The arrival of charismatic femme fatale Eun-joo places the old man's allegiance into question

Oldmen Never Die (죽지않아) – ★★★☆☆

Oldmen Never Die (죽지않아)

Oldmen Never Die (죽지않아)

Receiving its world premiere in the World Fantastic Cinema program at Puchon Film Festival, Oldmen Never Die (죽지않아) quickly won over critics and audiences alike. So much so, in fact, that director Hwang Cheol-mean’s (황철민) dark comedy-drama went on to win PiFan’s LG HiEntech Award for best Korean independent feature film.

Oldmen Never Die is a competent and solid addition to director Hwang’s filmography. The film takes an awfully long time to find direction, but once it does it becomes a very entertaining portrayal of greed and lust, as well as an illuminating examination of the generational differences in Korean society.

Greedy Ji-hoon works hard in order to inherit his fascist grandfather's estate

Greedy Ji-hoon works hard in order to inherit his fascist grandfather’s estate

When greedy slacker Ji-hoon (Cha Rae-hyeong (차래형) learns of his estranged grandfather Hal-bae’s (Lee Bong-gyoo (이봉규) vast fortune, he becomes incredibly excited; even more so upon discovering that the old man has cancer and will likely die in the near future. While his liberal father wants nothing to do with the inheritance, such morality is of no concern to Ji-hoon and he travels into the countryside to gain his grandfather’s favour. Yet after four years of manual labour on the family farm, the old man still hasn’t died. Worse still, he has beaten his illness and his once greying hair is turning black. As Ji-hoon’s frustrations reach boiling point matters become even further complicated by the arrival of attractive city girl Eun-joo, who begins seducing Hal-bae for her own gain.

Oldmen Never Die is an accomplished film, and is highly interesting due to the examination of generational values throughout. None of the characters that inhabit the film are inherently ‘good’ people, and director Hwang explores their respective ideologies utilising dark comedy-drama. Grandfather Hal-bae is a horribly rude fascist who has profited from Korea’s military dictatorship, estranged from his family due to disagreeing with his son partaking in pro-democracy demonstrations. Grandson Ji-hoon meanwhile exemplifies the lazy money-orientated younger generation. All three men find it impossible to understand each other, and the clashes between Hal-bae’s constant vitriol and Ji-hoon’s childish sulking are as amusing as they are revealing.

The arrival of charismatic femme fatale Eun-joo places the old man's allegiance into question

The arrival of charismatic femme fatale Eun-joo places the old man’s allegiance into question

However it’s actress Han Eun-bi as gold digger Eun-joo who steals the limelight. Oldmen Never Die struggles to find direction during the entire first act, yet Eun-joo’s arrival at the farm gives the film a much-needed sense of purpose and compulsion. While Eun-joo is also morally questionable as she seduces elderly Hal-bae for money, Han Eun-bi’s performance injects enough charisma, alongside some intriguing dialogue, to strike the right balance between amoral and very misguided. Indeed, the best scenes in the film belong to her. From tempting Hal-bae with her voluptuous body in a daring red bikini, to more subtle moments expressing her disgust at being touched and the situation generally, Eun-joo’s presence – and complexity – make the film compelling viewing.

Unfortunately with the greater focus placed on Eun-joo’s seduction of Hal-bae, the same cannot be said of Ji-hoon whose lack of development results in the character spending far too much screen time sulking. The opportunity to explore the conflict between Ji-hoon and Eun-joo as they both fight for Hal-bae’s affections is never fully capitalised on, and as such the lack of tension makes Oldmen Never Die a very low key affair. The subdued nature of the film is odd given that the relationships become increasingly strained, although the style does lend more realism to the story as opposed to other more contrived examples of the genre. As such, Oldmen Never Die doesn’t really fulfill the potential offered by the characters, yet is still a highly competent and interesting generational examination.

The old man boasts of his vast fortune, but who will claim it?

The old man boasts of his vast fortune, but who will claim it?

Verdict:

Oldmen Never Die is an accomplished independent film that examinations Korea’s generational differences to illuminating effect. Director Hwang Cheol-mean’s dark comedy-drama explores the themes of greed, lust and amorality through manipulative bids for a large inheritance, within which Han Eun-bi’s performance as temptress Eun-joo steals the show. While the film takes a long time to find direction and the subdued nature is at odds with the intended tension, Oldmen Never Die is a highly competent and interesting portrayal of the ideological differences amongst Korea’s disparate generations.

★★★☆☆

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Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival (제17회 부천국제판타스틱영화제) Reviews
Colourful Dr. Swalski provides the tips Bo-na needs to move ahead, to great comedic effect

How to Use Guys with Secret Tips (남자사용설명서) – ★★★★☆

How to Use Guys with Secret Tips (남자사용설명서)

How to Use Guys with Secret Tips (남자사용설명서)

When it was released on February the 14th, How to Use Guys with Secret Tips (남자사용설명서) had the unenviable – and quite unfortunate – task of competing with several enormously popular films at the box office, in the form of Miracle in Room Number 7 and The Berlin File, which earned over 12 million and 7 million admissions respectively. A week later, gangster epic New World appeared in cinemas, hauling over 4 million admissions. Despite positive reviews from critics and audiences alike, the romantic-comedy just couldn’t compete.

This is a genuine shame as How to Use Guys with Secret Tips is an incredibly energetic, entertaining, and fresh rom-com. Director Lee Won-seok (이원석) infuses the film with a wacky and colourful sensibility, whilst simultaneously probing the sexism that exists within the workplace and, by extension, Korean culture. While the film turns to formulaic predictability in the final act to tie up all the loose ends, How to Use Guys with Secret Tips is visually enjoyable and great fun, marking director Lee as a talent to watch.

Choi Bo-na is constantly undervalued and overworked - until she finds the video

Choi Bo-na is constantly undervalued and overworked – until she finds the video

Assistant director Choi Bo-na (Lee Si-yeong (이시영) has worked for years in a TV commercial company, endlessly slaving away on other productions while waiting for her big break…which never arrives. Moreover, Bo-na is very aware that her gender is an issue within the workplace as it holds her back from progressing within the sexist industry. When a new commercial for the company is shot on a beach, lead actor Lee Seung-jae (Oh Jeong-se (오정세) complains about everything, and Bo-na’s frustrated attempts to chastise the arrogant star results in more disapproval. So much so in fact that when the commercial has finished shooting, the entire team leave the sleeping AD on the beach. Wandering alone at night, Bo-na spies the colourful Dr. Swalski (Park Yeong-gyoo (박영규) selling instructional videos. Reluctantly agreeing to buy How to Use Guys with Secret TipsBo-na starts putting the tips into practice and suddenly her life begins to turn around with hilarious results.

While the story of a woman struggling in both her professional and personal life is nothing new in the rom-com arena, director Lee infuses the film with such a whimsical visual and musical vitality that it’s impossible not to be won over. From the outset the director’s keen sense of mise-en-scene and flamboyantly playful use of text and image techniques are apparent, yet it is the introduction of charismatic Dr. Swalski that allows him to fully display his zany aesthetics. The doctor – brilliantly performed by Park Yeong-gyoo – is a guardian angel of sorts who bestows advice on how to manipulate men through the video. The cheesy and camp sensibilities of such ’70s style infomercials are lovingly recreated to hilarious effect, from the costumes and props through to the mistakes and bad editing. What makes Dr. Swalski special however is that he is not confined to the TV set. Director Lee constantly plays with and breaks the barriers between the three realities – the video, Bo-na’s life, and the audience – which makes the film incredibly charismatic.

Colourful Dr. Swalski provides the tips Bo-na needs to move ahead, to great comedic effect

Colourful Dr. Swalski provides the tips Bo-na needs to move ahead, to great comedic effect

The comedy hijinks that ensue as Bo-na uses the tips are fantastically entertaining as they feature elements of truth, in that director Lee is probing real gender issues that exist within contemporary Korean culture. Bo-na is a great and talented director, yet her gender halts her progress. Her attempts to conceal her femininity with hoodies and to be treated equally merely results in hiding her attractiveness, which stops men making allowances for her. However when Bo-na begins employing Dr, Swalski’s advice, the story spins into poking fun at modern masculinity to great effect. From simple eye contact through to massaging the male ego, Bo-na learns the simplicity of the opposite sex and rapidly rises through the ranks. This is articulated the most through her relationship with arrogant actor Lee Seung-jae who, despite his initial snobbery, finds himself in very comical situations in attempting to prove his worth.

Yet How to Use Guys with Secret Tips unfortunately flounders in the final act. With so many funny plot threads to tie up, the story falls back on the predictable cliches found in the genre to do so. The absence of director Lee’s playfulness is keenly apparent during the resolution which is a real shame, as the build up to that point is wonderfully entertaining. Still, while the finale is somewhat lacking, the film is certainly one of the most visually energetic and inventive romantic comedies to appear from Korea in recent memory, and a great debut from director Lee.

Can Bo-na find true love and success without using the tips?

Can Bo-na find true love and success without using the tips?

Verdict:

How to Use Guys with Secret Tips is a wonderfully wacky and colourful romantic comedy, full of visual and musical vitality. Director Lee Won-seok is brilliantly inventive as he plays with genre and cinematic conventions, infusing the film with a seemingly boundless energy and enthusiasm. The laughs come thick and fast as they are based in truth, including sexism in the workplace and the fragility of the male ego, which are explored to highly comical effect. While the final act falls back on cliche and predictability, How to Use Guys with Secret Tips is a very entertaining and fun rom-com.

★★★★☆

Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival (제17회 부천국제판타스틱영화제) Reviews
North Korean spy Ryu-hwan disguises himself as village idiot Dong-gu

Secretly, Greatly (은밀하게 위대하게) – ★★☆☆☆

Secretly, Greatly (은밀하게 위대하게)

Secretly, Greatly (은밀하게 위대하게)

Secretly, Greatly (은밀하게 위대하게) is responsible for breaking several notable records in Korean cinematic history upon release. The film surpassed all expectations to earn the biggest opening day for a domestic film with 497,560 admissions; the following day another benchmark was set as it scored a whopping 919,035 admissions, the largest haul in a single day for a Korean film. With such an impressive start, it’s perhaps unsurprising that Secretly, Greatly took only 36 hours to pass the coveted one million admissions milestone, the fastest Korean film to do so. And to cap it all off, the film won the Citizen’s Choice Award at the 2013 Puchon International Film Festival.

With such incredible success it would be reasonable to assume that Secretly, Greatly must therefore be an outstanding piece of cinema, but unfortunately that is far from the truth. While it begins confidently, the film quickly becomes submerged beneath pointless supporting characters and melodrama, with the belated action sequences and nationalist agenda bland and uninspiring. Competently directed by Jang Cheol-soo (장철수) yet lacking in substance, Secretly, Greatly is ultimately only for fans of the original webcomic and the extremely handsome lead actors.

North Korean spy Ryu-hwan disguises himself as village idiot Dong-gu

North Korean spy Ryu-hwan disguises himself as village idiot Dong-gu

North Korean soldier Won Ryu-hwan (Kim Soo-hyeon (김수현) has trained relentlessly to be the best in his unit, and his efforts have not gone unnoticed. His superiors give Ryu-hwan a mission – to infiltrate South Korea under the cover identity of Dong-gu, the mentally ill fool of a shanty town, and to await further instructions. Taking to his new identity with patriotism and verve, Ryu-hwan slowly becomes disillusioned as time passes and with no word from his homeland. Yet one day out of the blue rival Northern soldier Ri Hae-rang (Park Ki-woong (박기웅) shows up in the neighbourhood, sporting a wannabe rocker identity. Adding further distress, junior soldier Ri Hae-jin (Lee Hyun-woo (이현우) also appears as a high school student. Yet just as the former rivals begin to form a brotherhood, their country calls them into action but their hearts and minds pull them in different directions.

Secretly, Greatly begins well, as Ryu-hwan is given orders by a scarred and scary general on a dark and snowy desolate beach. The foreboding sense of danger is wonderfully and skillfully undermined as the film then cuts to his new identity as Dong-gu, and the harassment and ridicule he experiences from the local townspeople. The editing is superb during these scenes as everything Dong-gu does, from falling over to sneezing, is all meticulously planned but results in physical comedy, and is highly entertaining to watch. The humour derived from the great contrast is amusing, especially in watching Dong-gu being humiliated despite his impressive skill set.

Ryu-hwan is joined by two other top spies, who form an uneasy fraternity

Ryu-hwan is joined by two other top spies, who form an uneasy fraternity

Yet once the opening has passed, the film very quickly becomes incredibly tedious. In the attempt to show Ryu-hwan’s life is far removed from the glory he imagined, he is inundated with bland, everyday problems. Often these problems are not even his, but those of the local community. The variety of inhabitants that are introduced into the story are completely one-dimensional and serve no purpose other than to provide momentary distractions for Ryu-hwan. Cliches and stereotypes abound, featuring the struggling single mother, the high school bully, the sexy girl with a heart of gold, and so on. None of them are developed into interesting characters, and the sheer number of them halts any development of the main protagonists themselves. Rather, their inclusion instigates a number of short stories that offer brief instances of comedy and/or drama, before being completely forgettable.

Likewise, the addition of wannabe rocker Hae-rang is a wholly wasted opportunity to initiate rivalry and bring some kind of direction to the wandering narrative. Hae-jin fares much better upon entry to the community, instigating mystery and action which is welcome. Yet that too quickly disintegrates as the three forge an unlikely kinship at a community picnic, such is the excitement within the shanty town for the spies.

The aimless story finally shifts gears in the final act as a North Korean general begins a special protocol, forcing Secretly, Greatly back into becoming an action film. Yet for three supposedly top agents the action is very dull and lacking in thrills, while the additional melodrama doesn’t carry any weight. In attempting to please all factions of the audience with elements from all genres, Secretly, Greatly manages to ultimately satisfy no-one.

Finally employing his lethal skills, Ryu-hwan fights for justice

Finally employing his lethal skills, Ryu-hwan fights for justice

Verdict:

Secretly, Greatly is a record breaking film, although unfortunately that doesn’t mean that it’s of high quality. While competently directed by Jang Cheol-soo and with a fun opening, things quickly become tedious due to an array of one dimensional stereotypes that flit throughout the aimless narrative, while the drama and action are bland and uninspired. Secretly, Greatly’s successes seems to be based on fans of the original comic strip stories and of handsome actors Kim Soo-hyeon, Park Ki-woong and Lee Hyun-woo, as there is little else to recommend.

★★☆☆☆

Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival (제17회 부천국제판타스틱영화제) Reviews
Exploiting the opportunity to become a news anchor, Yeong-hwa begins to regret his decision

The Terror Live (더 테러 라이브) – ★★★★☆

The Terror Live (더 테러 라이브)

The Terror Live (더 테러 라이브)

The Terror Live (더 테러 라이브) is a rare breed of Korean thriller. Featuring superstar Ha Jeong-woo (하정우), the film takes place almost entirely within a single room rather than racing against time around a city. As such it shares several tropes with Joel Schumacher’s Phone Booth, ramping up tension through the claustrophobic setting while simultaneously exposing the lead protagonist for past bad deeds.

Within the highly restrictive setting director Kim Byeong-woo (김병우) does an excellent job in generating suspense, while the critique of the highly competitive – and corrupt – world of the newsroom makes the thriller a surprisingly deep cultural examination. However, the film is let down by a lack of characterisation in regards to the central roles while the tension is often undermined by arguably unintentional comedy. Despite such shortcomings The Terror Live is a unique and interesting addition to the genre, and one which leaves audiences wondering about the villains in society after the credits have finished rolling.

Yeong-hwa is apathetic in his role as a radio show host

Yeong-hwa is apathetic in his role as a radio show host

Recently divorced and demoted to a radio show host, Yoon Yeong-hwa (Ha Jeong-woo) couldn’t care less about his new role as he repeatedly offends callers with his brusque manner. However when one caller phones in and claims to have primed bombs on Mapo Bridge located near the station, Yeong-hwa scoffs – and moments later the bridge is in ruins. Seeing this as his chance to return to the spotlight as a TV news anchor, Yeong-hwa teams up with former manager Cha Dae-eun (Lee Kyeong-yeong (이경영), quickly setting up a newsroom and broadcasting the terrorists demands instead of reporting to the police.  As the ratings skyrocket and other news agencies struggle to catch up, it quickly becomes apparent to Yeong-hwa that something is very, very wrong as the terrorist becomes increasingly fixated on him personally, intent on exposing his checkered past.

One of the great strengths of The Terror Live is in conveying the cutthroat manner executed by those in power and in the media.  The thriller is one of the few films to tackle the issue of real news and the mediated news presented to society, capturing the seemingly inherent corruption and societal risks taken in the war for ratings.  Within this framework Yeong-hwa – whose name literally means ‘movie’ – is very much at home and director Kim does a superb job in slowly drip-feeding character information throughout the narrative. From the outset Yeong-hwa is certainly in-keeping with other thriller anti-heroes as he thrives in the grey areas of morality, only coming to reconsider his position due to the threat of exposure. As such the anchorman must not only acquire, filter, and present the news to Korean society and outwit a terrorist on live television, but also fend off a damaging character assassination attempt and please his management. Juggling so many plot threads is consistently riveting viewing, as new dimensions to the case constantly challenge everything Yeong-hwa and the audience have come to learn, driving up suspense for a thrilling viewing experience.

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

Ironically however the inclusion of so many plot threads is also one of The Terror Live‘s key flaws, as there is so much going on that character development is sacrificed. Ha Jeong-woo is a gifted actor and performs very competently, yet he is given little to work with as Yeong-hwa other than being a shrewd and morally ambiguous news anchor. The same criticism also applies to the terrorist, who clearly has strong motivation for his attacks but is a rather two-dimensional antagonist. Luckily director Kim’s highly kinetic camerawork keeps such issues at bay featuring a variety of techniques including crash-zooms and realism-inducing camera shaking as well as more traditional fare, while the rapid editing helps to ramp up the tension without ever becoming nauseating.

The suspense generated within the confines of the newsroom is very impressive, yet bizarrely there are often instances of unwarranted comedy that serve to completely undermine the tension. It is difficult to know if such moments are intentional or not. When Yeong-hwa struggles with a situation and begins swearing at his oppressors it is incredibly funny, although the straight faces within the film suggest otherwise. Once the comedy has passed however it’s back to business and the dramatics increase further, leading to a daring finale and a potent commentary on Korean politics and the media.

The conflict between the bid for ratings or stopping the terrorist put the team at odds

The conflict between the bid for ratings or stopping the terrorist put the team at odds

Verdict:

The Terror Live is a rare and highly interesting thriller. Within the confines of a newsroom director Kim Byeong-woo does an excellent job in escalating tension by featuring a variety of camerawork techniques, while the story regarding corruption within both Korean media and the government is a potent socio-cultural critique. While the lack of characterisation and (arguably unintentional) comedy undermines the suspense, there is more than enough on offer to provide an entertaining thrill-ride from start to finish.

★★★★☆

Reviews
North Korean spy Ryu-hwan disguises himself as village idiot Dong-gu

PiFan 2013: Quick Fire Reviews 2

The second in a series of quick-fire reviews from the 17th Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival:

The Act of Killing

The Act of Killing

The Act of Killing – 8/10

Unbelievably powerful, director Joshua Oppenheimer’s documentary follows the lives of a group of Indonesian gangsters who are wholly unrepentant about their role in the mass murders from the 1960s onwards.  Oppenheimer does a superb job of combining the history and politics of Indonesia with the psychology of his subjects, in order to fully convey the attempts to justify the genocide and rape of those perceived to be ‘anti-communist.’ So resolute are the gangsters in their convictions that they attempt to make a movie about their past ‘heroism’, re-enacting the torture and murders from their youth. Yet as time passes the men, now elderly, slowly come to consider that perhaps their actions may not have been so patriotic after all. The documentary is a stunning and poignant character study which, while overly long, is an incredible achievement in showcasing the recent history of the country. Recommended.

Secretly, Greatly (은밀하게 위대하게)

Secretly, Greatly (은밀하게 위대하게)

Secretly, Greatly (은밀하게 위대하게) – 4/10

The achievements of director Jang Cheol-soo’s Secretly Greatly have long been publicized, as it broke several records in the opening few days. The reason for such success must surely be due to the fans of the original webtoon and the extremely handsome lead actors, for the film is not particularly good at all. Secretly Greatly does start well however with a enjoyable contrast between action and comedy conventions and continues through in introducing agent Dong-gu’s role in the community, yet from there it quickly slides into bland territory. While competently directed, the film suffers from a problem that effects a large number of Korean productions – in attempting to please everyone by including different genres and a host of characters, it ultimately satisfies no-one. However the huge financial success of the film should guarantee director Jang’s future projects, which will hopefully be more like his prior Bedevilled.

There is Light

There is Light

There is Light – 7/10

Japanese director Toda Yukihiro shines a spotlight on the the plight of the disabled in There is Light. He does so in an interesting manner, as prostitute Saori visits and services a variety of disabled clients who rarely leave home, forming relationships with them as she hears their stories. Indeed, the tales of their disabilities are potent and moving as is the cultural attitude towards those with physical limitations. Yet Saori, despite her beauty, is also disabled in a different, more emotional way making the relationships that develop natural and sincere as well as a commentary on prostitution. The main issue with There is Light is that Saori’s character isn’t developed well as the audience learns precious little about her and as such is merely a device linking the disparate disabled protagonists, which is unfortunate and a missed opportunity. However the film is still an eye-opener on the difficulties of being disabled in Japan, and he insular lives that so many Japanese lead.

Festival News Korean Festivals 2013 Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival (제17회 부천국제판타스틱영화제)
The 17th Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival

PiFan 2013: Red Carpet, Opening Ceremony and ‘The Congress’ Screening

The 17th Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival

The 17th Buchon International Fantastic Film Festival

On a swelteringly hot Thursday the 18th of July, the opening ceremony of the 17th Buchon International Fantastic Film Festival began with a wonderful red carpet event.

Film stars, directors and programmers from a variety of countries all traversed the carpet to the screams of gathered fans. Hosts Shin Hyeon-joon and Choi Soo-young from Girls’ Generation were among the first to walk down followed by PiFan lady and guy Fuji Mina and Lee Hyun-woo, before several notable and internationally acclaimed film stars including Yeo Min-jeong, Son Se-bin, Kim Yoon-hye, Lee Soo-hyeok, Lee Chae-young, Park Ji-soo, Jeong Han-bi, Ahn Seung-gi, and directors Im Kwon-taek and Kim Dong-ho.

Once everyone was seated the opening ceremony began, kicked off with a performance from Kpop star – and former Buchon resident – Lee Hi, who sang her hit ‘Rose’. Shortly thereafter the PiFan awards ceremony took place, celebrating some the most popular contemporary Korean film stars. Ma Dong-seok walked away with the IT Star Award, while Kim Soo-hyun and Park Shin-hye were the recipients of the Fantasia Awards, as voted by Buchon citizens. Superstars Lee Byeong-heon and Jeon Ji-hyeon were awarded the Producers’ Choice Awards, respectively.

Red carpet event gears up

Red carpet event gears up

Fans wait to see their idols

Fans wait to see their idols

Programmers are interviewed

Programmers are interviewed

The hosts arrive

The hosts arrive

Soo-young and pose for the cameras

Soo-young and Shin Hyeon-joon pose for the cameras

PiFan guy and lady

PiFan guy and lady

Handsome actors were cheered

Handsome actors were cheered

Actresses wore stunning dresses

Actresses wore stunning dresses

dress caused a stir

Yeo Min-jeong’s dress caused a stir

Japanese filmmakers walked the carpet

Japanese filmmakers wore traditional clothes

Rising stars also made an appearance

Rising stars also made an appearance

Director Im Kwon-taek traverses the red carpet with Ahn Seung-gi and Kim Dong-ho

Director Im Kwon-taek traverses the red carpet with Ahn Seung-gi and Kim Dong-ho

Once all the festivities had settled down, it was time for the opening film The Congress to begin.

Opening Film

The Congress

The Congress

The Congress – 6/10

Directed by Israeli Ari Folman (Waltz with Bashir), The Congress tells the story of Robin Wright (playing herself), an actress who has burnt all her bridges in Hollywood and is given one final option – to sell her very ‘image’ for ‘computer artists’ to use as they please. Left with little alternative, Robin goes through with the procedure and her image makes a fortune for the studio, appearing in projects the real Robin would never do. Yet with the rapid evolution of entertainment the lines between fantasy and reality become blurred, and Robin must attempt to rediscover her identity and return to reality. As such the film is an interesting exploration of the very concepts of identity and entertainment, as well as a scathing portrayal of the manner in which women are exploited in the Hollywood system. Initially The Congress is somewhat of a pseudo-documentary, as Robin’s life is almost uncomfortably laid bare for the audience to witness and pass judgement. Such scenes often succumb to needless repetition however, as Robin is repeatedly attacked for her history of bad choices over and over again, although it does allow Folman to convey how the actress is used and abused in various relationships. The best scene in the film comes during these scenes as Harvey Keitel performs a gripping personal monologue, which the competent directing doesn’t really capitalize on. Yet as the narrative jumps twenty years into the future The Congress becomes an animated fantasy which, while gorgeously retro, is continuously frustrating. This is chiefly due to fact that it’s difficult to ascertain what exactly Robin’s impetus is in this whacky world. While it articulates how people often wish to escape themselves in old-school animated form, the film really loses a lot of the drive during this particular area of the narrative. The Congress is an interesting film that articulates a lot of important debates surrounding identity and the future of entertainment, yet it’s also a frustrating endeavour.

Festival News Korean Festivals 2013 Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival (제17회 부천국제판타스틱영화제)
The 17th Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival

PiFan 2013: Vision Express

The 17th Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival

The 17th Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival

With the 17th Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival gearing up to start on July 18th, one of the more interesting categories within the program arrives in the form of ‘Vision Express’.

‘Vision Express’ highlights some of the new emerging talent from around the world, and as such features documentaries and fiction films that are more independent in nature compared to other offerings in the program. If there’s one category that has the potential to hold some surprising new creativity, then ‘Vision Express’ certainly fits the bill.

There are four Korean films with ‘Vision Express’, featuring the work of seven directors, all of which are profiled below.

For the listings of Korean films within the Opening/Closing ceremonies, Puchon Choice, and World Fantastic Cinema, please click on the links.

Love Scene (러브씬)

Love Scene (러브씬)

Love Scene (러브씬)

Director: Lee Jeong-won (이정원), Kim Du-heon (김두헌), Moon In-dae (문인대)

Synopsis: In this 88 minute fiction, several short stories explore romantic and sexual relationships with supernatural/mystical elements.

Sunshine Love (썬샤인 러브)

Sunshine Love (썬샤인 러브)

Sunshine Love (썬샤인 러브)

Director: Jo Eun-seong (조은성)

Synopsis: A more traditional romantic tale of a couple brought together and separated by fate is offered by director Jo, as the lovers fight the odds to be reunited.

Young Artists (젊은 예술가들)

Young Artists (젊은 예술가들)

Young Artists (젊은 예술가들)

Directors: Kang Tae-woo (강태우)

Synopsis: Young Artists depicts the lives of  students at Konkuk Art High School as they prepare for  big graduation performance at Christmas. Yet with their unique styles, will they be able to work as a team?

Incomplete Life: Prequel (미생 프리퀄)

Incomplete Life: Prequel (미생 프리퀄)

Incomplete Life: Prequel (미생 프리퀄)

Director: Son Tae-gyum (손태겸), Kim Tae-hui (김태희)

Synopsis: The lives and histories of six quite different characters are explored in this 60 minute film, examining the events and psychological traumas  of the past and how they manifest in the present.

For the full list of films playing in the ‘Vision Express’ category, please check out the official PiFan site by clicking on this link.

Festival News Korean Festivals 2013 Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival (제17회 부천국제판타스틱영화제)