Posts Tagged ‘Korean films’

The HandmaidenThe Handmaiden, the latest and most lascivious of offerings from Korean bad boy director/writer Chan-wook Park, gives whole new meaning to the phrase “guilty pleasure.” Many, if not most, will enjoy this wicked, naughty (oh, so naughty) tale of deceit, sexual politics, and betrayal, but be careful: too much enthusiasm for this luscious work may generate suspicion. Are you really so enamored of Park’s decision to transplant the story from the source material, the novel Fingersmith by Sarah Waters, from Dickens’ London to 1930’s Korea? Are you a genuine fan of Asian film noir and relish a pitch black look at the human soul in its quest for money, power, and the upper hand? Or are you simply an educated pervert, engaging in blatant voyeurism, much like the gentlemen who listen to Lady Hideko’s readings of ribald tales at the invitation of her uncle? (more…)

Train to BusanRap versus rock. The designated hitter or pitchers batting. And, of course, the most contentious of arguments pitting fans of a classic approach against a band of upstarts: slow-moving zombies or their quick-footed brethren.

These are the unresolvable debates of our time. And while the Korean horror action flick Train to Busan (aka Busanhaeng) will not end the vitriol, advocates for a more fleet flock of undead have received a major boost from writer/director Yeon Sang-ho. In his first live-action feature film, Yeon has crafted a thrilling ride through a society sliding into the zombie apocalypse, utilizing a passenger train as his literal and metaphorical vehicle. (more…)

The WailingThe Wailing is a film that works – almost in spite of itself. It plays footsie with several genre conventions, while outright flouting others. It’s a horror movie that runs for 156 minutes. It’s a police procedural with an overweight, adulterous barely competent cop on the periphery of the investigation. One moment, The Wailing is about as subtle as a rake stuck in the head of a zombie (an actual image from the movie), and the next, it is as enigmatic as the mysteries of the world’s religions. It’s a Hitchcock mystery. No, it’s a gruesome hunt for a serial killer. Wait, it’s a biblical allegory.

You could spend the entire post film discussion arguing about the proper categorization for this latest offering from director/screenwriter Na Hong-jin, and not even have time remaining for a discussion of what the movie’s epigram from the Book of Luke means when it is uttered by a character in the denouement. (more…)

office2The new Korean thriller Office has one of the most dramatic demonstrations of the power of image in recent memory. A single shot, some five minutes into the movie, showing a hand gripping a hammer in the foreground and a domestic scene within an apartment in the background elicits gasps from audiences anticipating and fearing what will happen next before it is even shown. That director Hong Won-Chan can capture such a moment in his first feature film merits kudos, and, even if that represents the dramatic zenith of this uneven effort, his talent is unmistakable.


A-Hard-Day-1Ahead of October’s release of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, we have the Korean adult version known as Kkeut-kka-ji-gan-da or A Hard Day. Alexander may have to deal with setbacks like gum in his hair and a trip to the dentist, but that hardly measures up to the grown-up problems our hero, Go Geon-soo (Seon-gyun Lee), faces.

Geon-soo must plan his mother’s funeral, deal with his own divorce and the custody of his daughter, and stay a step ahead of the internal affairs team investigating him and the other members of his police squad for alleged corruption.  But what proves to be the capper for the good detective is when he runs over a pedestrian late at night on a deserted stretch of road.


imageAh, the road movie.

Disparate characters somehow wind up in a car or a bus or a plane, a train, or an automobile. They fight. They bond. They fight some more. Inevitably, they find themselves on the side of the road, in the middle of nowhere, seemingly without the means to go on. And that’s when the realization comes over them them. The trip was never about the destination. It was always about the journey.

And – gasp – they find out that they needed to get away from everything to discover each other or themselves or the big beautiful country or whatever.

Arrrgghh, the road movie.


2013 - The Fake (still 6)Yeon Sang-ho’s first feature film, Dwae-ji-ui wang (The King of Pigs), achieved a certain notoriety and acclaim on the festival circuit as an animated film that offered an unusually brutal and vivid depiction of bullying in a South Korean middle school and the ramifications of the abuse on the victims and their subsequent relationships as adults. Sang-ho’s follow-up, Saibi or The Fake, shows that the director and writer continues to develop as this work offers a richer and more nuanced plot and greater depth in characterization. The animation is improved as well.

That is not to say that the movie is easier to watch.


1d4dc73113914baa80f967167b0c4993The treatment of rape in the arts – particularly the visual portrayal of the incident and its aftermath in movies and television – remains controversial though not taboo. In the most recently completed season of the British soap opera, Downton Abbey, fan favorite Anna was assaulted, and viewers did not respond well. Most believed it a cheap plot device that was not justified by the subsequent direction of the story or treatment of the characters involved. The same criticisms also apply to Sin-ui Seon-mul (Godsend), the new film from Korean director Moon Si-Hyun. Midway through the film, the narrative is derailed by a violent and artistically indefensible act that undercuts the good will that the director and her actresses have established to that point. The story does not recover, but instead lurches through a series of increasingly difficult and preposterous moments before finishing with a cloying, unsatisfying sequence.