Far from being one-dimensional, South Korean cinema is recognized for tackling every possible genre with intelligence and success. The industry continues to prove itself as a cradle of creativity as confirmed by the numerous selections and awards garnered by South Korean movies on the international circuit this year. Hailing from The Land of the Morning Calm we here at Sound On Sight have decided to focus on some fresh works from renowned veterans such as Lee Yoon-ki and newly discovered classics in the making . Here’s an overview of must-see debut features in 2009:
CRUSH AND BLUSH
South Korea Dir: Lee Kyoung-mi
A side-splitting burlesque comedy from newcomer Lee Kyoung-mi, this movie credits Park Chan-wook (THIRST) as producer and co-writer. Kong Hyo-jin, winner of the best actress prize at this year’s Korean Film Awards, shines in a stellar cast in a performance that is somewhere between Almodovar’s first works and a less psychopathic version of Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction. Among many honours, CRUSH AND BLUSHED was awarded best screenplay at the Blue Dragon Awards as well as an audacity award at the New York Asian Film Festival.
South Korea Dir: Yang Ik-june
Yang Ik-june’s maiden effort is a powerful masterpiece which explores the gloomiest
corners of Seoul teeming not only with crooks but also noble folks just trying to maintain what’s left of their dignity. With solid performances by Yang Ik-june and Kim Kkobbi, this touching drama reminiscent of Takeshi Kitano (VIOLENT COP)
and Bong Joon-ho (MEMORIES OF MURDER), in certainly one of this year’s best discoveries. Recognized internationally, it won the First VPRO prize at the Tiger Awards held during the Rotterdam International Film Festival and Best Debut Feature at the New York Asian Film Festival.
South Korea Dir: Na Hong-jin
THE CHASER holds its own in the midst of all those great classics that launched the new wave of South Korean genre cinema. The script is a cunning blend of dark humour, blatant cruelty and social commentary. Kim Yun-seok as an ex-policeman
turned pimp and Ha Jung-woo as a bloodthirsty killer deliver an impressive engagement. Na Hong-jin manages to create a first work that is both fascinating and incredibly intense. An official selection at Cannes 2008. An American version with Leonardo di Caprio is under discussion.
South Korea Dir: Park Dae-min
A shrewd detective and a brilliant young doctor team up in order to stop a terrifying serial killer. Unfortunately for them, they have no clue what they have stumbled upon. A classic detective story in the spirit of Sherlock Holmes, Park Dae-min was quite obviously inspired by the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle when crafting his first feature film. The extensive task of recreating a turn of the century Korea was aptly accomplished by the good people who previously impressed us with THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE WEIRD.
South Korea Dir: Jang Hun
When an arrogant actor offends a dangerous gangster, he can’t foresee that they will one day end up on the same set. What’s more, the fight scenes are all 100% real. Produced and co-written by Kim Ki-Duk, this premiere effort from Jang Hun signals a major talent on the rise, as this up and coming director is obviously ready to step out of his mentor’s shadow. Keep an eye out for him in the near future.
South Korea Dir: Min Kyu-dong
The popular manga ANTIQUE BAKERY has been adapted into a television series, an anime and now finally, a feature film will follow the adventures of Fumi Yoshinaga’s unforgettable characters. This colourful, funny and visually stunning comedy which hides a darker side with a perfectly intertwined psychological aspect, was a huge hit in
its native South Korea.
MY DEAR ENEMY
South Korea Dir: Lee Yoon-ki
A beautifully shot dramedy with a sultry jazz score, MY DEAR ENEMY takes us on a scenic tour of Seoul. Right from the first exquisite scene, it becomes clear that this is an incomparable film created by a very talented director. Lee Yoon-ki serves up a visual feast and transforms a day in the life of two completely contradictory individuals into an unforgettable cinematic experience. Jeon Do-yeon (Best Actress at Cannes 2008 for SECRET SUNSHINE) and Ha Jung-woo (THE CHASER)
predominate this exceptional and absolutely must-see film.
THE DIVINE WEAPON
South Korea Dir: Kim Yoo-jin
This historical saga ripe with grand scale action sequences, epic power struggles and breathtaking martial arts scenes, transports us to the heart of the Joseon dynasty right as a devastating secret weapon, similar to a missile, is being built. Kim Yoo-jin
crafts an entertaining movie that manages to be simultaneously funny and riveting all the while shedding some light on little known events of Korean history. Unless you already knew that missiles were being built in that part of the world during the 1600s…
PORTRAIT OF A BEAUTY
South Korea Dir: Jeon Yun-su
The man behind the beloved LE GRAND CHEF is back to show us something completely different. One constant does remain however, as Jeon Yun-su still
manages to created images filled with awe-inspiring beauty. After having recreated the manga universe, he now turns towards paintings as he recreated on screen the masterpieces of artist Shin Yoon-bok who’s life he retells basing himself on the hypothesis that he could actually have been a woman. Sensual and touching,