Scenes that require depth have the greatest impact in Screen X

The X (더 엑스) – N/A

The X (더 엑스)

The X (더 엑스)

Commissioned by film production powerhouse CJ CGV, short film The X (더 엑스) has been specifically created with the purpose of experimenting with Screen X technology. By utilising the space either side of the screen, Screen X intends for films to be a more immersive experience for audiences.

In order to fully explore the possibilities offered by the technology, famed director Kim Jee-woon (김지운) has been brought on board to helm the short film, while stars Kang Dong-won, Shin Min-ah, and E Som fill the roles within the spy thriller. The story itself is intended as a tongue-in-cheek parody of the spy sub-genre, and in all honesty is rather inconsequential. Ultimately The X is intended as an experiment, and as such it deifies review. Instead, it is more apt to discuss the pros and cons of Screen X technology, as director Kim and his team only somewhat succeed  in exploiting the extra space they have been afforded.

New camera technology allows for a more immersive experience

New camera technology allows for a more immersive experience

The Good

Screen X is indeed an immersive experience when employed correctly. One of the earliest scenes features Kang Dong-won in a room filled with light reflected from a ’70s disco ball, and when the screen expands to envelop the audience it does truly feel like being within the film itself. There are two or three shots such as this within The X, and in each case the film looked quite stunning as the extra depth generated genuinely creates a feeling of immersion within the events on screen.

By director Kim’s own admission during a press conference at BIFF 2013, there was only one particular sequence he focused on within the film, and it shows. The car chase sequence is short but thrilling, as motorcycles and cars weave through all three of the screens and into adjacent areas, with the action flowing well throughout. Director Kim’s incredible vision for action is fully on display during these scenes, and as villains are mown down in hails of bullets their bodies and motorcycles fly from one screen to the next. The manner in which such devices are executed allows the audience to follow the carnage naturally, before moving back to the action on the central screen. While short, it’s an impressive sequence that utilises the technology well.

Action scenes tend to stay centrally located, rather than exploit the extra space

Action scenes tend to stay centrally located, rather than exploit the extra space

The Bad

The chief issue with The X is that director Kim hasn’t adjusted his directing skills in order to fully exploit what Screen X technology provides. The story and action are continually centrally located, and when the side screens suddenly appear it is extremely jarring and pulls the audience from the film easily. Throughout The X this is a key problem, as rather than gradually guide the audience from one screen to another, the impromptu flash of a new screen unexpectedly appearing is quite frustrating and distracting. Moreover what often appears on the peripheral screens is of little importance anyway. When Agent Fingers (E Som) uses her computer, for example, images of her PC screen appear on the outer cinema screens – extremely odd considering she is looking it in the central area. As such, several members of the audience complained they didn’t know where to look, or what action to follow.

Another issue with Screen X is actually within the cinema itself. Unless a cinema is equipped with the two additional (angled) side screens, the film must be projected onto the walls of the room. This may seem a minor quibble, however in attempting to follow a story from one area of the room to another the 90 degree angles of the cinema walls made the transitions awkward and interrupted the flow. This also begs further questions as to whether cinema chains will want to refit screens to provide such an experience or, perhaps more importantly, if other directors will wish to use the medium in the first place to justify such expenditure.

Currently Screen X is an interesting concept, although at this early stage is somewhat gimmicky. However the same was said of 3D and 4DX once upon a time, and it will be interesting to see whether industry professionals decide to take the technology a step further and make it a permanent feature of the cinema-going experience.

Scenes that require depth have the greatest impact in Screen X

Scenes that require depth have the greatest impact in Screen X

Verdict:

The X is ultimately a technological experiment rather than a short film. Commissioned by CJ CGV and directed by auteur Kim Ji-woon, the production is intended as a showcase for Screen X technology which employs two additional, peripheral screens. Aside from an impressive car chase and one of two key shots, director Kim and his team generally fail to exploit the potential offered by Screen X making it feel somewhat gimmicky, although time will tell if the industry adopts what’s on offer.

Busan International Film Festival (제18회 부산국제영화제) Festival News Korean Festivals 2013
The 18th Busan International Film Festival

BIFF 2013: Gala Presentation, New Currents, and Open Cinema

The 18th Busan International Film Festival

The 18th Busan International Film Festival

With the 18th Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) due to commence on October the 3rd, it’s high time to profile the Korean entries that are due to be screened.

Three of the big categories at BIFF – Gala Presentation, New Currents, and Open Cinema – showcase some of the incredible mainstream and independent films to emerge from the Korean film industry this year.

Gala Presentation focuses on a select group of important films from the Asian continent, and within this category are two Korean films – Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer (설국열차) and Kim Jee-woon’s The X (더 엑스).

New Currents, meanwhile, explores some of the more powerful independent features to emerge from the continent. The manner in which the films within this category delve into social and cultural issues, often through experimentation of film form, make it one of the more fascinating areas. Three Korean films – 10 Minutes (10분), Steel Cold Winter (소녀) and Pascha (파스카) – appear, and receive their world premieres at BIFF 2013.

Rounding out the three, Open Cinema selects films to be presented on the Busan Cinema Center’s impressive outdoor screen. Two big thrillers from Korea are within the category – Cold Eyes (감시자들) and The Terror Live (더 테러 라이브).

Please see below for more in-depth coverage of each film.

Gala Presentation

The class system on the train is kept in check by sinister matriach Mason

The class system on the train is kept in check by sinister matriach Mason

Snowpiercer (설국열차) – Director Bong Joon-ho (봉준호)

Bong Joon-ho’s science-fiction epic was released in Korea earlier this year, earning over nine million admissions and over $50 million at the box office. For many foreign visitors to BIFF 2013 this will be their first opportunity to see the film before it’s released in international markets, so it’s placement within the Gala Presentation category is quite deserved. Snowpiercer is also notable as (currently) the most expensive Korean film ever made, as well as having Hollywood behemoth The Weinstein Company on board producing. The film tells the story of the last survivors on Earth following a man-made ice age that covered the planet. The last remnants of humanity struggle to survive on a train called ‘Snowpiercer’ which circumnavigates the globe every year. Yet within the train an unfair class system has emerged, and a revolution begins between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots.’ For the review of Snowpiercer, please click here.

The X (더 엑스)

The X (더 엑스)

The X (더 엑스) – Director Kim Jee-woon (김지운)

New camera technology allows for a more immersive experience

New camera technology allows for a more immersive experience

Screen X technology has been employed and experimented with in Kim Jee-woon’s latest film The X. Commissioned by cinema chain CGV, director Kim has used screen x – which allows for extra space on either side of the screen for a more immersive viewing experience – to produce this new 30 minute short action/thriller film. The X also features an all-star cast with Kang Dong-won, Shin Min-ah, and E Som in the lead roles which is guaranteed to arouse interest amongst their respective fan bases.

New Currents

10 Minutes (10분)

10 Minutes (10분)

10 Minutes (10분) – Director Lee Yong-seung (이용승)

10 Minutes is concerned with examining the notoriously harsh environment of the Korean workplace. The story follows a  young intern as he enters employment at a government facility, and is promised a full-time position that will guarantee financial stability. Yet when his boss promotes someone else into the position, the young man is forced to reevaluate his options. 10 Minutes is director Lee Yong-seung’s thesis film while at the Dankook Graduate School of Cinematic Content.

Steel Cold Winter (소녀)

Steel Cold Winter (소녀)

Steel Cold Winter (소녀) – Director Choi Jin-seong (최진성)

Steel Cold Winter is Choi Jin-seong’s first fiction film, after spending years helming successful documentaries. The film depcits the story of high schooler Yoon-soo who moves to the mountains in Gangwon Province following his friend’s suicide. Yet while he attempts to start a new life, he meets a mysterious girl called Hae-won and begins to fall in love. However Hae-won has a secret and when her father suddenly disappears, Yoon-soo’s suspicions become aroused.

Ga-eul's relationship with 17 year old Joseph is quite a scandal

Ga-eul’s relationship with 17 year old Joseph is quite a scandal

Pascha (파스카) – Director Ahn Seon-kyoung (안선경)

Director Ahn’s Pascha tells the story of a lonely 40 year old screenwriter and her 17 year old boyfriend. Their unconventional relationship, and penchant for adopting stray cats, is fine until some unexpected news forces the intervention of their families. The pressure exerted on the couple results in plenty of judgement and heartache, as they must try to find a way to stay together. Pascha could perhaps be an interesting and more feminist orientated companion piece with last year’s A Muse (은교), which explored similar themes with an older man and young girl.

Open Cinema

Rookie Yoon-jo must learn to observe and recall everything on a mission

Rookie Yoon-jo must learn to observe and recall everything on a mission

Cold Eyes (감시자들) – Directors Jo Eui-seok (조의석), Kim Byeong-seo (김병서)

A remake of Hong Kong thriller Eye in the Sky (2006), cat-and-mouse cop drama Cold Eyes performed very well upon its release over the summer. The film is a slick and high-tech thrill-ride, featuring an impressively futuristic rendition of Seoul as a government surveillance team works day and night to catch professional criminals. Cold Eyes depicts the story of talented rookie Yoon-joo (Han Hyo-joo) who joins a special division headed by Chief Hwang (Sol Kyeong-gu). Their mission is to apprehend a group of professional thieves and their mastermind ‘Shadow’ (Jeong Woo-seong). The A-list cast have all been superbly cast against the types of roles they usually portray, and the result is a highly engaging thriller.

Exploiting the opportunity to become a news anchor, Yeong-hwa begins to regret his decision

Exploiting the opportunity to become a news anchor, Yeong-hwa begins to regret his decision

The Terror Live (더 테러 라이브) – Director Kim Byeong-woo (김병우)

The Terror Live was one of the surprise hits of the summer, notably going toe-to-toe with Snowpiercer and still gaining a large proportion of the audience. The reasons are quite clear as the thriller is a well-crafted and suspense-filled, as well as striking a chord with Korean audiences due to governmental criticism within. Superstar Ha Jeong-woo plays disgraced TV anchor Yeong-hwa, who has been demoted to radio due to a scandal. When a terrorist calls the radio show threatening to blow up a bridge, his bluff is called, and shortly thereafter an explosion occurs. Set entirely within a newsroom, The Terror Live is one of the more interesting thrillers in recent memory. For the review of The Terror Live, please click here.

Busan International Film Festival (제18회 부산국제영화제) Festival News Korean Festivals 2013