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Features Live Action Movies

Finding Angel (Cheonsaneun Baileoseu, 천사는 바이러스)

Director – Kim Seong-jun – 2021 – South Korea – Cert. 15 – 114m

****

Who is the mysterious so-called ‘Angel’ who every Christmas delivers a box containing a large sum of money to a needy local resident of a small, rural town? – out in cinemas on Friday, November 26th

For the last seventeen years at Christmas, the ‘Faceless Angel’ has visited the town of Rohsong in Jeonju City, South Korea to leave a box containing money for a local person in need. Last year, an old woman received the money she needed for a knee operation. Who this person might actually be has remained a mystery, but the locals are glad the Angel is there doing what he or she is doing.

Wishing to solve the mystery and with the journalist’s scent of a good story, newspaperman Kim Ji-hoon (Park Sung-il from Samjin Company English Class, Lee Jong-pil, 2020) arrives in the town in December as the temperature plummets. He makes enquiries at the town office but the girl on the front desk (Lee Ga-kyung) stonewalls him. His attempts at talking to the townspeople don’t get him very far until he talks to old Miss Ok-bun (Moon Sook) about renting a room and she promptly puts him up in her freezing upstairs bedroom.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Microhabitat (So-gong-nyeo, 소공녀)

Director – Jeon Go-woon – 2017 – South Korea – 106m

****1/2

The price has gone up. Yet again! A woman who wants nothing more from life than to be able to enjoy whisky and smoking enacts a radical plan to combat everyday inflation – on MUBI from Thursday, November 25th as part of their New South Korean Cinema season.

Miso (Lee Som aka Esom), whose name in Korean means both ‘smile’ and ‘micro’, lives in a small, one room, unheated apartment in Seoul. So cold in fact that when she and her boyfriend Hansol (Ahn Jae-hong) start peeling off multiple layers of clothing in the middle of winter that she’s given up by the time she’s down to her slip. It’ll have to wait ’til the Spring.

Having enough money is a constant struggle, but she’s shrewd and always puts aside enough for basic outgoings like food and rent as well as pleasures like smoking and whisky every month. When her landlord tells her the rent is going up, because his landlord is putting his rent up and he needs to pass some of the increase on to his tenants, she realises she’s going to have to cut something.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Lucky Chan-sil (Chansilineun Bokdo Manhji, 찬실이는 복도 많지)

Director – Kim Cho-hee – 2019 – South Korea – 95m

****

When a film director she’s worked for over several years dies, his film producer has to rethink her life – currently streaming on MUBI as part of their New South Korean Cinema season

Director Ji (Seo Sang-won), his fortysomething producer Lee Chan-sil (Kang Mal-geum) and three or four others are drinking Soju round a table after a hard day’s work on the set. Suddenly, Ji slumps forward. Everyone thinks he’s kidding. He’s not. He’s dead. Unexpectedly dead. Ji makes little independent films in his own highly idiosyncratic style. If he’s no longer there, then the film, too, is dead. And Chan-sil, who has only worked with him, is suddenly out of a job.

With her regular income gone, she downsizes and moves into a cheap flat owned by an ageing live-in landlady (Youn Yuh-jung). It’s near the top of a hill, so other members of the abandoned film production help her carry stuff up there. She sees a lot of her flighty actress friend Sophie (Yeung Soon-ah) for whom she now goes to work as a cleaner. These changes of circumstance give her the both the space and the opportunity to reassess her life.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Heaven: To The Land Of Happiness (Hebeun: Haengbokeui Nararo, 행복의 나라로)

Director – Im Sang-soo – 2021 – South Korea – 101m

*****

A meds thief on the verge of arrest and an escaped convict inadvertently steal money from gangsters closing gala with a director Q&A as part of a strand of films celebrating actress Youn Yuh-jung at LKFF, the London Korean Film Festival which ran in cinemas from Thursday, November 4th to Friday, November 19th

The sexual frankness of director Im’s earlier A Good Lawyer’s Wife (2003) and The Housemaid (2010) is absent from his latest, a producer-suggested project more lightweight than his usual fare which nevertheless achieves a degree of poignancy. Its template is the German film Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door (Thomas Jahn, 1997) in which two terminally ill men steal a car so that one of them can visit the sea before he dies, the car unfortunately belonging to a gangster and carrying a quantity of cash in the boot.

Writing his own script around this loose premise, Im makes the man who wants to see the sea a convict, inmate 203 (Choi Min-sik from The Tiger, Park Hoon-jung, 2015; Lucy, Luc Besson, 2014; New World, Park Hoon-jung, 2013; Lady Vengeance, Park Chan Wook, 2005), sent to the hospital for an MRI scan where it’s discovered he has a brain tumour and two weeks to live.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

The Battle At Lake Changjin (Zhang Jin Hu, 长津湖)

Directors – Chen Kaige, Dante Lam, Tsui Hark – 2021 – China – Cert. 15 – 176m

*****

Chinese war movie which has barnstormed the global box office does exactly what it says on the tin – out in cinemas on Friday, November 19th

There is a history of war films with a cast of thousands being directed by several (usually three) directors in an attempt to portray campaigns with huge military logistics on the screen. Probably the best known are The Longest Day (Ken Annakin, Andrew Marton, Bernard Wicki, 1962) about the World War Two Allied invasion of Normandy and Tora! Tora! Tora! (Richard Fleischer, Toshio Matsuda, Kinji Fukasaku, 1970) about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. Both of those Western (and, as it happens, Twentieth Century Fox) movies presented both sides of the conflict by hiring directors from the different countries concerned.

The big difference between them and Chinese global box office phenomenon The Battle At Lake Changjin is that although the latter film deals with a conflict in which the Chinese are pitted against the Americans, all three directors are Chinese. Tsui (Zu Warriors, 1983; Once Upon A Time In China, 1991) at least has some working knowledge of America, having studied film in Texas.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies

Climbing (Keul-la-i-ming, 클라이밍)

Director – Kim Hye-mi – 2021 – South Korea – Cert. 15 – 77m

*****

Discovering she is pregnant, a professional sports climber finds herself moving between alternate realitiesplaying tonight, Thursday, November 18th 9pm at Genesis Cinema, Mile End (book here) as part of LKFF, the London Korean Film Festival which runs in cinemas from Thursday, November 4th to Friday, November 19th

A baby in a womb. In her dream, Sy-hyeon (voice: Kim Min-ji) tells her partner Woo-in (Gu Ji-won) on waking, she was pregnant and had an injured foot and arm in casts. Worried about her weight, she skips breakfast and heads to the climbing wall at the gym. She is one of the coach’s (Bak Jugwang) two stars along with Ah-in (Park Song-yi), and he expects the two women between them to achieve first and second prize in this year’s climbing competition. Sy-hyeon has been first in the past, but she starts to worry whether Ah-in could take her crown.

After discovering in a drawer her old, mobile phone with the shattered screen from before she had the accident, Sy-hyeon starts to receive messages from her other self. One self is in good physical shape and training at the gym every day, the other is the pregnant one with the injured foot and arm sustained in a car accident, cloistered in an upstairs room in her partner’s mother’s house.… Read the rest

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Live Action Series Television

Hellbound (Jiok)

Director – Yeon Sang-ho – 2021 – South Korea – 6 x 50m

*****

Angels state the time of death then demons come and cart people off to hell, generating a circus of fundamentalist, religious activity – series airs on Netflix from November 19th – reviewed for All The Anime

The new Netflix series Hellbound (2021) from South Korea’s Yeon Sang-ho, creator of zombie outings Seoul Station (2016) and Train To Busan (2016), began life as a webtoon some 11 minutes in length back in 2002. The first three x 50-minute episodes (out of six) have played a number of international film festivals.

Those first three episodes – screened at the London Film Festival where this writer saw them – explore notions of sin, eternal punishment and damnation. As in Belgian director Jaco Van Dormael’s hilarious and highly inventive comic, religious satire The Brand New Testament (2015), people are sent the date and time of their death then dazedly watch the moment approach on their mobile phones. After its announcement, when the time comes, three black and white, Hulk-like demons turn up to pound the person into a pulp, suck out their life force and burn the corpse… [Read more]

I review Hellbound (eps 1-3) for All The Anime.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

A Good Lawyer’s Wife (Baramnan Gajok, 바람난 가족)

Director – Im Sang-soo – 2003 – South Korea – Cert. – 105m

***

Unsatisfactory family life in which fathers and mothers cheat on their wives and partners in search of a more fulfilling existence – screened with a director Q&A as part of a strand of films celebrating actress Youn Yuh-jung at LKFF, the London Korean Film Festival which runs in cinemas from Thursday, November 4th to Friday, November 19th

Joo Ho-jeong (Moon So-ri) bemoans the fact that once you’re married, you get less sex than you did as a single woman. Judging by the opening sex scene, in which her husband comes prematurely leaving her to satisfy herself, she would probably be better off single. Still, she has a small son Soo-in (Jang Joon-yeong) to mother and a local dance classes to teach.

The relationship is not working for her husband Yeong-jak (Hwang Jung-min) either, given his full workload and the fact that he’s sleeping with his P.A. Kim Yeon (Baek Jong-rim). His mother Byung-han (Youn Yoh-jung), meanwhile, is watching her alcoholic husband die and enjoying a new lease of life with a new lover following a decade and a half with no sex.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

The Housemaid (Hanyo, 하녀) (2010)

Director – Im Sang-soo – 2010 – South Korea – Cert. 18 – 110m

****

The husband of a well-heeled family has an affair with the new maid, arousing the ire of his loyal housekeeper and ruthless mother – screening on Wednesday, November 17th with a director Q&A as part of a strand of films celebrating actress Youn Yuh-jung (Best Supporting Actress, Minari) at LKFF, the London Korean Film Festival which runs in cinemas from Thursday, November 4th to Friday, November 19th; the film is also showing on BFI Player subscription

It’s inevitable that a South Korean film with this title invites comparisons with Kim Ki-young’s 1960 film of the same name, a watershed in Korean cinema. Whatever its virtues, Im Sang-Soo’s film can’t similarly be a watershed. If it’s based on that film as its end credits claim, it abandons the original’s central thesis. The housemaid here is not a social climber intent on seducing the husband. Rather, the family are part of the pampered super-rich elite, a small girl Nami (Ahn Seo-hyun, star of Okja, Bong Joon Ho, 2017) who takes having a maid for granted, a heavily pregnant wife Hae-ra (Woo Seo) who thinks the difficulties of having to raise children yourself are “for common people” and a husband Hoon Go (Lee Jung-jae from TV mini-series Squid Game, Hwang Dong-hyuk, 2021) who, unable to get full sexual services from his pregnant wife, seeks his pleasures with the new maid Li Eun-yi (Jeon Do-youn) who appears, initially at least, somewhat uncomfortable with the idea, but then goes with the flow.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Live Action Movies

Collectors (도굴)

**1/2

Director – Park Jung Bae – 2020 – South Korea – Cert. 12 – 114m

A disparate group of tomb raiders attempt to outwit each other to find and obtain a valuable archaeological artifact in this lightweight, comedy caper – from LKFF, the London Korean Film Festival which runs in cinemas from Thursday, November 4th to Friday, November 19th

A grave hunter probing the earth with a cane-like tool hits an object several feet down. Putting his ear to the Earth, he hears a muffled child’s voice: “help me”. Horrified, he starts to dig the earth with his bare hands.

A strikingly graphic 2D-animated title sequence, in two-tone light ochre and black, with hands reaching out to one another through shafts of light, a boy crawling up an underground tunnel, a boy and girl reunited with an adult, a man crawling between multi-storey buildings by rope, high heeled female legs walking through a museum display of cultural artifacts, lots of modern urban imagery including driving a fast sports car through a city, lots of underground digging / mining imagery and a couple of male characters, one looking suspiciously like Indiana Jones, complete with hat and whip.

Burial alive is just one of the many disparate elements thrown together in this lightweight, comedy caper which combines historical Korean archaeology with grave robbing, double-cross, a super rich, big business villain, ruthless gangsters, Seoul locations, and a happy-go-lucky wheeler-dealer thief hero.… Read the rest