Lee Byung-hun’s Comeback ‘Memories of the Sword (협녀: 칼의 기억)’ Gets English Subtitled Trailer

Memories of the Sword (협녀: 칼의 기억)

Memories of the Sword (협녀: 칼의 기억)

Martial arts period drama Memories of the Sword has finally received a teaser trailer with English subtitles.

Originally set for release at the end of 2014, the film was reportedly delayed due to the blackmail scandal involving Lee Byung-hun, yet as the issue has now subsided an August 2015 date has been announced.

The swordplay epic follows the exploits of three warriors during the Goryeo dynasty who instigate an uprising, yet when their plan is finally set to achieve fruition master swordsman Deok-gi (Lee Byung-hun) betrays his comrades. To escape his wrath, Seol-rang (Jeon Do-yeon) flees with her young daughter to a place he can never find them. Eighteen years later, Deok-gi has positioned himself as a powerful ruler while Seol-rang – now blind – trains her daughter Seol-hee (Kim Go-eun) in ways of martial arts, preparing to exact her bloody revenge.

Directed and co-written by Park Heung-sik – who previously worked with Jeon Do-yeon on My Mother the Mermaid (2004) and I Wish I Had A Wife (2001) – Memories of the Sword will be a real test of the combined star power of three of Korea’s top tier actors, as well as a good indicator as to whether Korean cinema-goers have gotten over Lee’s transgressions.

MotS Kim Go-eun

MotS Kim Go-eun

MotS Lee Byeong-heon

MotS Lee Byeong-heon

MotS Jeon Do-yeon

MotS Jeon Do-yeon

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Bungee Jumping of Their Own (번지점프를 하다) – ★★★★☆

Bungee Jumping of Their Own (번지점프를 하다)

Bungee Jumping of Their Own (번지점프를 하다)

Romantic dramas are one of the most highly produced genres within the Korean entertainment industry, with the films and TV dramas continual hits throughout South-East Asian countries. As such, there is enormous pressure to provide audiences with the predictable pleasures offered by the generic conventions, but to also offer something different, something fresh, to keep the story engaging.

Bungee Jumping of Their Own (번지점프를 하다) is such a film. Directed by Kim Dae-seung (김대승), the first act is a rather bland and predictable effort yet truly shines during later scenes. This is due to not only the alternative approach in exploring traditional notions of romance, but also notably the manner in which homosexual relationships are explored – and judged – within Korean society. Despite the grammatically incorrect title, Bungee Jumping of Their Own is an original and fresh take on the genre, and leaves a lasting impression long after the credits roll.

In a traditional tale of boy meets girl, university student Seo In-woo (Lee Byeong-Heon (이병헌) finds the girl of his dreams during a rainstorm. Luckily for him, In Tae-hee (Lee Eun-joo (이은주) also studies at the same institute and they develop a deep and lasting romance. However, In-woo’s mandatory two year military service approaches and on the day of his departure, Tae-hee doesn’t appear. Several years later In-woo, now married  and a father, is a teacher at a high school in Seoul. For a reason he can’t explain, he finds himself drawn to one of his male students Im Hyeon-bin (Yeo Hyeon-soo (여현수), and his repressed memories of his love with Tae-hee begin to unexpectedly resurface.

Tae-hee and In-woo meet during a rainstorm

Tae-hee and In-woo meet during a rainstorm

The opening of the film wonderfully captures the awkwardness of the first meeting between two lovers. Director Kim Dae-seung’s style, clearly influenced by his time as assistant director to Im Kwon-taek, shines through as the couple exchange nervous glances in the rain without daring to speak. In-woo’s longing to see Tae-hee again and to say something – anything – is palpable, and the intensity of his emotions are conveyed expertly through Lee Byeong-Heon’s performance. Unfortunately however, after such a compelling opening Bungee Jumping of Their Own takes a turn for the worse as the relationship between the central couple develops in a haphazard and erratic fashion, so much so that it undermines the romance altogether. Chiefly this is due to the lack of tender moments that bring Tae-hee and In-woo together naturally, as well as the editing which wildly jumps time frames to disorientating effect. In-woo is also much more of a stalker than a love-lorn young man, as he simply follows Tae-hee and waits in her classes despite studying a different subject. Therefore when the couple do finally come together it feels forced rather than passionate, although this trend does alter slightly as In-woo’s military service approaches.

Where Bungee Jumping of Their Own really comes into its own is when In-woo is an adult, teaching at a high school. Married and a father, In-woo is an excellent teacher who commands the respect of his students through mutual respect and trust. Interestingly the film shares focus between him and one his students, Hyeon-bin, who is in a similar situation with his girlfriend as Tae-hee and In-woo all those years ago. The relationship between teacher and student is developed well as both men become increasingly closer, sparking a host of rumours throughout the school as to the nature of their connection. The narrative therefore alters into an exploration of the acceptance – or more precisely, the lack of acceptance – of homosexuality. The name-calling, graffiti, and other homophobic devices employed by those within the school are genuinely unsettling, whilst at the center both In-woo and Hyeon-bin feel a mutual attraction that neither can fully explain or understand.

In-woo becomes a high school teacher in adulthood

In-woo becomes a high school teacher in adulthood

The manner in which In-woo attempts to address his desires for Hyeon-bin are a mixture of amusement, sadness and horror as he desperately seeks to assert his hetero-masculinity and retain his identity. Yet despite his efforts, In-woo’s longing for Hyeon-bin is sincere and poignant, and clearly uncontrollable. In each instance it is the incredible acting prowess of Lee Byeong-heon that conveys such potency as a man confused about his sexuality and the resurgence of past memories, with each gesture and action contributing in the conveyance of his adoration and reluctance. Indeed, one of the actor’s greatest assets is his eyes for when he looks at Hyeon-bin the pure sincerity of his love is keenly apparent, arguably much more so than during scenes with Tae-hee. While Yeo Hyeon-soo provides a competent performance as the student love interest, Bungee Jumping of Their Own is a testament to Lee Byeon-heon’s acting ability. As for Lee Eun-joo, the actress gives a radiant, almost otherworldly performance as Tae-hee. Such an approach could easily be conveyed as aloof arrogance but she grounds the shyness and reluctance of the character well and, combined with her staggering beauty, it is impossible not to be moved. The knowledge of Lee Eun-joo’s untimely death prior to watching the film also adds an air of tragedy to an already poignant romantic drama.

In-woo finds himself increasingly attracted to student Hyeon-bin

Hyeon-bin finds himself increasingly attracted to student Hyeon-bin

Verdict:

While the first act may be the stuff of traditional generic romantic dramas, Bungee Jumping of Their Own genuinely shines when it rejects such conventions and explores the notions of love through its alternative and quite original perspective. Director Kim Dae-seung conveys the majesty and romance of scenes as well as the difficulties of smaller more intimate moments, while Lee Byeong-heon is excellent as a sexually confused love-lore figure. Bungee Jumping of Their Own is an entertaining and thought-provoking film, one which will certainly reverberate with audiences long after the final credits roll.

★★★★☆

Reviews
Sistar performed some of their hits and dance routines to an adoring crowd

The 17th Busan International Film Festival

BIFF 2012 at Haeundae (해운대) Beach

BIFF 2012 at Haeundae (해운대) Beach

While most film festivals promote themselves as bigger and better every year, the 17th installment of the Busan International Film Festival is certainly living up to the hype. With the first non-Korean hosting the opening ceremony in the form of Chinese actress Tang Wei, with the festival spread out across 10 days (as opposed to 9 in 2011), and with 132 world and international premieres, BIFF 2012 has done an incredible job in cementing itself as one of the key film festivals throughout Asia. The popularity of this years installment is acutely visible, as online tickets sold out rapidly whilst the 20% allocation at the event disappeared by mid-morning.

There were a lot of events to be had during the opening weekend of BIFF 2012. While Haeundae Beach was the host for several interviews and performances, the screenings themselves also often sported Q & A sessions with directors, producers and/or the stars themselves to an unprecedented degree in BIFF’s history. It was also common to walk into or past coffee shops and see film-makers meeting and conversing, creating a very relaxed atmosphere with their approachable demeanor.

On Friday the 5th, a private party was held for those that work within the film industry as well as journalists, while the cast of Kim Ki-duk‘s latest feature, the incredibly successful Pieta (피에타), were also in attendance.

Actress Jo Yeo-jeong co-hosts the Lotte Red Secret Party

Actress Jo Yeo-jeong co-hosts the Lotte Red Secret Party

Saturday the 6th saw two events take place. The Lotte Night Party – Red Secret was hosted by The Servant (방자전) actress Jo Yeo-Jeong and gave awards to those who had contributed significantly over the past year. Among those receiving awards were notable screenwriters and actors, including host Jo Yeo-Jeong and A Muse (은교) actress Kim Go-eun (김고은). Also in attendance were actor/director Yoo Ji-tae (유지태) and his wife, as well as Ahn Seong-gi (안성기), and former BIFF director Kim Dong-ho (김동호). Yet the most memorable event at the Red Secret party was the arrival of now-global-megastar Psy, who performed several of his hits as well as the groundbreaking Gangnam Style to a rapturous crowd.

Psy performs for the emphatic crowd

Psy performs for the emphatic crowd

The second party of the night was held by CJ Entertainment, and the style was markedly different.

Sistar performed some of their hits and dance routines to an adoring crowd

Sistar performed some of their hits and dance routines to an adoring crowd

In terms of performers parody group The Wonderboys were amazing fun as well as providing some great music to warm up the crowd for the main act – Kpop superstars Sistar. The quartet sang some of their most famous hits accompanied by their signature dance moves that had the crowd chanting their names. In attendance were a variety of people involved in the film industry including REALies president Kim Ho-seong and renowned editor Lee Sang-min. There were also a whole host of film and television stars, including the cast of period drama-comedy Masquerade (광해, 왕이 된 남자) – Lee Byeong-heon (이병헌), Ryoo Seung-ryong (류승룡) and Jang Gwang (장광) – as well as TV star Kim Min-jong (김민종) and As One (코리아 ) actor Lee Jong-suk (이종석).

Actress Go A-ra was a delight

Actress Go A-ra was a delight

However a genuine highlight of the night was actress Go Ah-ra (고아라) (star of Pacemaker (페이스메이커) and Papa (파파)), who was incredibly kind, courteous and humble, giving genuine insight into the differences in working in the Korean film and television industries.

Sunday night saw the Korean Film Council (KOFIC) event, which saw fellow The Good, The Bad, The Weird (좋은 놈, 나쁜 놈, 이상한 놈) actors Song Kang-ho (송강호) and Jeong Woo-seong (정우성) attending, in addition to a myriad of other stars and members of the film industry.

And so ended the first weekend of the 2012 Busan International Film Festival. With the incredible selection of films, variety of events in which the public could have access to members of the film industry, and unprecedented popularity, it is difficult to imagine how BIFF will grow and improve in with future installments but one thing is for certain – the BIFF team will undoubtedly find a way.

Festival News Festivals 2012
King Gwang-hae becomes increasingly paranoid as attempts against his life are made

Masquerade (광해, 왕이 된 남자) – ★★★★☆

Masquerade (광해, 왕이 된 남자)

Masquerade (광해, 왕이 된 남자)

Mark Twain’s seminal novel The Prince and the Pauper has long endured arguably for the manner in which it exposed the gulf between the upper and lower economic classes. The trials and tribulations that Prince Edward and Tom Canty undertake allow Twain to explore the vast lifestyle differences amongst the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’, with each protagonist utilising their prior experiences to emphasise the hardships, and the unfairness, of both existences. In doing so the story has resonated with audiences of all socio-economic backgrounds, and in the contemporary financial climate, is perhaps even more relevant than ever.

With Masquerade, screenwriter Hwang Jo-yoon has adapted Twain’s novel to Joseon dynasty Korea, with the case of mistaken identity transferred between King Gwang-hae and a lowly comic actor. With a well-structured and highly entertaining script, incredibly competent directing from Choo Chang-min, and an enthralling set of performances from Lee Byeong-heon, Masquerade is without doubt one of the best films of the year and a testament to the quality of the period dramas Korea can produce.

King Gwang-hae (Lee Byeong-Heon (이병헌) is deeply unpopular in court, and as spies and threats surround him, becomes increasingly paranoid. Under a veil of secrecy, the King instructs his most loyal subjects to find a suitable surrogate who can impersonate him during the night should any assassination attempts be made against him. By chance, one such subject exists – a comic performer (Lee Byeong-Heon) who routinely mocks the King during his performances. Yet while the ruse works well initially, the King suddenly becomes critically ill and taken to a remote location to recover. Thus it falls to the actor, as well as the loyal Chief Advisor (Ryoo Seung-yong (류승룡) and Chief Eunuch (Jang Gwang (장광) to fool the members of the court until the true King can regain his health and return to secure his kingdom. However as time passes, the actor becomes increasingly aware of the unfairness and corruption inherent in the ruling elite and begins to introduce changes of his own.

King Gwang-hae becomes increasingly paranoid as attempts against his life are made

King Gwang-hae becomes increasingly paranoid as attempts against his life are made

The aesthetics and cinematography within Masquerade are stunningly sumptuous, and are wonderfully realised by director Choo Chang-min. Indeed, the film opens with a montage emphasizing the extreme prestige of the royal lifestyle and the flamboyant colours inherent within, composed to convey the luxurious – and arrogant – nature of the ruling elite. The world of the Joseon dynasty is also recreated with incredible attention to detail ranging from the elegant clothing to crockery to the king’s lavish homestead, producing an enthrallingly convincing arena in which the exchanges and sedition take place. In setting up such narrative events screenwriter Hwang Jo-yoon borrows the catalyst from The King and the Clown as the King’s double receives unwanted attention through his critical portrayal of the King. There the similarities end however as once the King and the actor exchange places the discord in the court is explored through thoroughly different means, as the actor routinely, and naturally, comes face-to-face with issues that plague the kingdom yet have been ignored by the monarch. Surprisingly Masquerade also features an array of comical moments amongst the drama as the actor bumbles his way through the customs and etiquette of his new environment. Many of the jokes are crude and based on bodily humour, yet rather than a criticism this is actually an intriguing method of exploring the differences between the social classes and allows the audience to gain greater empathy with the actor who seemingly cannot perform the simplest of tasks without an entourage. In forging a greater alignment with the unwitting counterpart and his more middle/lower economic sensibilities, the various discussions on taxation, crime and punishment, and slavery achieve more prominent emotional resonance making the actor’s growing confidence and the enforcement of his own rulings to save the Joseon people – despite the awareness of his it could bring his demise – a source of great nationalistic inspiration and strength.

Instrumental in such a portrayal is the excellent performance from Lee Byeong-heon. He conveys the arrogance, stoicism and ruthlessness of King Gwang-hae incredibly well and stands in stark contrast to his astoundingly portrayal as the foolhardy yet well-meaning doppelganger actor. Lee Byeong-heon’s comic timing is impressive as he conveys the humorous moments within the narrative with deft skill and, with convincing clumsiness, faltering through all manner of routines that never fail to inspire laughter. Yet where Lee Byeong-heon’s performance really shines is through the evolution of the actor from an unwitting clown to a man of dignity and stature, the progression of which is wonderfully subtle and well-paced and never feeling in the least bit contrived. The manner in which the protagonist evolves is great, and the internal conflict that appears over his face when making decisions that will effect the court and the denizens of the entire kingdom, in the knowledge it will result in his eventual execution, is remarkable to behold. If there is criticism to laid, however, it’s in the protagonist’s relationship with the Queen, although this is no fault of either Lee Byeong-heon nor Han Hyo-joo (한효주). The Queen merely exists to provide the counterpart with a beautiful damsel in distress to save, and the Queen’s function in the narrative doesn’t extend beyond the stereotypical role. That said, the exchanges that occur between the Queen and the actor do not detract from the narrative and are enjoyable and well-performed.

The King and the imposter come face-to-face

The King and the impostor come face-to-face

As previously mentioned, Lee Byeong-heon is phenomenal in his dual roles as both the King and the impostor, and it would be difficult to imagine that he will not be honoured with – at the very least – an acting award nomination for his incredible performance.

Yet Lee Byeong-heon is also surrounded by an eclectic group of established actors who also conduct their roles with incredible skill.

Ryoo Seung-yong is simply wonderful as the stoically loyal Chief Advisor. The actor coveys the Chief Advisor’s commitment to the kingdom with the utmost competency and sincerity, yet is also adept in comic timing as his exchanges with the King’s counterpart are consistently laugh-out-loud moments that also simultaneously serve to highlight the change in attitude towards each other. As with other features of the narrative, the subtle manner in which their relationship alters is highly entertaining as the Advisor initially admonishes the clown for his foolishness only to come to admire his tenacity alongside the audience, and Ryoo Seung-yong does an incredible job of conveying the evolution.

Similarly the Chief Eunuch, played by Jang Gwang, also expresses the change in attitude yet also serves the role of ‘the helper’ in enlightening the King’s counterpart on the issues facing the kingdom. As the more maternal of the two advisors, Jang Gwang is excellent as the subservient member of the court and brings an understated emotional core to the film, particularly in the early stages.

As the Queen, Han Hyo-joo is competent throughout. Unfortunately for her the role is generally underdeveloped and stereotypical of a beautiful woman in need of saving, yet she performs with grace and dignity.

Also worthy of mention is the loyal Captain, performed by Kim In-kwon. Initially a somewhat overshadowed character, the Captain takes a prominent position in the final act with Kim In-kwon more than adequately portraying the loyalty of a devoted man with emotion and heart.

The long suffering Queen begins to notice the differences in the new 'King'

The long suffering Queen begins to notice the differences in the new ‘King’

Verdict:

Masquerade is a wonderfully realized and incredibly entertaining film, one that uses the basis of The Prince and the Pauper and rapidly makes it into a uniquely Korean period production. Alongside the very well-written, well-paced script is visually stunning direction and, while it somewhat lacks in scale, it conveys the colourful regal elegance with striking skill. Yet it is Lee Byeong-heon who gives the film heart with his exceptional dual performances that serve to emphasis the gulf between the classes in society and the injustices that, no-matter the era, plague the ruling elite. Masquerade is undoubtedly one of the best films of the year and is highly, highly recommended.

★★★★☆

Reviews
Soo-ha and Hong-yeong share a tender moment

The Harmonium in My Memory (내 마음의 풍금) – ★★★★☆

The Harmonium in My Memory (내 마음의 풍금)

The Harmonium in My Memory (내 마음의 풍금)

Nostalgia is a difficult balance to achieve in film. If done overly reverentially, it can easily fall into the realm of cliché and ‘camp’; if not revered enough, then the purpose of placing the narrative within the era is rendered obsolete. Romance fits much more neatly into nostalgic territory than other genres due to notion that the past was a time of innocence, enhancing the ‘purity’ of the love portrayed and removing the cynicism that comes with age. The Harmonium in My Memory (내 마음의 풍금) does all this and more, conveying a well-balanced nostalgic love story set in a post-war 1963 village that never becomes trite or sentimental.

Yun Hong-yeon (Jeon Do-yeon (전도연) has a difficult life in her rustic farming village in Gangwon province. With an absent father – as most men never returned from the war – Hong-yeon must help her mother raise three younger siblings. At 17 she is the eldest in her middle school class, and as the new term begins she and her classmates await the arrival of their new teacher, 21 year old recent graduate Kang Soo-ha (Lee Byeong-Heon (이병헌). Hong-yeon is instantly smitten and is desperate to get attention, yet Soo-ha begins to develop an infatuation with another teacher, the elegant  Yang Eun-hee (Lee Mi-yeon (이미연).

Hong-yeon meets Soo-ha on his first day, and instantly falls in love

Hong-yeon meets Soo-ha on his first day, and instantly falls in love

The decision to film The Harmonium in My Memory in film stock used in decades past is a masterstroke, adding authenticity to the nostalgic vision of first love through the grainy textures. Additionally, ‘내 마음의 풍금’ directly translates as ‘The Organ in my Heart’ and as such music from the era plays a pivotal role in articulating the love held within the protagonists, as well as signalizing exchanges of affection. Director Lee Yeong-jae (이영재) employs sumptuous use of mise-en-scene in portraying the rural lifestyle in the early ’60s, with a romantic verve that captures the innocence and fellowship of the community but never shying away from the difficulties. In fact, Lee Yeong-jae conveys nostalgic comedy within such hardships, such as Soo-ha telling his students to wash more than once a month, and Hong-yeon changing her siblings soiled clothes in class. Generally Lee Yeong-jae allows the combination of these elements to dictate and present the narrative, competently directing but never really conveying an authorial style.

Eun-hee captures Soo-ha's heart with music

Eun-hee captures Soo-ha’s heart with music

All of these cinematic features are amalgamated in order to portray the innocence and naivety of ‘first love’, and in that respect The Harmonium in My Memory succeeds incredibly well. The delicacy and poignancy of ‘first love’ is all the more endearing as for most of the narrative the love is unrequited. Hong-yeong loves Soo-ha, yet Soo-ha loves Eun-hee, and the ways in which they attempt to woe their targets is both touching and comedic. Hong-yeong in particular is very amusing as she works hard in class, presents anonymous gifts, and communicates with Soo-ha through the use of her daily journal which evolves into a diary/love letter. Her naivety is endearing such as when Hong-yeong writes spiteful remarks about teacher Eun-hee and her age, causing Soo-ha to become conflicted. Similarly, Soo-ha’s attempts for Eun-hee are also romantic and enchanting, using music to overcome the initial awkwardness between them and creating indecision for Eun-hee. The loves, and rejections, are subtly and organically portrayed by the excellent cast, especially Jeon Do-yeon who displays incredible talent conveying a shy but headstrong young woman in 1960s Korea. Lee Byeong-Heon is also wonderful in playing an emotionally charged young teacher desperate for love.

Soo-ha and Hong-yeong share a tender moment

Soo-ha and Hong-yeong share a tender moment

Verdict:

The Harmonium in My Memory is a wonderfully endearing romantic tale of the hurdles and triumphs of ‘first love.’ The nostalgia is perfectly balanced throughout and lends an incredible innocence and delicacy to the narrative through the subtle use of film stock, mise-en-scene, and music from the era. As nostalgia and innocence are so integral to the narrative, director Lee Yeong-jae does not provide an in-depth examination of relationships. Rather, he opts to convey the time of love before serious complexity enters, making The Harmonium in My Memory a light-hearted and touching love letter of the awkwardness, naivety and innocence of first love.

★★★★☆

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Mirror image - who is the monster?

I Saw the Devil (악마를 보았다) – ★★★★☆

I Saw the Devil (악마를 보았다)

I Saw the Devil (악마를 보았다)

Director Kim Ji-woon (김지운) is renowned for his genre-play, which perhaps makes it surprising that he waited so long to tackle Korea’s most popular genre – the thriller. As his 8th film, I Saw the Devil (악마를 보았다) is not only a refreshing take on an over-saturated genre but also extends beyond the celluloid in a similar fashion to Michael Haneke’s Funny Games (1997, 2008). Kim Ji-woon understands the genre and its relationship with the audience immensely; that audiences see thrillers to be thrilled. To this end, the auteur not only repeatedly creates incredibly suspenseful scenarios but also indirectly holds audiences accountable for the cruelty and violence that ensues.

I Saw the Devil depicts the story of intelligence agent Kim Soo-hyeon (Lee Byeong-Heon (이병헌), whose fiance is brutally murdered by serial killer Jang Keyong-cheol (Choi Min-sik (최민식). Not content with simply finding his finance’s murderer, Soo-hyeon plans to torture Keyong-cheol in the worst way possible – by striking just as the psycho’s bloodlust is about to be fulfilled, severely punishing him, and then setting him free. In this way Keyong-chul’s punishment, and Soo-hyeon’s vengeance, will be never-ending…but in doing so, Soo-hyeon must walk the dangerous line between man and monster.

Jang Keyong-cheol (장경철, Choi Min-sik (최민식) deals with his latest victim

Jang Keyong-cheol (Choi Min-sik) deals with his latest victim

Choi Min-sik and Lee Byeong-Heon are, as one would expect from such acting powerhouses, fantastic in their roles as serial killer and intelligence agent. While the roles don’t exactly stretch the actors into new territory, they convey incredible intensity throughout their cat-and-mouse games. Choi Min-sik in particular appears to relish his turn as sadistic serial killer Jang Keyong-cheol as he snarls and cackles without remorse as his victims suffer atrocities. His sheer intensity during such perverse sequences makes for uncomfortable but compelling viewing, and even provides some darkly comedic sensibilities in the horrific and ironic situations that arise. Lee Byeong-Heon is also terrific as he searches for revenge. The evolution of his character from agent to monster is riveting, as his moral code dissipates and allows further crimes to be committed in his selfish and arrogant desire for extreme vengeance.

The audience derives pleasure from the killers twisted games

The audience derives pleasure from the killers twisted games

Kim Ji-woon has achieved ‘auteur’ status for a very good reason, and actually manages to extend himself further through incorporating audience ‘pleasures’ and accountability. When the film begins, the camera is within a van driving along rustic country lanes in the snow. Either side of the rear-view mirror are florescent blue ‘wings’ that connote eyes; audiences are thus placed within the mind of a ‘monster’ as it prowls the countryside for its next victim. This is a recurring feature, as Kim Ji-woon aligns audiences with the villain making them responsible for their own voyeuristic desires of violence and mayhem. Yet once intelligence agent Soo-hyeon has caught the monster, the auteur splits alignment between the excitement of Keyong-cheol as he obtains his next victim, and the thrills of Soo-hyeon as he violently halts the killer. Kim Ji-woon understands his audience intimately and makes the cat and mouse game, in a sense, the audience chasing themselves as they simultaneously enjoy the murderous thrill of catching the prey and the (violent) catharsis of the saviour-figure that stops the perversity before the degradation has gone beyond acceptable limitations. He then punishes the audience for their desires within the narrative structure, forcing them to face their own notions of ‘pleasure’ within the cinema.

Mirror image - who is the monster?

Mirror image – who is the monster?

Verdict:

I Saw the Devil is a wonderful addition to an over-saturated genre, and offers a fresh and interesting take on the notions of revenge by implicating audiences within the frantically-paced violence that transpires. As such, the protagonists lack depth and the events that transpire do little to provide evolution, but the film is not intended as a character study. Rather, it’s about the nature of violence and retribution, its escalation, and the accountability of the audience in their desires for such cruelty.

★★★★☆

Reviews
'The Bad' Park Chang-yi (박창이) leads bandits on a murderous chase

Superstar Lee Byeong-heon (이병헌) to star in period film, and receive presidential recognition

Renowned actor Lee Byeong-heon (이병헌) has announced his intention to star in a Korean adaptation of ‘The Prince and the Pauper.’

Superstar Lee Byeong-heon (이병현)

Superstar Lee Byeong-heon (이병현)

As reported by Korean Film Biz and Korea Joongang Daily, the incredibly popular star will play both the King of Joseon as well as a pauper who, after discovering they look alike, exchange places. This will be Lee Byeong-heon’s first foray into a period drama, and marks a departure from his usual action role as exemplified with A Bittersweet Life (달콤한 인생) and I Saw the Devil (악마를 보았다). It will be some time before production begins however, as Lee Byeong-heon is currently filming G.I. Joe 2: Retaliation in America before embarking on a tour of Japan.

Additionally, Old Boy scribe Hwang Jo-yoon (황조윤) will write the screenplay whilst Late Blossom (그대를 사랑합니다) director Choo Chang-min (추창민) will helm the production. According to Korean Film Biz, filming will begin early next year with a budget of $8 million/£5.1 million.

In another testament to the star’s influence, 10 Asia has reported (here) that Lee Byeon-heon is set to receive a presidential citation for his role in the development and expansion of Korean cinema. The accolade marks the recognition of the actor’s contributions, as he has starred in some of the most prominent films that have emerged from Korea during the past 10 years and has also appeared in Hollywood action films.

 

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