Pop Redemption

JIMFF 2013: Opening Ceremony and Pop Redemption Screening

The Jechon International Music and Film Festival (제천국제음악영화제)

The Jechon International Music and Film Festival (제천국제음악영화제)

On a gloriously sunny 14th of August, the 9th Jechon International Music and Film Festival (JIMFF) got underway at the stunning riverside stage venue.

Beginning with a red carpet event that saw stars such as Moon So-ri and Yu Ji-tae arrive in style, the ceremony officially opened with T-ara’s Ham Eun-jeong and actor Joo Ji-hoon performing ‘Falling Slowly’ from Irish musical film Once.

As programmers and politicians congratulated Jechon for hosting the extravaganza, it was musical director Lee Dong-jun’s night as he became the latest recipient of the Jecheon Film Music Honorary Award. To celebrate his success, Lee Dong-jun – often referred to as the Korean Hans Zimmer – performed music from a selection of his hit films alongside an orchestra, and the result was superb. As scores from The Gingko Bed (은행나무 침대), Save the Green Planet! (지구를 지켜라!)Taegukgi (태극기 휘날리며)TV drama Iris (아이리스), My Way (마이 웨이) and this year’s hit Miracle in Cell No.7 (7번방의 선물) were played, the audience were continually stunned by the spectacle, which was certainly one of the best festival openings in recent memory.

Once the celebrations came to an end, the lights dimmed in preparation for opening film Pop Redemption by director Martin Le Gall. The French film is far from perfect but was a great choice to open the festival, featuring passionate musicians, entertaining comedy and several homages to The Beatles.

Pop Redemption

Pop Redemption

Pop Redemption – ★★★☆☆

French film Pop Redemption is a highly enjoyable film, depicting four black metal rockers who begin to question their dedication to the band as they enter their thirties. Just as the members discuss splitting up for good, lead singer Alex lands them one final dream gig – rock festival Hellfest. Yet on their way the group encounter some difficult rednecks, and their course deviates wildly from the original plan. Pop Redemption is a fun film that explores the nature of friendship and getting older, through both music and road movie conventions. The conflicts that occur are often genuinely funny, while witnessing the rockers change and develop is very entertaining. Similarly the various homages to The Beatles are great to see. However such jokes go on for far too long, stalling for time while needless subplots involving bumbling police officers reach their conclusion. That said, the finale is a fitting – albeit cliched – tribute to rock music, and the feel-good factor certainly hits the spot. Please see below for the trailer.

Festival News Jechon International Music and Film Festival (제천국제음악영화제) Korean Festivals 2013
Byeong-gu gets to work interrogating 'alien' Man-shik

Save the Green Planet (지구를 지켜라!) – ★★★★☆

Save the Green Planet (지구를 지켜라!)

Save the Green Planet (지구를 지켜라!)

Cult classic Save the Green Planet (지구를 지켜라!) is perhaps best described as Peppermint Candy (박하사탕) meets Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (복수는 나의 것) through an amalgamation of dark comedy and disparate genres. While this might sound like an absurd concoction, writer/director Jang Jun-hwan (장준환) merges the assorted features into an incredibly  compelling and entertaining whole, one that moves seamlessly from the madcap to the profound in the creation of a unique celluloid gem. Unfortunately the cult status Save the Green Planet has acquired in foreign territories wasn’t replicated on Korean soil, where it took a nose-dive at the box office. This is a genuine shame as, while not perfect, Save the Green Planet highlights director Jang’s distinctive style and is a highly refreshing departure from other, more formulaic, productions.

Recluse Lee Byeong-gu (Shin Ha-kyun (신하균) becomes obsessed with the notion that Earth is under threat from aliens hailing from Andromeda. To save the green planet, Byeong-gu and his partner Su-ni (Hwang Jeong-min (황정민) kidnap the CEO of a large chemical conglomerate, Kang Man-shik (Baek Yoon-sik (백윤식), believed to be one of the most senior ranking aliens. Torturing the executive for answers, Byeong-gu attempts to discover the clandestine machinations of the race, as well as saving his mother who he also believes to be a victim of alien experimentation. Yet the kidnapping does not go unnoticed by the law, with the police force – as well as a renegade cop – following the trail.

Is Byeong-gu mentally unstable, or does he hold the key to Earth's survival?

Is Byeong-gu mentally unstable, or does he hold the key to Earth’s survival?

‘Madcap’ is a word often used to describe Save the Green Planet and that it is, although not in the haphazard manner the word implies. Director Jang Joon-hwan displays a keen understanding of the array of cinematic traits he employs, competently structuring them in order to provide the best possible use of generic conventions whilst also deriving dark-comedy from the source. Scenes featuring horror, thriller, and dramatic traits flow seamlessly, constructing dramatic tension yet often exhibiting a tongue-in-cheek sensibility as it does so. Torture sequences, for example, feature toe-curling moments but are also incredibly – and darkly – funny, as evil CEO Man-shik has antihistamine rubbed into wounds and is routinely degraded. Similarly, references to accomplished cinematic classics that arise throughout the film are genuine laugh-out-loud moments, and are enjoyable for cinephiles and occasional movie fans alike.

However, humour is just one of the many facets that make Save the Green Planet so entertaining. What truly makes the film so engaging are the underlying themes of the narrative and the psychological disposition of central protagonist Byeong-gu. From the outset, Byeong-gu is conveyed as seriously mentally ill. His theories regarding aliens from Andromeda is the stuff of B-movie science fiction material, while his attire and quirkiness belie the horrors that await in his private torture chamber. Yet his unique perspective on the world is an ironic one, as he uncovers scandals, corruption and amorality in attempting to prove the existence of aliens. Byeong-gu is indeed correct about the Earth being under threat, just not in the manner that his neurosis has constructed. It is in danger through the machinations of the rich and powerful, features which Byeong-gu strips away in order to reveal the ‘truth’ – and potentially atonement – making the unhinged young man something of an anti-hero.

Byeong-gu gets to work interrogating 'alien' Man-shik

Byeong-gu gets to work interrogating ‘alien’ Man-shik

As a result of all his eccentricities the film is a deeply psychological exploration of Byeong-gu’s paranoid mind, one that becomes more and more apparent through multiple viewings. As the unstable protagonist’s history is uncovered, director Jang crafts a biting social commentary regarding contemporary Korea, one that certainly would not be out of place in a Lee Chang-dong film. In doing so Byeong-gu’s cause – and indeed the film itself – is given incredible heartfelt merit, so much so that despite the atrocities he commits his status as an anti-hero is actually heightened. Director Jang intelligently articulates Byeong-gu’s psychosis through the mise-en-scene of the homestead, a multi-tiered countryside abode that features dimly-lit mannequins in the basement and bee hives in the garden, all symbolically linked to is unbalanced mind.

With such a wealth of character material, Shin Ha-kyun doesn’t disappoint. Arguably his career best, Shin is simply excellent in the role with his chameleonic ability to switch between manic highs and solemn lows incredibly impressive and, despite the often comical attributes, sincere. The protagonist could easily be another silly psycho but Shin gives Byeong-gu heart and conviction to make him truly sympathetic, and one of the most memorable characters in contemporary Korean cinema. Such focus unfortunately isn’t bestowed upon other members within the film, notably love interest Su-ni and the assortment of bumbling and renegade cops on the kidnapping trail, ultimately leading to plot threads that are never really mined for their potential. But as Byeong-gu is so charismatic and engaging such shortcomings are easily ignored, as it’s largely due to him that Save the Green Planet is such a compelling genre-bending film.

Battered and bruised, Man-shik attempts to discover Byeong-gu's secrets

Battered and bruised, Man-shik attempts to discover Byeong-gu’s secrets


Save the Green Planet is a thoroughly engaging and fun amalgamation of disparate generic features, all interwoven into a uniquely thrilling whole. Yet in addition to the madcap antics, director Jang Joon-hwan has crafted a biting social satire as well as a highly memorable, psychologically unbalanced anti-hero in the form of Byeong-gu. While the array of characters means that not all get a chance to shine, Byeong-gu’s heartfelt conviction overshadow such shortcomings. Save the Green Planet an incredibly enjoyable, strikingly powerful, and uniquely refreshing film.