Seoul Connection

Thanks to my friend Nate, who is in Seoul, South Korea escaping the American ruse and living his dream, Acme has a few additions to the Korean film collection. He has passed along several films from past and present that are of varying type but all of which are interesting and recommended to those who enjoy Korean cinema, or foreign film in general.
gagmandg1Gagman, a 1989 film from director Myung-se Lee, is a rather funny action comedy about an unsuccessful stand-up comic who yearns to become a big-time film director.  He is joined by two friends who aspire to be actors, and the three concoct a scheme to break into films by doing bank heists, and in the process, there is much hilarity and many nods to Chaplin and Keaton. The film is the director’s homage to these great gagmen.

Friend, a 2001 film by Kyung-taek Kwak, is the director’s semi-autobiographical and tragic story of four Friendposterchildhood friends spanning a number of years in the 1970’s. At the time of its release it became the largest grossing Korean film ever (not how we really care to measure a film’s worth, mind you, but 2001 was a worldwide breakthrough year for Korean filmmakers). It is beautifully shot in and around Korea’s second largest city, Pusan, and reflects the director’s affinity for the place. To keep it interesting storywise, there are elements of sex, drugs, underworld crime, karaoke, and even murder and courtroom drama that are mostly true to life.

posterphoto5992The Power of Kangwon Province, from Sang-Soo Hong (Woman Is The Future of Man), is a release from 1998. This particular film has been regarded as a low-budget masterpiece with a feel for the slow pace and long takes of older Antonioni films but with a directness that is of more recent cinema. A young student and her married professor end a secret love affair, which we sense is very painful for her. Some time later, she travels from Seoul to Kangwon province, an Eastern resort area. Simultaneously, her ex is making his own trip there, although they never meet. The film shows both journeys through a challenging time structure which is linear as a film, but simultaneous as a story. Hong has made several films in which he follows two threads of story occurring at the same time and has said that he sees his films more as stories that fit structures he has thought up rather than films about reality. Through his subtlety concerning story, the viewer has a chance to interpret things occurring rather than being blatantly shown, which make this a very satisfying, smart, and refreshing kind of film to see.

horrorgameGawi, aka Horror Game Movie, aka Nightmare, from 2000, by Byeoun-ki Ahn, is a solid addition to the Korean horror section. It came out amidst a slew of ghost story slasher films, and is definitely one, but it is the great camerawork and visual style of this one that make it worthwhile. The storyline is nothing new – a girl is haunted by the ghost of her murdered friend, and people are being killed off one by one as the story of her death unravels.

Many thanks to Nate for sending these along. Stay tuned for reviews of new Korean films as they arrive. Anticipated releases include A Bittersweet Life and Breathless, both from 2008/9.

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