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Intimate Strangers (Wanbyeokhan tain)

Director – Lee Jae-kyoo – 2018 – South Korea – Cert. 15 – 115m

****

Four couples attend a dinner party where a game with mobile phones threatens to revel all their intimate secrets – online from 2pm Friday, November 6th to 2pm Monday, November 9th, book here, from the Special Focus: Friends and Family strand of the London Korean Film Festival (LKFF) taking place right now

A group of male friends since childhood and their wives and girlfriends meet for a house-warming of one of their number. One of the wives suggests a game. Why don’t they all put their mobile phones on the table and share any call, text, email or data that comes in?

Actually, it turns out there are some very good reasons why not – as they will all discover during the course of the evening. Indeed, the film’s final five minutes or so (and, strangely, this is not a spoiler) shows the couples driving home separately and contentedly after a pleasant evening where they wisely declined to play the game. All’s right with the world.

However, in between that coda and the opening, 34 years earlier prologue in which the four men’s childhood selves catch fish through a hole in the ice of a frozen river then spend the evening together round a camp fire in the dark, the four couples do indeed play this game at the present day house-warming.… Read the rest

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A Dirty Carnival (Biyeolhan Geori)

Director – Yoo Ha – 2006 – South Korea – 140m

*****

As GoodFellas as it gets! Yoo Ha’s gangster film compares favourably to Scorsese’s classic on many levels, an underrated dirty gem of Korean noir – from the London Korean Film Festival (LKFF) 2017

Byung-doo, 29, (Jo In-sung) is a smart, lean and hungry gangster on the mean streets of Seoul, in A Dirty Carnival. As a debt collector he successfully collects payments from difficult customers. Yet his immediate boss Sang-chul (Yun Je-mun) pays him so little that Byung-doo must constantly beg him for the money to pay his mother’s apartment rent. Looking out for those beneath him and determined to better himself in the wider organisation, Byung-doo realises that its overall boss Hwang (Chun Ho-jin) would like nothing more than to get the sycophantic Prosecutor Park (Kwon Tae-won) off his back. Sang-chul clearly isn’t going to do anything about it so Byung-doo takes the task upon himself. He and one of his men drive into the back of Park’s car in a secluded spot and he kills the prosecutor when they get out of their cars to exchange details.

Byung-doo’s best mate Min-ho (Min Nam-koong) is an aspiring film director who can’t sell the script for the gangster film on which he’s working because the studio producer he approaches doesn’t think it’s realistic enough.… Read the rest

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Bluebeard (Haebing)

Director – Lee Soo-youn – 2017 – South Korea – 115m

****

A Korean Twin Peaks clone. A doctor becomes increasingly suspicious of his downstairs butchers’ shop neighbours: are they chopping people up and dumping their remains in the Han River?London Korean Film Festival (LKFF) 2017 teaser screening

Dr. Byun Seung-hoon (Cho Jin-woong) is working at a colonoscopy clinic where the owner puts in the occasional appearance. The drugs they use have the unfortunate side effect of making their patients talk freely just like people do in their sleep. One day he’s treating the demented father (Goo Shin) of his landlord Sung-geun ( Kim Dae-myung) who runs a butcher shop on the ground floor below his cramped apartment when the old man starts talking about where to put body parts such as the legs and the torso. When the TV news reports on a woman’s body found in pieces in the Han River, Byun puts two and two together.

When Dr. Byun is accosted by Sung-geun the same evening, the two go to the former’s flat and consume drink and food. Medical textbooks are stacked in piles. That’s all he reads. Oh, and mystery novels. He likes the latter because, he says, they provide him with answers… Another evening, his ex-wife comes over and tries to mend their relationship but it doesn’t work and she storms out after a furious row.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

The Handmaiden (Ah-ga-ssi)

Director – Park Chan-wook – 2016 – South Korea – Cert. 18 – 155m

****1/2

Weighing in at a lengthy two and a half hours, this lavish, sexually-explicit, South Korean pot-boiler is based on Sarah Waters’ 2002 novel Fingersmith, but moves the location from Victorian England to Japanese colonial-era Korea.

Waters’ tale concerns a conman’s plot to marry and then defraud a wealthy English heiress by confining her to an asylum. He bribes a young London pickpocket (the titular ‘fingersmith’) to take on a job as the wealthy lady’s maid, hoping to get her to persuade the woman to marry him. However, his plan falls apart when the two women fall for each other.

When director Park Chan-wook discovered the BBC had already made a 2005 miniseries, he transposed the plot to 1930s Korea (a Japanese colony at the time), co-writing his script with regular female collaborator Jeong Seo-kyeong. Broadly speaking, it substitutes well-off Japanese for well-off English, and Koreans for everyone else. The print being released in UK cinemas helpfully subtitles Japanese dialogue in yellow and Korean dialogue in white… Read the rest

Reviewed for All The Anime.

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