Tag Archives: Korean film

Parasite plot holes and inconsistencies

Spoiler alert!

When Ki-jeong frames the driver by leaving her underwear under the back seat, she does so without him noticing. If she can do this with such ease, it suggests she could more easlily make money as a stripper or karaoke hostess (which, lets face it, is probably the job a woman in her situation would have).

In a later scene, the Kims are eating in a canteen for what looks like taxi drivers and chauffeurs. If the father already has talent for driving, why isn’t he already earning money doing so? Not to mention the ease with which the Parks dismiss their former driver. If they valued him at all they would have confronted him about what happened..

When the former housekeeper returns, she finds the family behaving extremely innapropriately., getting drunk on expensive whisky and throwing snacks around. Yet she carries on as though this is normal.

Guen-sye, the husband under the cellar. Where to start with this one? The explanation for his hiding there is that there was an underground bunker built by the previous owners of the house. When her husband borrowed money from loan sharks, she sent him down here, obviously caring for him whilst she worked as a housekeeper. If this was before the present owners moved in, it would mean that he has lived there longer than 17 years (!) by which point, wouldn’t the sharks have given up chasing him? Then again, Pieta……https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piet%C3%A0_(film)


The kid’s birthday party. Something strange about this; there don’t seem to be any kids here. Instead, there’s a woman singing o mio babbino caro, and a huge fire in the middle, not to mention an axe.

The killings. This scene was so badly shot that its actually difficult to see what happens. But lets see: Ki-jeong comes with a cake, which she smashes into Geun-sye, but after he has lunged at her with a knife, fatally stabbing her. This is in full view of the guests, who seem not to notice a deranged man with blood seeping from his forehead carrying a knife. Just before this, her brother is bludgeoned twice with a rock, seems to be out cold (but later makes a miraculous recovery). Someone kills Geun-sye with a barbecue skewer, the boy faints, and Ki-jeong dies. All of this could have been done better, but in a further bit of unlikeliness, the father stabs Mr park with a knife, killing him.

What do the Kims do with their money? Working at the Parks should have brought then some material benefits. strangely, despite all working good jobs, they continue to live in the tiny, semi-derelict flat under the ground.

Right at the end, we see Ki-teok writing a letter to his father (who uses morse-code signalling to send messages to his son). Except there is no way of Ki-teok getting the letter to his father. But wait. Immediately after killing Mr Park, Chung-sook can be seen running to the side of the house, down into the basement. In other words, it can be reached from the outside, which means the son could quite easily post messages directly to the father, give him food, even help him break out.

Whilst Mr and Mrs Park wait for their son to come out of the tepee, they make love on the sofa. As he starts to caress her breasts, she instructs him to move in clockwise direction. It’s clearly done for laughs, but it’s not really obvious why she would gain more pleasure from this.

On my first viewing, I felt that the Parks were parasitic of the Kims. When I watched it again, it was the other way round. I’m not sure the film is such a strong statement of class ( as has been claimed). The film highlights the social divide in South Korea, without really telling us anything interesting about it. Not to mention, the Kims hurt each other, displace hard-working people and are responsible for the murder of an innocent man.

All this means that I still enjoyed watching the film, I’m jsut surprised that the flaws seem to have gone unrecognised. The recent Japanese film Shoplifters looks at a family who struggle in poverty but act in a more human and believable way.

지금 만나러 갑니다 (Be With You)

This film is a misguided attempt to make a what if? romance. Starting from the fact that the two main leads are too young and good looking to be believable as the parents of a ten year old boy, the film is poorly directed by a director who wastes no opportunity to drown his cliched visuals in a lachrymose score.

The countryside setting is helpful in grounding the couple’s relationship in a beautiful setting but the actual romance is barely felt as the director cannot convey any sense of the couple’s attraction for each other. The film is also lacking any sexual attraction. Which is strange when you consider the man hasn’t seen his wife in years.

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Soo-ah (Son Yejin) makes a promise that she will return to her husband one rainy day. One year after her death she magically reappears during monsoon season. But she has no memories of their life together and has to remember how they got together.

Although a film with Son Yejin cannot be considered boring, the film’s lackluster content is a real drag. There’s barely any humour aside from the baker who wears a penguin suit in an attempt to cheer the son up following the loss of his mother.

The boy is cute but the shots of him playing at school, reading from a book and watching his father cook eggs become annoyingly repetitive.

In a nutshell: potentially promising romantic fantasy let down by poor direction and miscast actors.

Little Forest

Director: Yim Soonrye

In a nutshell: a lyrical ode to the charms of the Korean countryside and a mother-daughter relationship. 

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It begins with young Hye-won (Kim Taeri) entering an old Korean country home (Hanok) in the middle of winter. She is hungry and trying to scrape together some food from the scraps left in the kitchen. It’s a beautiful wooden house with an open courtyard and a traditional tiled roof. As the seasons change we see the food being harvested from a nearby farm. This is the Little Forest of the title, an incredible rural landscape where Hyewon learns how to live in the country, becoming self-sufficient.

As she learns to fend for herself with only a Jindo dog for company she starts to remember the occasions when her mother cooked for her. Her mother is played by Moon So-ri, one of the veterans of modern Korean cinema. Her early roles include some of the most celebrated Korean films – “Peppermint Candy” and “Oasis.” By now she is in her forties, a time when many Korean actresses often quit the business. But in this film she is positively radiant as a loving, earth mother type who can make the most incredible Korean food from anything she can find growing on her small farm. Her previous role was in The Handmaiden, a very different and much darker film that also happened to feature Kim Taeri.

Many Korean movies take place in the busy urban centres of Seoul and Busan. This is one of the few recent films I have watched to be set almost entirely in the countryside. The young Hye-won is soon joined on the small farm by two city friends Jae-ha and Eun-sook. It’s soon clear that life in the city is no picnic and we see them happily leave their unfulfilling jobs to work with their friend.  As so many young Koreans are having difficulty finding any of the main necessities of life (family, work, a house), they are moving to the countryside, where – although life is much slower – it is much easier to live a simple yet content life.

It’s where they can find the peace they need. The landscapes are beautiful and the night stars are crystal clear. The changing seasons are demarcated by the different food the characters eat: melons in summer, apples in autumn and dried persimmons in winter. Seen in close-up, it looks absolutely mouthwatering. There is a large red-bean rice cake that Hye-won lovingly makes at the beginning of the year. An earlier meal of hand torn soup noodles (sujebi) looks incredible too. There’s a crème brulee that she makes for her friend that shatters crisply, and leads to another mother and daughter scene where she remembers when her mother made the same dish for her.

This is not food porn (how I hate that term!). It’s done because Hyewon wants to recreate the dishes her mother lovingly made for her. The reason the food is given so many close-ups is, I think, due to the importance it has for the characters themselves.  It’s also because she watched her mother that she is able to cook with such skill and finesse.

I was waiting for someone to eat Korean barbecue but there’s no meat here, which is nothing short of incredible for a country that seems to  ind a way to eat any living creature they can find. The only animals we see are a white dog (a Jindo puppy) and a chicken, which lays an egg which is used to make an Okonomiyaki pancake.

The film leads to no particular grand climax, and the relaxed pace might lead some viewers to start to lose interest. But when the film reaches the final winter scene, the result is  heartwarming.

 

London Korean Film Festival 2017

Programme Announced for the 12th London Korean Film Festival / 26 October – 19 November 2017

The London Korean Film Festival (LKFF) unveiled the lineup for its 12th edition today running 26 October – 19 November with multiple UK and International premieres, a special focus on Korean Noir and including everything from Indie Firepower and Cinema Now to Women’s Voices, Classics Revisited: Bae Chang-ho Retrospective, Documentaries, Artist Video, Animations, Mise-en-scène Shorts and a roster of very special guests in attendance.

Korea has been in the news more than ever this year with a South Korean presidential impeachment and a change in government, not to mention the current North Korean crisis. Thankfully Korean Cinema has maintained a positive news profile with Bong Joon-ho’s creature feature Okja becoming the most widely seen Korean film ever made. So it’s no better time for the 12th London Korean Film Festival to be back in London and across the UK offering another expansive selection of films from one of the most exciting film industries in the world.

This year’s opening and closing films complement each other as two highly acclaimed dramas presenting unique perspectives on non-traditional romantic relationships – and both star Actress Kim Saebyeok. The UK Premiere of prolific auteur Director Hong Sangsoo’s Cannes acclaimed, The Day After (2017) will kick-off the festival at an Opening Gala with cinematographer and frequent Hong Sangsoo and Bong Joon-ho collaborator, Kim Hyung-ku in conversation on the 26 October. Following bemused characters in matters of the heart, this is “a black & white comedy of missed chances… a Rohmer-esque monochrome comedy of confusion” (Variety). The festival closes on 8 November (in London) with the UK Premiere of emerging director Kim Dae-hwan‘s Indie relationship hit from Locarno, The First Lap (2017) (followed by Director Q&A), which sees a directionless unmarried couple wade through family encounters and a potential pregnancy, in a fresh verité style that is both funny and heartwarming.

Two out of the five Korean hits to grace Cannes Film Festival this year were crime and action thrillers typical of the booming Korean Noir genre, illuminating the dark side of society: The Villainness (following a female assassin trained from a young age, screening as a special preview at LKFF press launch 11 Sept) and The Merciless (2017, Studiocanal, premiering at LKFF 2017), the latest feature from Byun Sung-hyun, a Tarantino-esque moody neo-noir thriller following double-crossing gangsters. “South Korea has such a turbulent modern history ridden with violence and political, social upheavals… I think that may be why we are good at making thriller movies like this,” said Jung Byung-Gil, director of The Villainness” (Daily Mail). It’s fitting that the festival shines a light on the killer genre this year with a full range of crime capers both old and new.

The strand begins with an example of Lee Man-hui’s renowned anti-communist filmmaking, with one of his very early films in the genre, Black Hair (1964), which follows the loyal mistress of a gang boss, whose life takes a horrific turn for the worse after a violent rape is exposed. We are thrilled to be screening the newly restored The Last Witness (1980) that recently played in Berlin and Busan film festivals, with director Lee Doo-yong in attendance; the film is based on a crime novel by Kim Seong-jung and follows lone wolf detective Oh Byeong-ho as he goes in search of the murderer of a small time brewer.

Film Noir was thriving in the 1990s, and we’ll celebrate a strong selection from that decade: the darkly humorous Dead End (1993), The Rules of the Game (1994) following small town thugs trying to make it big and Green Fish (1997), the directorial debut by Lee Chang-dong who is now widely regarded as South Korea’s greatest living director.

In America, Director Lee Myung-Se was seen as Seoul’s answer to Hong Kong’s John Woo with his hit, Nowhere to Hide (1999), a highly stylised violent action noir and an influence on The Matrix. Kilimanjaro (2000) is the little seen, but highly accomplished feature from Oh Seung-uk, starring veteran actor Ahn Sung-ki and Park Shin-yang; an engrossing noir following a detective mistaken for his identical twin brother, a gangster. Die Bad (2000) is action maestro Ryoo Seung-wan‘s sensational debut made in 4 parts over 3 years, following two young men (played by Ryoo and Park Sung-bin) whose lives change forever after a deadly student brawl.

A Bittersweet Life (2005) is Kim Jee-woon‘s follow up to A Tale of Two Sisters (2003) a thrilling noir that shows the ultra violent consequences of falling for the wrong girl. A Dirty Carnival (2006) follows a low-level debt collector as he murders his way to the top, played by one of Korea’s leading actors Zo In-sung. New World (2013, UK Home Ent. release by Eureka) is the second directorial feature from Park Hoon-jung, the writer behind The Unjust (Ryoo Seung-wan) and I Saw The Devil (Kim Jee-woon), in which undercover cops and shady policemen plot to gain control of Korea’s biggest crime syndicate. Coin Locker Girl (2015) is a female crime melodrama from first time director Han Jun-Hee starring veteran actress Kim Hye-soo as the psychotic crime boss known as ‘mom’ whose unsavoury trade includes organ trafficking and loan-sharking.

LKFF has pulled together the best Cinema Now, Korean films that are making waves world-wide in cinemas and online. One such masterpiece is the European Premiere of In Between Seasons (2016) by first time director Lee Dong-eun, based on the director’s own comic book, portraying an intimate family drama following two young gay lovers as they grapple with family life. Master (2016) which took 50.5 million dollars at the box office (topping the new Star Wars Rogue One), is a slick new financial action thriller that follows an investigator who pursues the president of a Korean company that’s involved in fraud and corruption. It stars today’s biggest actors Lee Byung-hun, Gang Dong-won and Kim Woo-bin. Come, Together (2017) is Director Shin Dong-il‘s new drama about a family of three whose ranks are collapsing – a rare insight into Korean society’s highly competitive nature. Warriors of the Dawn (2017) is the popular Joseon Era drama filmed almost entirely outdoors, as a guerilla style road movie, following a group of mercenaries tasked with protecting the newly crowned prince. The Mimic (UK release in 2018 date tbc, Arrow Films) directed by Huh Jung is a chilling K-horror that follows a woman, haunted by the disappearance of her son, who is drawn to a local legend of a monstrous tiger that lures people into its cave. Crime City (2017) is an indie crime caper based on a true story, from director Kang Yoon-sung, that follows a detective (Ma Dong-seok), as he hunts down a Korean-Chinese gang headed by Yoon Kye-sang.

This is the second year of our Women’s Voices strand, showcasing four dramas and one documentary all from contemporary feminine points of view, films that are at the very heart of feminist politics. An extremely current and relevant documentary, Candle Wave Feminists (2017), deconstructs the misogyny and discrimination that was rife within the revolution that led to Park’s impeachment and her spiritual mentor Choi Soon-Sil’s arrest. The feature debut by writer-director Lee Wanmin, Jamsil (2016) is a rare look at two women’s transformative friendship, following a harrowing long-term breakup. My Turn (2017) focuses on pregnancy within the workplace, after a nurse becomes pregnant and tensions and backlash surface. Mild Fever (2017) captures the subtle rift between husband and wife, following a secret that surfaces from the past. Night Working (2017) follows a friendship between two factory workers, a Korean woman and a Cambodian immigrant.

Asian cinema expert Tony Rayns will introduce the UK to Korea’s Indie Firepower, a selection of films from the country’s most intriguing independent filmmakers, including a special focus welcoming Artist filmmaker Jung Yoon-suk, whose films have focussed on Korean social and political life. The Home of Stars (2010) is a sardonic cage of modern Korean history and Non Fiction Diary (2013) deals with Korea’s first serial murder case in the 1990s. His latest, Bamseom Pirates Seoul Inferno (2017) also screens at the BFI LFF (6 and 7 October), embracing nihilism, protest, politics and rebellion and a strong sense of humour following a young Korean, grindcore punk band. Also on show are two of his shorts, The White House in My Country (2006) and Ho Chi Minh (2007). This strand celebrates two other offbeat indies with Merry Christmas Mr. Mo (2016), an unusual tragi-comedy shot in black & white centered on a relationship between an ageing father (played by veteran actor Gi Ju-bong) and his semi-estranged son, and A Confession Expecting a Rejection (2017) a daring and witty film that follows on and off screen characters as they discuss subjects ranging from failed relationships to dodgy film courses.

Dr. Mark Morris returns this year with another finely curated selection of Classics Revisited, focussing on 1980’s veteran director Bae Chang-Ho, who began his career as assistant director to the great Lee Jang-ho (the focus of our Classics retrospective in 2016). Closely linked with the rising ‘People’s Movement’ which campaigned against the authoritarian government, his first award-winning film People in the Slum (1982) echoes the issues of the people at that time. Adapted from a series of vignettes written by Lee Dong-cheol, Bae Chang-Ho crafted a film echoing life at the bottom of society, and ended up having to adapt the social criticism in the script following hints from government censors, blending the tale of these three main characters into a melodrama. In this short retrospective we’ll see a key selection of his films: Whale Hunting (1984) is a much loved Korean road movie following two misfits and a woman wandering a snowy landscape, and The Dream (1990) Bae’s second period film that follows the affair between a young Buddhist monk and a beautiful young woman. Bae wrote the script for The Dream along with aspiring assistant director Lee Myung-se, who had been his AD since his Whale Hunting days.

Contemporary Korean Documentaries have arguably never been more vital in exposing insights into structural inequalities in South Korea, and advocating community building and political awareness. This year the Documentary strand focuses on the activist work of the feminist collective Pink Skirt whose films deal with LGBT and workers’ rights – including Goodbye My Hero (2016) and the diptych Two Doors (2012) and The Remnants (2016) that show the fall out from a demonstration in 2009 against the redevelopment of Yongsan in Seoul, which left 5 people dead and 3 protesters in prison. We will also screen the long overdue Premiere of multimedia artist Kelvin Kyung Kun Park’s A Dream of Iron (2012), an industrial film symphony, looking at the scale of industrial machines and processes involved in constructing huge ships.

The best selection from the Mise-en-scène International Short Film Festival this year includes: Tombstone Refugee (2017), which looks at alternative burials, Home Without Me (2017), which follows a young girl seeking familial love and friendship, Thirsty (2017), which follows a young man struggling to make ends meet, Between You and Me (2017), which looks at the behind the scenes of the making of a film, Dive (2017) about a boy’s love of water, The Insect Woman (2017) about a girl’s fascination and obsession with insects and 2 Nights 3 Days (2017), following a couple on the eve of their anniversary celebration.

For its second edition, Artist Video (a collaboration with LUX | Artists’ Moving Image), sees two ‘Artist in Focus’ programmes with two prominent Korean artists working in film: Lim Minouk and Koo Donghee. Drawing their inspiration from political activist cinema from the 1970s (Lim) and contemporary television and internet culture (Koo), their work is representative of the diversity and richness of contemporary Korean artists’ moving image. Six video works from Lim Minouk (2003 – 2010) include political and poetical work that sides with the vulnerable and those that have been displaced. Five video works by Koo Donghee (2003 – 2012) exemplify her highly staged portrayals of the banality of life, interrupted by accidental situations. Koo uses objects, spaces, animals – often aquatic – and actors who respond in real time, to unrehearsed situations.

Younger audiences will delight in the two Animations this year: Lost in the Moonlight (2016) following 13-year-old Hyun Joo-ri as a dreamy, shy girl who gets sucked into a fantasy world and Franky and Friends: Tree of Life (2016) an exciting adventure in the Fairytale Kingdom, as two friends Kwon and Pong create havoc by asking for more food than they can eat, learning a useful lesson about the perils of wastefulness.

Guests confirmed for this year’s festival include:

  • Cinematographer Kim Hyeong-guThe Day After
  • Director Kim Dae-hwanThe First Lap
  • Director Lee Doo-yongThe Last Witness
  • Director Oh Seung-ukKilimanjaro
  • For Noir forum – Eddie Muller (Founder of Film Noir Foundation) and Hur Moon-young (Film Critic & Programmer)
  • Director Bae ChanghoPeople in the Slum, Whale Hunting, The Dream
  • Director Chung Yoon-chulWarriors of the Dawn
  • Director Jung Yoon-sukNon-Fiction Diary, Bamseom Pirates Seoul Inferno, Whale Hunting, The Dream
  • Director Kim IIl-rhanTwo Doors and The Remnant
  • Director Lee Wanmin & Actor Kim SaebyeokJamsil
  • Director Kang Yoon-sungCrime City

 

 

London venues include: Picturehouse Central, Regent Street Cinema, ICA, Phoenix, Close-up, LUX, Birkbeck’s Institute of Moving Image, SOAS, Kingston University, National Film & Television School, British Museum and KCCUK

 

The festival tours to: Glasgow Film Theatre, Manchester HOME, Sheffield Showroom, Nottingham Broadway Cinema, Belfast Queen’s Film Theatre until 19 November 2017.

 

Facebook: @theLKFF

Twitter: @koreanfilmfest

Instagram: @london_korean_film_festival

 

To apply for Press Accreditation and for any interview requests and stills please contact: Elizabeth Benjamin Publicist, emebenjamin@yahoo.com

Notes to Editors

About London Korean Film Festival:

The London Korean Film Festival will return to celebrate its twelfth year running 26 October – 19 November 2017, running for two weeks in London before embarking on an ambitious tour around the UK.

The London Korean Film Festival has grown from humble beginnings to become one of the longest running and most respected festivals dedicated to Korean cinema in the world. We’ve built a name upon presenting lineups consisting of everything from the country’s most successful blockbusters to thought-­‐provoking independents from its finest auteurs. Across a variety of finely curated strands we aim to cater for general audiences, committed cinephiles, children, and everyone in between.

The 12th London Korean Film Festival is organised by the Korean Cultural Centre UK with the support of the Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports & Tourism, Korean Film Council and Korean Film Archive.

More about the KCCUK:

Since being opened by the Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism in January 2008, under the jurisdiction of the Embassy of the Republic of Korea, the KCCUK has gone from strength to strength in its role of enhancing friendship, amity and understanding between Korea and the UK through cultural and educational activities.

As well as presenting a diverse range of ongoing monthly events focused on Korean film, drama, education and literature, the KCCUK regularly welcomes Korean luminaries from many cultural fields to discuss their work, organises the annual film festival as well as traditional and contemporary musical performances and holding a number of exhibitions throughout the year, allowing artists to showcase their talent. From the KCCUK’s central London location (just off Trafalgar Square), the institution’s dedicated cultural team work to further develop established cultural projects, introduce new opportunities to expand Korean programmes in the UK and to encourage ongoing cultural exchange.

 

Yourself and Yours (2016)

Yourself and Yours (2016)

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You can tell from the opening titles exactly the kind of film this is going to be. Black Korean calligraphy on a white background suggests an intelligent and possibly artistic film and the lively classical music hints at a sophisticated comedy on love and relationships..

Yes, it’s a comedy, but one with brains. The humour is always grounded in realistic situations and believable characters.

Plot Summary

Yongsoo goes to meet a friend and they discuss Minjong, his girlfriend with whom he intends to marry. She has been seen drinking heavily in one of the local bars and when Minjong is confronted by Yongsoo she denies it was her, but Yongsoo is unable to ignore the rumours. Feeling hurt that he doesn’t seem to trust her, Minjong leaves him. Devastated, Yongsoo tries to win her back. Meanwhile, Minjong, or someone who looks very similar, is meeting men in bars and having casual relationships with them. Yongsoo eventually reunites with Minjong and they continue their relationship.

Hong Sang-soo, who makes films about relationships, has been called the Woody Allen of Asia and you can see why. His characters are somewhat world weary, and in the case of Yongsoo, given to moments of self –pity and despair. When Yongsoo tells his friends that love is all there is in the world, the rest is just compensation for when you don’t have love, it’s not hard to imagine Woody Allen saying the same thing. Meanwhile, Minjong, sexually available, yet innocent and lacking self-awareness, could be any number of Allen’s heroines. And then consider the loactions (I’d guess this was filmed in Hongdae); from coffee bars to streams and parks: we are miles away from the hectic urban centre of Seoul which is the typical backdrop of most Korean films.

Minjong (Lee You-young) is certainly a complicated character, and one who doesn’t always have the audience’s sympathy. A repeated joke in the film is that she pretends not to recognize men when they approach her and . Is she the real Minjeong, or is she in fact Minjong’s twin? In this case, the hard-drinking and promiscuous Minjong who has been seen by Yongsoo’s friends is not the same as the woman he has been in a relationship with. Or does it matter? In any relationship there must be trust, and that means sometimes ignoring rumours and gossip.

Yongsoo’s friends seem to be the jealous ones here, motivated not by care towards their friend but by wanting to punish Minjong for her perceived immoral behavior. Yongsoo is punished for his lack of faith in Minjong, first when she leaves him, and secondly by breaking his leg in an accident which we do not see. Only when Yongsoo learns to trust again is he able to finally get back together with Minjong. As the character said earlier, the most important thing in life is love, everything else is just is just compensation for when you don’t have it.

 

Tunnel film review

It doesn’t seem long ago when Korean film makers were dazzling the world with prizewinners at International festivals such as Oldboy  and Pieta. As well as these harsh ,violent films there were gentle odes to Buddhism (Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter, and Spring) and the magnificent Untold Scandal, which set the story of Dangerous Liaisons in the Joseon Dynasty period.

South Korea  has one of the strongest national film industries of any country, but they haven’t had an international hit for several years. Many of its most acclaimed directors have either gone of the rails (kim Ki Duk) or made films for America (Park Chan Wook and Joon-ho Bong.

I watched Tunnel at Wimbledon cinema (shown there because of the large Korean community in New Malden). Although it was a perfectly decently-made  film I wondered why it was so unusually bland. If it wasn’t for the frequent jabs at the Korean government, or references to recent safety disasters such as the Sewol Ferry sinking, this could have been a Hollywood blockbuster.

Driving to work one morning, car salesmen (Jung-soo) finds himself spending longer than he would to like at a gas station when an old man mishears him and puts to much petrol in his car. On they way, he calls his wife Se-hyun  and tells her he has bought a cake for his daughter’s birthday (why is it always the kid’s birthday in these films?) Then, as he enters the tunnel, he is caught in the middle somewhere when a rockslide causes the tunnel to collapse.

Luckily, he can still make communication with the outside world because his film has 82% battery; and even 150 metres underground he always has a perfect mobile phone reception. Calls are made between him and wife Seohyun, as well as the head of the rescue operation Dae-kyoung (O-dal su).

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I’m not sure why anyone would want to make a film about a man stuck in a tunnel. The possibility of doing anything new with it are  so small. There’s little in the way of tension. Although film tries to show the lack of water and how he must carefully ration it to be drunk each hour. The film only really becomes exciting when he learns that the tunnel is to be re-built after the chances of finding him alive are considered to low. Then he has to race against time to find his way out), although why he didn’t think of this before I have no idea.

Bae Doona has little to do in this film and we don’t learn anything about their relationship beside the fact that they have a four-year old daughter. The film contains some humour (usually towards the incompetence of the tunnel builders who couldn’t remember how many ceiling fans they had put in) and there’s even a cute dog who has somehow survived under the fallen rubble.

It looks like this film is one for Koreans only.

Rating: 5/10

A Girl at My Door

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Director: July Jung

Doona Bae, Sae-ron Kim, Sae-byeok Song

There is a reason why all films have long credit seequences. The list of personnel involved in making a film is invariably long and most end titles for even a modest film like this are at least 3 minutes of the film’s duration. It could also be a useful device to allow the audience to reflect on what they have seen. It may be that the only way to process something very emotional such as this film is to spend three minutes staring at a black screen before returning to the world outside.

Korean filmmakers have already proved themselves some of the best in the world such as Park Chan Wook and Kim KI-Duk. Now from first time director July Jung comes this small, perfectly judged mini-masterpiece.

Police officer Yeong-nam has been relocated from the big city to a tiny rural backwater where the locals ride tractors along a highway and spend what little free time they have in the village’s beauty salon or in the karaoke bars. It’s a small scale environment that Yeong-nam does not adjust to well. Soon she is pouring alcohol into water bottles – the only way that she can find peace and sleep at night.

Into her closed off existence comes a young girl who seems to be the town’s whipping girl. Arriving at Nam’s door, the gir reveals a history pf physical and sexual abuse at the hands of her stepfather. A bond forms between them and before long they become increasingly close: shopping for clothes together, sharing meals and even sharing baths.

For a scene which shows the  opening up of the police officer, look no further than that at the half-hour mark. In this scene, we learn all we need to know about the characters’ feelings towards each other. Nam has finished cooking dinner, and we know  from her expression that the girl has not received such an act of kindness for a very long time. The TV has been on in the background and the young girl performs a K-pop style dance, revealing her childish innocence and sweetness. The camera cuts back to Nam’s reaction: a perfect expression of amusement and acceptance. Its a look that suggests she is not going to judge the girl in any way but give her the freedom to express herself in any way she can.

The performance from Bae Doona could scarcely be better. There’s not a hint of overracting in her acting, just emotional realism. Think Marion Cottillard in Six days and Seven Nights and you get an idea of the kind of pure cinema I am talking about. The young girl from Ajusshi (Jae-Ron Kim), is now a teenager, all grown up. It’s a difficult part to play when you’re only 14 yourself but somehow she comes across believably.

I was genuinely moved by the ending. Admirers of pure cinema, natural performances will surely find much to love about the film. From now on I am watching anything Doona Bae does with serious interest. And if you’re new to the world of Han cinema, what are you waiting for?