Who is the mysterious new tenant?

You Are My Vampire (그댄 나의 뱀파이어) – ★★☆☆☆

You Are My Vampire (그댄 나의 뱀파이어)

You Are My Vampire (그댄 나의 뱀파이어)

Struggling screenwriter Nam Gyu-jeong (Choi Yoon-yeong (최윤영) has multiple dilemmas to contend with. She has a huge crush on her best friend’s boyfriend, the local police officer; her divorced parents are both behaving mysteriously; her laptop has died and she cant afford to replace it; and a disquieting, black-clad new tenant has begun staying in her father’s building. As Gyu-jeong begins researching for her next project involving a vampiric protagonist, she becomes convinced that the enigmatic stranger known as Gang Nam-girl (Park Jeong-sik (박정식) is also a bloodsucker due to his aversion to sunlight and distaste for garlic…or he could be just plain weird. As Gyu-jeong seeks the truth about Nam-girl and the assortment of people in her life, the comical situations that arise help her to discover the path of love is often far from smooth.

Who is the mysterious new tenant?

Who is the mysterious new tenant?

You Are My Vampire (그댄 나의 뱀파이어) is a quirky romantic comedy that is unfortunately lacking in both areas. The comedic scenes that emerge throughout the course of the film are entertaining enough to be smile inducing – for example the mystery man’s name is Gang Nam-girl (Gangnam girl) – yet rarely offers more, while the burgeoning romance between Gyu-jeong and her ‘vampire’ is forced to the point of being contrived. The reason for this ultimately belongs to array of supporting characters who number far too many, and director Lee Won-hoi’s (이원회) desire to give each of them a narrative arc forces You Are My Vampire into a film comprised of a series of vignettes rather than a compelling whole with a strong emotional core. The rom-com does display hints of the madcap narrative devices that made How to Use Guys With Secret Tips such a thrill, but unfortunately they never extend into something provoking the same kind of enjoyment.

Gyu-jeong wears quirky clothes while selling side dishes to get Nam-girl's attention and discover his secrets

Gyu-jeong wears quirky clothes while selling side dishes to get Nam-girl’s attention and discover his secrets

While the comedy tends to prompt titters rather than laughs, You Are My Vampire also offers some stimulating social issues through the supporting cast. Gyu-jeong’s parents are divorced yet remain friends, and the jokes that arise between the three of them are refreshing compared to traditional Korean rom-com fare. Similarly Gyu-jeong’s crush on her best friend’s boyfriend and the resulting dilemmas are conveyed without the pretense and melodrama inherent in other stories, while Nam-girl’s sad history and the storyline involving Bangladeshi friend Mabub are welcome. However, Mabub is also the victim of a racially offensive joke regarding his armpit odor, which is uncalled for and very disappointing. As the comedy gently continues, You Are My Vampire falls into the trap that often blights Korean rom-coms by incorporating a heavy dose of melodrama to force narrative closure. It’s an unnecessary addition, but luckily director Lee quickly moves focus back to the central couple and their unconventional attraction to each other.

WIth all the mysteries going on, can Gyu-jeong and Nam-girl get it together?

WIth all the mysteries going on, can Gyu-jeong and Nam-girl get it together?

You Are My Vampire (그댄 나의 뱀파이어) attempts to capitalise on contemporary culture’s fascination with supernatural love stories, by offering a decidedly quirky rom-com between a struggling screenwriter and man who displays all the hallmarks of vampirism. Director Lee Won-hoi (이원회) employs quite gentle comedy throughout that provokes sniggers rather than laughs, while the over-abundant supporting cast force the film into a series of vignettes rather than a compelling whole. While the approach to social issues is refreshing, the contrivances and lack of strong emotional core make the rom-com a mildly entertaining experience.

★★☆☆☆

Festival News Jeonju International Film Festival (제15회 전주국제영화제) Korean Festivals 2014 Reviews
The 15th Jeonju International Film Festival

JIFF 2014: Korean Competition

The 15th Jeonju International Film Festival

The 15th Jeonju International Film Festival

The Korean Competition at the Jeonju International Film Festival (JIFF) always contains a selection of rare gems of independent cinema.

Last year the big winner of the competition was December which was honoured with the Grand Prize, while Dear Dolphin and Lebanon Emotion won the CGV Movie Collage Awards, respectively. The Audience Critics Prize went to documentary My Place. Interestingly, out of all of the winning films the most successful were Lebanon Emotion – which earned Jung Young-heon the Best Director prize at the Moscow International Film Festival as well as appearing in Vancouver and London – and My Place, which has earned several domestic accolades including the Jury Prize at the Seoul International Film Festival and was invited to the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Film Festival.

At JIFF 2014 there are eleven films vying for the coveted Grand Prize. Among the eight features and three documentaries are nine world premieres, which is certainly an impressive lineup. Below is the Korean Competition trailer which features highlights from all the entrants, before more detailed profiles of each film in the program.

Korean Competition

A Dream of Iron (철의 꿈)

Director Park (Kelvin) Kyung Kun (박경근)

A Dream of Iron

A Dream of Iron

A Dream of Iron

A Dream of Iron

Documentary A Dream of Iron arrives as the most celebrated film in the category following a premiere at Berlinale and being awarded the NETPAC prize (alongside Non-Fiction Diary). Unable to understand his partner’s decision to become a Buddhist monk, director Park begins searching for something tangible and awe-inspiring, leading him to Korea’s POSCO steelworks. Contrasting differing ideas of religion and majesty, A Dream of Iron contains stunning cinematography of the country’s struggle with modernity.

A Fresh Start (새출발)

Director Jang Woo-jin (장우진)

A Fresh Start

A Fresh Start

A Fresh Start

A Fresh Start

A Fresh Start marks director Jang Woo-jin’s  feature debut. The film depicts youngsters Ji-yeon and Hye-rin, two lonely individuals who meet regularly at a literature club. When their relationship unexpectedly turns sexual, everything is fine…until Hye-rin discovers that she is pregnant. With both of them already suffering from family-related problems, school issues and the all-too-common depression that afflicts Korean youth, Hye-rin and Ji-yeon struggle with what they should do in such a difficult situation. Furthermore their unsure feelings towards each other are forced into the spotlight as they struggle to find a solution.

Highway Stars (악사들)

Director Kim Ji-gon (김지곤)

Highway Stars

Highway Stars

Highway Stars

Highway Stars

Highway Stars is another documentary entry in the competition, following the life and times of Band Udambara. The ensemble are a fascinating group consisting of former nightclub performers and a Buddhist monk, and the film explores how they make a living by taking night gigs. Nightclubs, it should be noted, are different from clubs in Korea as they are extremely male orientated and often are fronts for illegal activity. Director Kim Ji-gon, whose documentary Grandma Cement-Garden appeared at JIFF last year, returns to explore more individuals forced to the margins of society.

Miss the Train (미성년)

Director Lee Kyung-sub (이경섭)

Miss the Train

Miss the Train

Miss the Train

Miss the Train

Director Lee Kyung-sub has previously helmed a number of short films including last year’s JIFF Cinemascape entry Mr. Vertigo, starring Oh Dal-su. With Miss the Train director Lee upgrades to feature length in depicting the story of So-jin, who grieves the death of her mother, a former shaman. When a strange man forces So-jin to help him find his missing child as he believes she is part of a prophecy, she desperately seeks an escape from the pressures in her life. Yet when she runs away to lie low in a warehouse, she encounters another odd man, and her grasp on reality becomes evermore tenuous as spirits seem to appear before her.

Monkeys (몽키즈)

Director Jung Byeong-sik (정병식)

Monkeys

Monkeys

Monkeys

Monkeys

Monkeys is Jung Byeong-sik’s directorial debut, after working on other films including 2012’s A Confession of Murder and Action Boys in 2006. Monkeys revolves around Gong-hyeok, a man who once had future ambitions of becoming renowned in the music and film industry. Yet now in his late twenties and in dire need to support his family, Gong-hyeok is still no closer to achieving his dreams. Yet when he reconnects with an old friend who has just debuted as a film director, Gong-hyeok cannot help himself and old quarrels suddenly start to reappear and drive a wedge between them. The film is in both colour and black and white.

One For All, All For One (60만번의 트라이)

Director s Park Sa-yu (박사유), Park Don-sa (박돈사)

One For All, All For One

One For All, All For One

One For All, All For One

One For All, All For One

Issues of discrimination are of paramount concern in rugby drama One For All, All For One. The sporting film depicts a Korean rugby team in Osaka who are very successful despite encountering prejudice from society at large. However their indomitable spirits and strong sense of camaraderie help them to overcome any discrimination that comes their way. Sporting dramas are often quite successful in Korea especially as they typically involve national pride, particularly when the opponents are Japanese. Director Park Don-sa is a third generation Korean living in Osaka, while director Park Sa-yu has focused on discrimination against Koreans in Japan in her previous work.

Pohang Harbor (포항)

Director Mo Hyun-shin (모현신)

Pohang Harbor

Pohang Harbor

Pohang Harbor

Pohang Harbor

Drama Pochang Harbor explores the notions of life and death, in conjunction with human development and behaviour, in what looks set to be the most experimental offering in the category. When his father mysteriously goes missing, a man returns to his hometown in order to find him. Yet the man also has alternative reasons for coming home. Following years of working dead-end labour jobs and not settling any roots, the man is searching for something more than the life he has forged. In her feature debut director Mo Hyun-shin employs a host of long shots and keen cinematography to examine the human condition.

Sookhee (숙희)

Director Yang Ji-eun (양지은)

Sookhee

Sookhee

Sookhee

Sookhee

Sookhee tells the story of a conservative, workaholic philosophy professor named Yoon. Unable to take the stress any longer Yoon suffers a stroke and, as his wife is unable to cope, a free-spirited caregiver named Sookhee nurses him to health. Yet her treatments are far from orthodox as she employs a mixture of kindness, fear, and sexual excitement to force Yoon on the road to recovery. Furthermore, the maternal instincts she employs enact a dramatic reversal of traditional gender roles, provoking extreme reactions from the once uptight philosophy professor. Sookhee is director Yang Ji-eun’s first feature film and due to the exploration of sexual issues is described as a ‘daring debut.’

The Wicked (마녀)

Director Yoo Young-seon (유영선)

The Wicked

The Wicked

The Wicked

The Wicked

The competition would be lacking without a new thriller, and luckily director Yoo Young-soon’s debut The Wicked fulfills the criteria. When Se-yeong begins working at a company, her senior I-seon quickly becomes concerned. Se-yeong’s threatening behaviour, as well as her fascination for sharp objects ranging from scissors to small knives, frightens I-seon…particularly as she learns more about her new colleagues unsavory past. Could Se-yeong truly be as wicked as she seems?

The Youth (레디 액션 청춘)

Directors Kim Jin-moo (김진무), Park Ga-hee (박가희), Ju Seong-su (주성수), Jung Won-sik (정원식)

The Youth - Wonderwall

The Youth – Wonderwall

The Youth - Play Girl

The Youth – Play Girl

The Youth is an omnibus of four short stories, each one exploring the lives of Korean youths. The segments are entitled The Rumor, Wonderwall, Enemies All Around, and Playgirl. Within each short film the directors examine the worlds of Korean youngsters as they struggle to discover their identities as well as retain their innocence and hope, even when facing external issues including violence and peer pressure. Director Kim Jin-moo is a hot property after the release of Apostle, a film based on North Korean human rights issues. The film was even selected for overseas screenings at the UN. Furthermore directors Park Ga-hee and Jung Won-sik all have a history in helming shorts, while Ju Seong-su has previously worked in the production departments of several features.

You Are My Vampire (그댄 나의 뱀파이어)

Director Lee Won-hoi (이원회)

You Are My Vampire

You Are My Vampire

You Are My Vampire

You Are My Vampire

Quirky romantic-comedy-drama You Are My Vampire seeks to capitalise on supernatural relationships that are so popular in contemporary culture. Director Lee Won-hoi employs a playful and energetic style in depicting the story of struggling screenwriter Gyu-jeong, who encounters a mysterious black-clad figure who bears an uncanny resemble to a vampire…or he could just be the strangest man she’s ever met. The film features an eclectic supporting cast who, to Gyu-jeong’s dismay, also begin behaving strangely after the arrival of the pale-skinned man.

Festival News Jeonju International Film Festival (제15회 전주국제영화제) Korean Festivals 2014