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Features Live Action Movies

Beasts Clawing At Straws (Jipuragirado Japgo Sipeun Jimseungdeul, 지푸라기라도 잡고 싶은 짐승들)

Director – Kim Yong-hoon– 2020 – South Korea – Cert. 15 – 108m

****

A number of individuals in dire financial straits do whatever they can to get hold of a bag of money – on Curzon Home Cinema from Friday, August 6th and Digital from Monday, August 23rd

Seemingly disparate plot strands suggest a group of separate stories about to be narrated in parallel, but in fact they’re all part of the same story and eventually converge in this compelling thriller involving an ensemble of characters and a bag of money. A number of the characters are in dire and indeed impossible financial circumstances with no obvious way out. The bag of money, when it turns up in each of their lives, represents a possible escape route for each of them.

Lowly bathhouse attendant Jung-man (Bae Seong-woo) finds the abandoned carryall stuffed full with wads of banknotes in a locker on the premises. Of course, the right thing to do would be to hand it in to his boss, but his boss is a nasty piece of work who fires any employee who’s late twice. Besides, Jung-man’s incontinent mother (Youn Yuh-jung) who lives in his home has dementia, refuses to wear incontinence pads and makes life hell for his wife who works a menial cleaner’s job at the airport.… Read the rest

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Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Sound Of Nomad: Koryo Arirang

Director – Kim So-young (as Kim Jeong) – 2017 – South Korea – 87m

****

How an indigenous theatre company kept the culture of the Koryo people alive after they were deported by the Soviet authorities from Far East Russia to Kazakhstan in 1937 – in the documentary season: Korean Film Nights: In Transit presented by LKFF, the London Korean Film Festival

The Beijing Treaty (of 1860 although the date isn’t mentioned) ceded to Russia the so-called Maritime Province – an area of land stretching down to Vladivostock. The territory bordered on the Northwestern tip of Choson (Joseon), today’s Korea, and Chosons stated migrating into the Maritime Province, calling themselves the Koryo people. In late 1937, the Soviet authorities decided that the Koryos could potentially be Japanese spies and deported them in boarded up trains to Ushtobei, Kazakhstan, Central Asia.

The journey took two days and many children died, their corpses thrown unceremoniously out of the train at night. After the journey, the deportees faced a harsh winter, the eventual death toll rising to 40 000.

This story has been documented in Korea, but little else about the Koryos has. The first Kazakhstan Koryo settlement in Ushtobei is today marked by a memorial.… Read the rest

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Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Weekends (Wi-ken-jeu, 위켄즈)

Director – Lee Dong-ha – 2016 – South Korea – 95m

**1/2

A group of South Korean men are involved in an openly gay, male voice choir – in the documentary season: Korean Film Nights: In Transit presented by the LKFF, the London Korean Film Festival

Seoul. Fast-forward from a theatrical stage. Clubbing. Shopping. A medical check up. Buying medicines from the chemist. Serving drinks at the bar. Getting a cab. Looking at a musical score on the train. Welcome to the lives of a group of gay man, the members of South Korea’s first gay, male voice choir G-voice whose songs articulate issues of gay life and identity. Most of them readily admit to being mediocre singers and one confesses he’s only doing it because his lover is.

College student Sander finds himself thrust into the limelight when he volunteers to take over as the group’s leader. Musical director Jaewoo is a doctor while bass singer Cheolho is a pharmacist. “It’s hard to find songs dealing with gay love affairs”, says Jaewoo. When a friend asked him for some advice, he thought the words would make a great song and turned them in to one. He clearly has a gift for this – this documentary is awash with many such songs he’s written.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Samjin Company English Class (Samjin Group Yeong-aw TOEIC-ban, 삼진 그룹영어토익반)

Director – Lee Jong-pil – 2020 – South Korea – Cert. 12 – 110m

*****

Three undervalued corporate women employees investigate an environmental cover up at their company – a teaser screening from the London Korean Film Festival

1995, Korea. Three twentysomething women working in the Samjin Company are consistently undervalued. They meet up after work and swap stories about their respective departments.

Lee Ja-young (Go Ah-sung from Snowpiercer, 2013; The Host, 2006, both Bong Joon Ho) is a Girl Friday smarter than most of the male employees in her office, including her immediate superior and corporate conformist Choi Dong-soo (Cho Hyun-chul), which would probably cease to function without her. Jeong Yu-nah (Esom from Microhabitat, Jeon Go-woon, 2017) is a marketing minion constantly held back by an immediate superior who does everything they can to take credit for her ideas. Sim Bo-ram (Park Hye-su) is a maths prodigy working in the accounts department where her forward-thinking, male boss Bong Hyeon-cheol (Kim Jong-soo), against the prevailing sexist norm, is possessed of the ability to recognise talent in employees regardless of gender and treat them decently as co-workers.

Sent to clear out the old offices of the boss’ son Oh Tae-young (Baek Hyeon-jin), Lee is told by a male colleague to flush a pet goldfish down the toilet “to set it free”.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Voice Of Silence (Sorido Eopsi, 소리도 없이)

Director – Hong Eui-jung – 2020 – South Korea – Cert. 15 – 99m

****

Things go from bad to worse for a mute forced to look after an 11-year-old girl for her kidnapper when the latter disappears in this ostensible crime drama – screened as a teaser screening for the London Korean Film Festival

From its opening this appears a crime film, but somewhere along the line, while remaining a crime film about two men involved in executing a kidnap who are increasingly out of their depth, it turns into…well, it’s hard to say. A drama? A comedy? One of those films like The House Of Us (Yoon Ge-eun, 2019) where the children seem far more important than the adults?

Chang-bok (Yoo Jae-myung) and Tae-in (Yoo Ah-in from Burning, Lee Chang-dong, 2018; Default, Choi Kook-Hee, 2018) drive their lorry into town to sell their eggs to anyone who’ll buy. Then the pair dress for their other job. In cagoules. To project their clothing from the blood. They work as a clean-up crew for gangsters – putting protective sheeting on the floor, cleaning up the mess afterwards. Not, however, the actual dirty work of killing, of which they keep well clear.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Deliver Us From Evil (Daman Akeseo Guhasoseo, 다만 악에서 구하소서)

Director – Hong Won-chan – 2020 – South Korea – Cert. 18 – 108m

*****

An assassin trying to rescue his ex-girlfriend’s child from organ thieves discovers a rival is after him for killing his brother – a teaser screening for the London Korean Film Festival (LKFF), also available to rent on Sky Go, Sky Store, iTunes, Amazon Prime and Google Play

In a darkened building somewhere in Japan, former South Korean government agent turned professional assassin In-nam (Hwang Jung-min) surprises and pacifies then kills his terrified, Japanese-Korean mob boss target. Meanwhile, his former girlfriend Young-joo (Choi Hee-Seo) is in Thailand in the process of putting down the deposit to buy a golf course when her small daughter Yoo-min (Park So-yi) is kidnapped. Desperate, Young-joo attempts to contact In-nam through his boss over the phone, but In-nam has long since told her she must decide between her child and him and as far as he is concerned, she made her decision. He instructs his boss to inform her he is dead.

When her corpse turns up in a Thai morgue shortly afterwards and he is named as next-of-kin, however, In-nam resolves to go to Thailand to find and rescue the child.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

The Man Standing Next (Namsanui Bujangdeul, 남산의 부장들)

Director – Woo Min-ho – 2020 – South Korea – Cert. 15 – 113m

****

The head of the Korean CIA becomes increasingly sidelined by President Park and decides to assassinate him – in Virtual Cinemas including Curzon Home Cinema from Friday, 25th June and on Digital Download from Monday, July 5th

Adapted from a novel, part historical truth, part guesswork and invented fiction, this is the story of Kim Gyu-Peong (Lee Byung-hun from The Fortress, Hwang Dong-hyuk, 2017; The Age Of Shadows, 2016; I Saw The Devil, 2010; The Good, The Bad And The Weird, 2008; A Bittersweet Life, 2005, all by Kim Jee-woon, and Joint Security Area, Park Chan-wook, 2000), the last director of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA) under President Park Chung-hee ( Lee Sung-min from The Good, The Bad And The Weird, 2008) who was in power in South Korea between leading a coup and winning the subsequent elections in 1963 and his assassination by Kim in 1979. Confusingly, a second character bears the same surname as the President, Kim’s predecessor at the KCIA Park Yong-gak (Kwak Do-won from The Wailing, Na Hng-jin, 2016).

It starts off in 1979 with Kim entering the presidential safe house and vowing to the gate security detail that the president “dies tonight”.… Read the rest

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Animation Art Movies Shorts

Opera

Director – Erick Oh – 2020 – South Korea – 9m

*****

Compelling, Oscar-nominated schematic of a self-contained society’s infrastructure behaviour and movement of groups of people within it over a day and a night – from the Annecy 2021 Animation Festival in the Short Films In Competition section – Official 4

This feels like it ought to exist as an art exhibit in a gallery playing over and over again. Watching it online, I went back and immediately rewatched bits of it until I’d seen the whole thing about five times. It’s like a massive moving painting where the camera starts at the top and slowly works its way down to the bottom before slowly panning up again. It makes me wonder if an installation version exists without the panning where visitor can just watch the whole thing on repeat until they’ve taken it all in.

It’s a picture of a self-contained society with the ruler at the top (and a deity above him/her), an elite, the workers at the bottom and several strata in between. In the space of nine minutes, we watch the sun come up and the society go through its daily ritual from morning to night then daily renewal in the morning.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Minari

Director – Lee Isaac Chung – 2020 – UK – Cert. 12A – 120m

***1/2

The Korean immigrant experience in the US as a nuclear family set up a farm in Arkansas – on VoD from Friday, April 2nd, in drive-in cinemas from Monday, April 12th and cinemas from Monday, May 17th

Jacob (Steven YeunBurning, Lee Chang-dong, 2018; Okja, Bong Joon Ho, 2017), Monica (Yeri Han) and their two kids Anne (Noel Kate Cho) and David, 7 (Alan S. Kim), drive out to their new home in Arkansas. She is a little horrified that the home is a trailer on wheels supported by a basic frame, but he is thrilled that they have land with the best dirt (i.e. for growing things) America has to offer. They are surrounded by a vast area of countryside and woodlands. They speak mostly Korean, but are fluent in English and occasionally use it.

Eschewing the advice of a local water diviner, Jacob builds a well in some low ground where trees are nearby, reasoning that there must be water there. “Never pay for anything you can get for free,” he tells the attentive David, reminding him that in California, where they’ve moved from, they had nothing.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil (Akinjeon, 악인전)

Director – Lee Won-Tae – 2019 – South Korea – Cert. 15 – 109m

****

Better the devil you know. A no-nonsense cop and a ruthless gangland boss join forces to catch a serial killer in this South Korean thrilleron BBC Four Sunday, March 7th 22.00 and for one year after

Violent motorist Kang Kyung-ho (Kim Sungkyu) tailgates cars then after he and they have both pulled over stabs their unsuspecting drivers to death. One night, he picks mob boss Jang Dong-su (Ma Dong-seok) who fights back and gets away, inflicting wounds on the killer despite being first stabbed in the back. Meanwhile, his nemesis, cop Jung Tae-suk (Kim Mu-Yeol), is pursuing the same serial killer. Cop and gangster enter into an uneasy alliance to catch the murderer.

As South Korean gangster and crime movies have developed in recent decades, they’ve generally become slicker and, on one level, technically more proficient. Yet on another level, earlier South Korean gangster movies, while rougher around the edges, often have a lot more going on underneath the surface. This one however, while covering everything with the contemporary, superficially fast-paced and slick veneer with lots of impressive car chases and extremely violent one-on-one or group fights, achieves much more interesting dynamics beneath the slick, mass produced veneer.… Read the rest