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Beasts Clawing at Straws 지푸라기라도 잡고 싶은 짐승들 Dir: Kim Yong-hoon (2020)

Beasts Clawing at Straws    Beasts Clawing at Straws Film poster

지푸라기라도 잡고 싶은 짐승들「Jipuragirado Jabgo Sipeun Jibseungdeul

Running Time: 108 mins.

Release Date: February 19th, 2020

Director: Kim Yong-hoon

Writer: Kim Yong-hoon (Screenplay), Keisuke Sone (Original Novel – 藁にもすがる獣たち)

Starring: Jeon Do-yeon (Yeon-hee), Jung Woo-sing (Tae-young), Bae Sung-woo (Jung-man), Jung Ga-ram (Jin-Tae), Kyung Jin (Young-Seon),

IMDB

Crime thriller Beasts Clawing at Straws is the debut feature of director Kim Yong-hoon and while he may be new name on the scene what is on the screen has all of the narrative slickness and stylistic panache associated with Korean cinema to ensure it stands with the best of his nation’s crime films.

Based on a Japanese novel by Keisuke Sone, it’s hard to imagine a director from Japan, outside of Takeshi Kitano or Tetsuya Nakashima, being able to do this hard-boiled story with the grit, the grue, the darkness, the bouncy pacing and the wry sense of humour that seems more natural for modern Korean film-makers and Kim applies these elements to a collection of morally compromised characters colliding with each other as they all chase a Louis Vuitton Boston bag stuffed to the brim with cash.

Continue reading “Beasts Clawing at Straws 지푸라기라도 잡고 싶은 짐승들 Dir: Kim Yong-hoon (2020)”

Maggie 메기 Dir: Yi Ok-seop (2018) South Korea Osaka Asian Film Festival 2019

Maggie   

메기

Running Time: 88 mins.

Release Date: October 2018

Director: Yi Ok-seop

Writer: Yi Ok-seop, Koo Kyo-hwan (Screenplay),

Starring: Lee Ju-young, Moon So-ri, Koo Kyo-hwan, Lee Ju-yeong, Mun So-ri, Koo Gyo-Hwan, Myeong Gye-nam, Kim Kkobbi Flowerain,

IMDB

http://www.oaff.jp/2019/en/program/c09.html

Winner of the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2019’s Grand Prix (Best Picture Award) as well as Busan International Film Festival 2018’s CGV Art House Award and Citizens’ Critic Award, Maggie heralds a new directing talent in Yi Ok-Seop, someone who brings a lively verve to her examination of how doubt can infect everything and how such an infection should be cured by seeking the truth. It’s a large topic tackled with a disparate range of elements from a talking catfish to mysterious seismic activities and audiences will be forgiven for having doubts of their own as to how everything links up and if it will be satisfying but it works in the end.

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“Anarchist from Colony” to Open Osaka Asian Film Festival 2018

The Osaka Asian Film Festival is back for its 13th year and a wide variety of films from across Asia will be shown in a programme that includes a Competition, Special Screenings, Special Programs, an Indie Forum and more.

The festival opens on Friday March 9th at Hankyu Umeda Hall with the Japanese premiere of the Korean film “Anarchist from Colony”, directed by Lee Joon-ik (“The Throne” and “Dongju: The Portrait of a Poet”) and stars Lee Je-hoon from “Architecture 101” and “Phantom Detective”, and the up-and-coming actress Choi Hee-seo who won many awards for her performance in this title.

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Osaka Asian Film Festival 2017: Mrs. B., A North Korean Woman

Mrs. B., A North Korean Woman   mrs-b-woman-of-n-korea-poster

マダム・ベー(原題)  Madamu Be- (Gendai)   

Running Time: 72 mins.

Director/Writer: Jero Yun

IMDB

“Mrs. B., A North Korean Woman” focuses on the titular Mrs. B (full name never given), a woman who escaped across the border from North Korea into China with the intention of getting a job for a short period of time and sending money back to her husband and two boys. This documentary, shot over the course of three years, reveals that things didn’t quite go according to plan since she was sold into marriage to the son of a Chinese farming family and willingly spent around a decade in China. What happened?

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Behind the Camera (2013)

Behind the Camera (2013)    Behind the Camera DVD Case

Release Date: February 28th, 2013 (South Korea)

UK Release: July 28th, 2014

Distributor: Third Window Films

Running Time: 90 mins.

Director: E J-Yong

Writer: E J-Yong

Starring: E J-Yong, Youn Yuh-Jung, Kim Ok-Vin, Jung Eun-Chae, Kim Nam-Jin, Kim Jee-Woon, Kang Hye-Jung

E J-Yong is a daring director but his reputation is mixed having directed a big hit with the pretty and pretty vacuous historical drama Untold Scandal (2003) and the more contemporary Dasepo Naughty Girls (2006), a  colourful musical school comedy based on a lurid webcomic whichavoided being too raunchy, something which may have led to it flopping at the Korean box-office. In 2009 he tried his hand at mockumentaries with the title Actresses where he gathered a six of Korea’s great actresses and filmed them playing themselves at a Vogue photo shoot and having outrageous conversations in a satire of the world of Korean film.

It is this last film which Behind the Camera follows closely, as E J-Yong turns the camera on to the world of Korean movies once again and reveals what goes on behind-the-scenes of a film shoot which lacks a director on set. The results of Behind the Camera is not total carnage, more an interesting and warm-hearted look at filmmaking and what use a director on set may be.

“I’m shooting a short film and I had a shocking idea.”

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The Flu

Genki The Flu Review Banner Dr Kim In-Hae (Soo-Ae)

The Flu                                                                             The Flu Film Poster

Release Date: August 14th, 2013 (South Korea)

Running Time: 121 mins.

Director: Kim Sung-Su

Writer: Kim Sung-Su, Lee Young-Jong

Starring: Jang Hyuk, Soo-Ae, Park Min-Ha, Yu Hae-Jin, Ma Dong-Seok, Lee Hee-Joon, Lee Sang-Yeob, Cha In-Pyo. Kim Ki-Hyeon, Andrew William Brand

When I saw The Flu advertised on the billboard of my local cinema I was surprised because it has been around four years since I last saw a Korean film play there and that was back at the tail end of the glory days of the Korean New Wave of the 2000’s. It turns out that the guys and girls behind the Korean Film Festival were instrumental in making sure it reached cinemas across the UK. Their choice is a canny one because the film has huge appeal due to its big-budget approach to the popular disaster genre.

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Memento Mori

Genki Jason Memento Mori Review Banner

Memento Mori                                                        Memento Mori Film Poster

Hangul: 여고괴담 두번째 이야기 /  여고괴담 II

Romanisation: Yeogo goedam II

Release Date: 24th December 1999 (South Korea)

Running Time: 98 mins.

Director: Kim Tae-Yong, Min Kyu-Dong

Writer: Kim Tae-Yong, Min Kyu-Dong

Starring: Kim Gyu-Ri, Park Yeh-Jin, Lee Young-Jin, Baek Jong-Hak, Ki Jae-In, Kong Hyo-Jin

A year after Whispering Corridors, Memento Mori continues the franchise with a bitter tale of love, rejection and isolation that causes an outbreak of supernatural craziness in another all-girl’s school.

Min-Ah (Kim Gyu-Ri) is late for class when she discovers a diary which records the strange and obsessive world of the writer who is at the same school and is in love with a fellow pupil. As Min-Ah reads the diary she discovers what she thinks are sweets. After taking one of them she reads a suicide pact and becomes ill. Min-Ah heads to the school clinic where she witnesses class nerd Hyo-Shin (Park Yeh-Jin) and athletic Shi-Eun (Lee Young-Jin) share an intense conversation before disappearing. With a physical exam due for her class, Min-Ah heads off to join her friends but the check-up is disrupted by the death of Hyo-Shin. What happened? Can the diary explain things? Is Min-Ah poisoned? What are Hyo-Shin and Shi-Eun hiding?

Out of the entire franchise Memento Mori has to be my favourite and not because of the lesbianism which caused a bit of a stir when it was released in Korea but because much like Whispering Corridors the film has a complex and emotionally moving story. (Minor character related spoilers ahead)

It opens with a beautiful and distinct visual of two school girls sinking in a pool of water, the red string of fate¹ tying them together by their ankles until one girl panics, unties herself and kicks away to the surface leaving the other to sink.

Memento Mori Red Thread

This intriguing opening leads to a tale with psychologically complicated and realistic characters which gives all of the actions an acutely personal and painful edge.

Wanna write a diary together?

Memento Mori takes place in an average school. For most of the film the viewer observes the goofy behaviour that school kids engage in from pulling faces at each other, pushing each other around, making embarrassing videos, general larking about and gossiping. Accompanying these mostly innocent actions is the intense feeling of togetherness felt by pupils and, for some, a burgeoning sexuality. It all means much more to two students who exchange meaningful glances and what seem like telepathic thoughts between each other but can their love be realised in such a hot house environment sharp tongues and conservative mindsets? Min-Ah stumbles upon this illicit love with the discovery of the diary and like her I was drawn into this world.

Memento Mori Min-Ah (Kim Gyu-Ri) Finds the Diary

While the film takes place over the course of a day the non-linear narrative distorts the temporal space of the film since it incorporates Min-Ah’s reading of the diary which allows past and present to co-mingle along with the obsessive fantasies of the writer. This leads to the director inter-cutting between events creating an off-kilter atmosphere which draws us into the diary and Min-Ah’s increasingly unhealthy curiosity about the love between the girls in the diary.

The relationship between Shi-Eun (Lee Young-Jin) and Hyo-Shin (Park Yeh-Jin) is given to us in fragments through the diary but remains moving thanks to the performances and the dedication to realistic characterisation. There is a sense of innocence and playfulness to the relationship but the lesbian aspect of it means that it becomes problematic in the lives of the two girls and one feels it more acutely than the other.

Memento Mori Intense Stare Shi-Eun (Lee Young-Jin) and Hyo-Shin (Park Yeh-Jin)

Park Yeh-Jin as Hyo-Shin gives a brilliant performance which reveals that she is used to being ostracised for being smarter than others. She is beautiful and elegant and intelligent but this is hidden because of the nature of (almost any) school is that anyone who stands out Memento Mori Hyo-Shin tries to Avoid Speaking (Park Yeh-Jin)becomes a target for bullies and gossips. The reluctance to stand out is shown aptly in one sequence where a teacher gets her up in class to recite poetry. In a medium shot she drags herself out of her seat and recites. While speaking we see it in a medium shot and are aware of other’s eyes on her as the soundtrack catches snatches of jealous whispers are caught behind her back. Behind the quiet façade is a girl surging with passion and invention and daring which she reveals to Shi-Eun.

“The world is made of sounds. People have their own tune. Together they can make harmony or dissonance.”

Whenever the two find themselves alone together they discover a mutual attraction but while Hyo-Shin becomes increasingly dedicated to Shi-Eun the feeling is not mutual as Shi-Eun seems to have doubts as to their relationship. As the film progresses Hyo-Shin’s passion becomes manic and almost stifling which drives Shi-Eun further away and into acting out harsh behavior.

Memento Mori Shi-Eun (Lee Young-Jin) Stares BackLee Young-Jin as Shin-Eun has a slightly more masculine look with her tallness, sharp features and athletic build. Her performance is mysterious and tough. She also has coolness and a slight teenage sullenness about her which makes her seem apathetic to reality. At her most open she has a warm and playful side but she wears a false mask and relies on a certain distance to protect herself. As the idea of illicit love becomes more threatening to her we see the character become more guarded, her smile does not come as easily as in earlier scenes and you see her wanting to physically pull away from others.

I found watching the two interact revealed something beautiful and something painful about teenage love and I shared Min-Ah’s growing curiosity although, thankfully, I avoided the supernatural activity. As the film played out I was distinctly moved by the unfolding events.

Complexity in character and script is matched in direction.

The same observation of the students I mentioned earlier also serves to chart the rejection and humiliation faced by the couple in the diary. In one horrendous scene there is a POV shot that show gossips staring directly at a character while another physically and emotionally intense scene has a camera circle 360 degrees to show the fallout of the action. Techniques get a lot more complicated, especially when the haunting starts.

Throughout the film the scares are mostly impressionistic and lack a visceral edge. There are glimpses of spectres in uniform, doors opening and closing, and ghostly laughter over the PA system but it is not as scary as it sounds but the interesting parts are the more hallucinatory experiences especially as Min-Ah comes under the influence of the diary which takes on a supernatural edge. There is one great sequence with Min-Ah where time lapse is used and everyone passing is sped up almost into a blur while she remains sitting, rooted to the spot by a supernatural force that has dragged her from her everyday surroundings into a supernatural bubble.

When supernatural chaos breaks out the film loses a degree of coherency as it cross-cuts between a lot of action scenes. There are lots of dolly shots as hundreds of extras dash about trying to escape some (light-weight) supernatural scares. I found that this did not detract from the overall story since the characters, actors and the way the story was filmed with its great direction, had moved me. When the final credits ran I admired it, including the ending, for its drama more than the supernatural elements. Take out the haunting and make it a psychological tale and it would still work. I had come to care about the characters and wanted them to be happy regardless of their gender.

5/5

¹Red thread of fate? They are destined to be lovers. It is a scene that is sexy until you watch the making-of.

Petty Romance Release Details

Terracotta will release the movie Petty Romance on DVD next week on the 8th of October. Apparently it is one of South Korea’s biggest box office smashes in 2010 where it sold nearly 500,000 tickets. It is Petty Romance and it comes from first-time director Kim Joung-Hoon’s. It is described as being “a movie where a sex columnist and a comic book artist team up to create the ultimate female action manhwa hero.”

Sounds awesome! While the director is unfamiliar to me, some of the actors I do recognise from K-horror movies like Into the Glass, R-Point, Whispering Corridors and more.

Here are the details:

Petty Romance DVD Case

PETTY ROMANCE

 A film by Kim Joung-hoon

 Starring: Lee Sun-kyun (Oki’s Movie, Paju, Night and Day, Coffee Prince), Choi Kang-hee (My Scary Girl, Whispering Corridors), Oh Jung-se, Ryu Hyun-kyung

 

Korea / 2010 / 118 Mins / In Korean with English subtitles / Certificate 15

Release Date: 8th October 2012

Spectacular action and sizzling love scenes from the couple’s imagination were given life through the hand of award winning illustrator Seok Jeong-hyeon. The movie captures the process of adult animation production and director Kim Jeong-hoon uses a great technique of mixing feature film and adult Manwha (Korean comic books) for erotic & fighting segments when the couple’s inner thoughts come alive into action.

Petty Romance Illustration

Synopsis

An adult cartoon contest is announced offering a $100,000 prize. Talented cartoonist Jung-bae (Lee Sun-Kyun) is constantly turned down by publishing companies because of his poor story lines. To raise his chances of winning, he hires a sex advice columnist, Da-rim (Choi Kang-hee), a self-claimed expert on relationship and love-making with big imagination and zero experience. For the cartoon competition, Da-rim comes up with the idea of a female assassin, Ma Mi-so, who keeps her male victims captive for erotic kicks.

The two, who seemed perfectly matched, team up for the lucrative prize, bringing out their respective wildest fantasies. Trouble is set to brew: will they be able to complete the task and win the competition?

Jung-Bae (Lee Sun-Kyun) and Da-Rim (Choi Gang-Hee) in Petty Romance

Live action interspersed with erotic and action manga scenes.

DVD Special Features

  • Making of
  • Interview of lead actor and actress
  • Korean Teaser Trailer
  • Stills Gallery

The Man from Nowhere

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The Man from Nowhere                                          The Man From Nowhere Movie Poster

Release Date: 05th August 2010 (South Korea)

Running Time: 119 mins.

Director: Lee Jeong-beom

Writer: Lee Jeong-beom

Starring: Won Bin, Kim Sae-ron, Kim Hee-won, Kim Sung-oh, Kim Tae-hun, Lee Jong-I, Thanayong Wongtrakul, Kim Hyo-seo

The Man from Nowhere is a film I picked after getting it confused with Nowhere to Hide directed by Lee Myung-se (Duelist). What I got was a formulaic but decent action film.

Detective Kim Chi-gun’s (Kim Tae-hun) team are at the end of a two month stakeout of a nightclub where a drug deal is about to take place. That deal does not take place because a club dancer named Hyo-jeong (Kim Hyo-seo) steals the drugs. This is a major mistake because they are connected to a Chinese mafia organisation led by brothers Man-sik (Kim Hee-won) and Jong-suk (Kim Sung-oh). Hyo-jeong hides the drugs by placing them in a camera bag and taking the bag to a pawn shop owned by Cha Tae-sik (Won Bin), a mysterious man known only as “ajusshi (mister)”. He keeps to himself apart from his relationship with a young girl named So-mi (Kim Sae-ron), daughter of Hyo-jeong. So-mi regards Cha Tae-sik as a friend since kids make fun of her for being poor and her mother regards her as “garbage”. When the Chinese mafia come looking for their drugs they kidnap Hyo-jeong and So-mi to force Cha Tae-sik to hand over the goods. This is a bad idea because this mysterious man is far more dangerous than he seems and he sets off to rescue So-mi which means he will have to take out the gangsters while avoiding the police.

One look at the story will tell you that original is the last thing this film is. Arguably the audience for this will not be bothered by the lack of originality as they are in this for the action and cool/amusing characters who do not need to be analysed too deeply and we get these elements in abundance all captured with crisp cinematography.

The situations become a bit complicated

The film’s strongest point is the acting, particularly the interaction between So-mi (Kim Sae-ron) and Cha Tae-sik (Won Bin). Cha Tae-sik and So-mi Have Dinner in The Man From Nowhere

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Kick the Moon

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Kick the Moon                                                                Kick the Moon Poster

Release Date: 23rd June 2001 (South Korea)

Running Time: 118 mins.

Director: Kim Sang-Jin

Writer: Kang Woo-Suk, Park Jung-Woo  

Starring: Cha Seung-won, Lee Sung-jae, Kim Hye-su, Lee Jong-su, Sung Ji-ru, Lee Han-gal, Kim Young-joon, Yu Hae-jin, Lee Won-jong

Kick the Moon is such an intriguing title and it must have meaning for South Korean’s but it’s lost in translation. In any case this is a very entertaining gangster comedy.

Ten years ago a legendary fight took place between two rival schools in Gyeongju. Tough guy Choi Gi-dong marks his place in history by getting into the thick of the brawl while his friend, the shy and decent student Park Young-joon stays out of trouble which makes Kick the Moon Young-joon and Gi-donghim a target for bullying for his fellow students. Ten years later the two have switched roles as Choi Gi-dong (Cha Seung-won) is a high school home-room teacher desperate to keep his kids out of trouble while Park Young-joon (Lee Sung-jae) is a major gangster operating out of Seoul. When Park Young-joon is sent to annex criminal operations (quite openly) in Geongju for his gang he runs into Choi Gi-dong and what starts off as a friendly reunion becomes testy when they reminisce about the fight. Their relationship sours even Kick the Moon Young-joon and Gi-dong Grown Upmore when they both meet and fall for feisty and cute café owner Min Ju-ran (Kim Hye-su) who has a school-age brother, Min Jin-seob (Lee Jong-su), desperate to be a gangster. The two will find their friendship strained as they fight over Min Ju-ran amidst the chaos of a mob war.

South Korea has a habit of producing amusing comedy films mixing crime with normal situations. My Wife is a Gangster had a crime boss marry a regular guy. My Boss, My Hero which had a gangster go back to school. Attack the Gas Station! had a band of youths do exactly what the title says. The last film was Kim Sang-jin’s directorial job before this film which answers the question, ‘what happens when teen delinquents grow up?’

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