a comical take on modern relationships, and it will be interesting to see if director Jo Kyu-jang can avoid the cliches and offer something fresh for audiences.

January

Robot, Sori (로봇, 소리)

Robot, Sori (로봇, 소리)

Robot, Sori (로봇, 소리)

Director: Lee Ho-jae

Cast: Lee Sung-min, Lee Hee-joon, Lee Honey, Chae Soo-bin

Distributor: Lotte Entertainment

Synopsis: Tragically, Hae-gwan lost his daughter 10 years ago although he refuses to give up on finding the youngster again. Unbeknownst to the distraught father is that an AI satellite with voice-recognition capabilities is circling the globe, and upon crash landing in Korea, helps Hae-gwan to be reunited with his daughter.

The lowdown: With a narrative that is particularly reminiscent of animated tale Satellite Girl and Milk Cow, Robot Sori looks set to be a heart-warming family sci-fi drama. Lee Sung-min has starred in a staggering number of films and TV drama series since his debut, though his star power increased dramatically following his turn in hit TV show Missing, resulting in his lead role in Robot Sori.

A Melody to Remember (오빠 생각)

A Melody to Remember (오빠 생각)

A Melody to Remember (오빠 생각)

Director: Lee Han

Cast: Siwan, Ko Ah-sung

Distributor: Next World Entertainment

Synopsis: As war ravages Korea during the early 1950s, Second Lieutenant Han Sang-Yeol discovers a village while leading his platoon. Moved by the children of the village who have lost everything, Sang-yeol vows to protect them.

The lowdown: Director Lee Han is back in cinemas after helming impressive family dramas Punch and Thread of Lies, though this outing sees the filmmaker tackling war as a major component. Featuring Siwan, whose star power is steadily rising following roles in The Attorney and TV drama Misaeng, A Melody to Remember – or more literally translated as Thinking of my Older Brother – looks to be a war-era tear-jerker.

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The amesiac man (Kim Jeong-tae (김정태) attempts to (re-)discover his identity

Remember O Goddess (나를 잊지 말아요) – ★★★★☆

Remember O Goddess (나를 잊지 말아요)

Remember O Goddess (나를 잊지 말아요)

One of the most fundamental ideological features of Korean cinema is alienation, yet the topic is almost always at the fringes of the narrative, accepted as a commonplace backdrop against which the protagonists reside. Oh Dae-su was sadistically kidnapped, imprisoned, and isolated for years in Seoul in Oldboy; Mr. Kim attempted suicide due to the stress of city life, and found a private paradise in Castaway on the Moon; and Yang Mi-ja expressed her loneliness and repressed passion through art in Poetry. Yet in each instance it was not their loneliness that drove the narrative forward, despite the central role in which it played in characterization.

In Remember O Goddess (나를 잊지 말아요) director Lee Yoon-jung explores the concept of alienation in conjunction with identity in contemporary Seoul, constructing a fascinating and enthralling psychological noir that exemplifies the incredible quality of Korean independent cinema. The delicately nuanced scenes, the intellectual-yet-comedic dissection of contemporary identity, as well as an arguably career-best performance by lead actor Kim Jeong-tae (김정태), combine to create a 25 minute short film that easily surpasses the majority of feature length productions.

The amesiac man (Kim Jeong-tae (김정태) attempts to (re-)discover his identity

The amesiac man (Kim Jeong-tae (김정태) attempts to (re-)discover his identity

N.B. Before reading the review, you can watch the 25 minute short film at the official website here.

Remember O Goddess is a sophisticatedly crafted, character-driven study of a man searching for his identity. Rather than focus on bombastic or shocking scenes, director Lee Yoon-jung emphasizes the subtleties of the protagonists’ dilemma as he attempts to piece together his fractured self. The manner in which this occurs is part-satire and part-capitalist critique as the man scours his belongings for clues, investigating the most minor details in order to discover what kind of man he truly is. This leads to moments both comedic, as he attempts to (re)discover smoking, and poignant, as he silently stares at the vast and densely populated cityscape before him.

Relationships are also wonderfully deconstructed throughout the film, as the man desperately clings to any form of connection that his circumstances allow. Yet in doing so he highlights the artificiality of contemporary relationships, as well as the (im)personal barriers and the impatience of citizens. Such artifice is eloquently interrogated as those in the service industries are polite yet superficially so, rapidly displaying frustration at the man’s naivety and innocence. Director Lee Yoon-jung showcases her skill during such delicately nuanced scenes – including the relationship with the female store clerk, and a comedically tragic phone call – conveying a plethora of visual and narrative motifs and emotions that define the existence of a contemporary city lifestyle.

The man attempts to forge a relationship with a convenience store worker

The man attempts to forge a relationship with a convenience store worker

It is not an exaggeration to say that in his role as the amnesiac man, Kim Jeong-tae is absolutely sublime. His performance is staggering and conveys an actor fully dedicated to inhabiting the role, as his subtle mannerisms and awkwardness highlight the intense vulnerability of a man pushed to the brink of desperation. Whether the scene involves reporting himself as a missing person or merely attempting to acquire the date, Kim Jeong-tae simultaneously exhibits fragility, curiosity, loneliness and anguish seemingly effortlessly.

The man stares at the vast cityscape in which he inhabits

The man stares at the vast cityscape in which he inhabits

Despite such high-level praise, Remember O Goddess suffers from one minor issue. This is not related to any of the creative talents involved in producing the film; the reason is, rather superficially, due to the limiting running time. The film is clearly a prelude of a feature film, awash with potential that literally demands further exploration which a greater time limit would allow. As such the film functions as an introductory segment of a promising narrative, a declarative showcase of the talent the conglomeration of individuals are capable of.

This is where you can help. Director Lee Yoon-jung is seeking funding to produce the feature-length version of Remember O Goddess via kickstarter. Please visit the website here to read all the information and to donate to the project. The film is clearly well worth supporting and the cast and crew are fully committed to the production, with all money raised going into the production itself.

★★★★☆

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