Director – Jang Sun-woo – 1991 – South Korea – Cert. 18 – 138m
An academic returns to Korea expecting to hook up with the woman student with whom he lived in Paris, and they meet up, but she now repulses his physical advances – part of a strand of films celebrating actress Kang Soo-Yeon (1966-2022) from LKFF, the London Korean Film Festival which runs in cinemas from Thursday, November 3rd to Thursday, November 17th
As soon as R (Moon Sung-keun) arrives at the airport in Korea, he makes contact with J (Kang Soo-Yeon) and they get a room together, but she confounds his expectations by fending off his attempts at physical sex with her. This wasn’t what he was expecting, since she seemed willing enough when they lived together in Paris. He is desperate to have sex with her, but instead she offers to drive him first to the bus station and then to his home town, where he is reunited with his wife (Kim Bo-yeon), kids and extended family.
Whatever affection he once had for his wife has long since evaporated, and he callously repulses her attempts at intimacy in the bedroom. Brief scenes between the husband and wife punctuate the remaining narrative, the wife becoming increasingly hostile.… Read the rest
Director – Park Song-yeol – 2020 – South Korea – Cert. 12 – 90m
A young, unemployed, married Seoul couple struggle to make ends meet – from LKFF, the London Korean Film Festival which runs in cinemas from Thursday, November 3rd to Thursday, November 17th
Married Seoul couple Young-tae and Jeong-hee (played by screenwriters Park Song-yeol and Won Hyung-ra) are in financial trouble. Neither of them has a secure job with a regular income. They aren’t the only ones: he lends his mate Myung-su the family camera for a week so the latter can do some professional wedding photography to earn some money. If this sounds a bit odd, it sounds odder still when Young-tae finds his calls blocked and can’t get the camera back.
Desperate for money, Young-tae goes for interviews and, after a row with an old friend who purports to be setting up a business but turns out trying to recruit him for a network marketing operation, which Young-tae dismisses as a pyramid scheme, he eventually picks up a job as a cabbie where one night he gets into a row with a customer over taking a quicker, toll road rather than a slower, free road and loses his deposit with the company.… Read the rest
Director – Im Kwon-taek – 1989 – South Korea – Cert. 18 – 121m
As a young woman attempts to live as a Buddhist monk, she embarks on a series of increasingly physical sexual relationships – part of a strand of films celebrating actress Kang Soo-Yeon (1966-2022) from LKFF, the London Korean Film Festival which runs in cinemas from Thursday, November 3rd to Thursday, November 17th
Soon Nyeo (Kang Soo-yeon) enters a monastery as a novice. She reflects on her earlier life. Alienated from her mother, who she accuses of living off the interest of money made exploiting poor people, she develops a habit of following men on their travels. First up is a monk who knew her father who suggests that the latter failed as a monk. After she’s walked with him a while, he deliberately puts her back on a train.
As a student, she becomes fascinated by her class’ teacher Hyeon Jong, 29, (Chon Yoo-in) who, she learns later, lost his wife when she was killed in the Gwangju uprising while eight months pregnant. Uninvited, Soon accompanies Hyeon in his train travels around the country investigating sites of historical interest relating to a peasant uprising having promised his late wife he would one day write about this for her.… Read the rest
Director – Choi Dong-hoon – 2022 – South Korea – Cert. 12 – 142m
In Part One of a proposed double feature, aliens incarcerate prisoners in human brains and time travel between present day and fourteenth century Korea and mayhem ensures – from LKFF, the London Korean Film Festival which runs in cinemas from Thursday, November 3rd to Thursday, November 17th
The first film of a two part adventure, which would be more sensibly released as Alienoid – Part One (which may already be the case in some territories), this revolves around multiple protagonists in two separate timelines divided by six or seven centuries. In the fourteenth century, Guard, who morphs between true robot and fake human appearances not unlike the T-1000 of Terminator 2 Judgement Day (James Cameron, 1991), and his even more confusing companion Thunder, who is sometimes a car, sometimes a flying pod and sometimes any number of human manifestations (both / all played by Kim Woo-bin), fail to save a woman from dying after an alien escapes incarceration within her brain, however Thunder rescues the woman’s baby.
The pair travel forward in time to raise Lee Ahn (Choi Yu-ri) in the twenty-first century where she sees what she’s not supposed to: the impregnation process whereby alien prisoners are incarcerated in human brains, a memory wiped immediately afterwards from the humans used for this purpose, meaning people wander around not knowing there are aliens trapped inside their heads.… Read the rest
LKFF, the London Korean Film Festival runs in cinemas from Thursday, November 3rd to Thursday, November 17th
The London Korean Film Festival kicks off tonight with Alienoid (Choi Dong-hoon, 2022), the first instalment of a two-part SF epic which mashes up ideas from Hollywood SF and time travel fare Alien, The Terminator and Back To The Future with epic Korean period dramas. The plot apparently involves a robot guard, prisoners trapped in human brain cells, time travel back some 600 years and a MacGuffin known as the Divine Blade. Cast includes Kim Tae-ri (The Handmaiden, Park Chan-wook, 2016).
Friday 4th sees one of the director’s earlier blockbusters, the heist movie The Thieves (Choi Dong-hoon, 2012) in which five Korean criminals head for Macao to steal another MacGuffin, a 318-carat diamond called ‘Tear of the Sun’ worth over $20 million. The latter film is presented in collaboration with the V&A’s current exhibition Hallyu! The Korean Wave. Both screenings will be followed by a Q&A with director Choi.
The Festival bows out in two weeks time with two naval warfare blockbusters, again epic historical productions, this time the first two parts of a proposed trilogy.… Read the rest
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 –Wednesday, October 26th, 20.30 at The Cinema At Selfridgesas part of a strand of films celebrating actor Lee Jung-jae (Squid Game) at London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF) which runs in cinemas from Wednesday, October 19th to Sunday, October 30th; 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.… Read the rest
Director – Park Hoon-jung – 2013 – South Korea – Cert. 15 – 135m
Following a gangster boss’ murder, an undercover cop is caught in the middle of the rival factions’ battle to take over the gang – screening Monday, October 24th, 19.00 at The Cinema Museum as part of a strand of films celebrating actor Lee Jung-jae (Squid Game) at London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF) which runs in cinemas from Wednesday, October 19th to Sunday, October 30th; the film is also available on Eureka! Video
Lee Ja-sung (Lee Jung-jae) is the number two for Shanghai-based gangster Jung Chung (Hwang Jun-min) when someone in the organisation has a lorry drive into the car of their boss Seok (Lee Kyung-young) as he’s returning from a visit to his mistress in the rain, killing him and opening the way for someone else to take over.
When at the hospital Seok is pronounced dead to the assembled gangsters by a surgeon, he’s assaulted by one of Jung Chung’s rival candidates for the succession, Lee Joong-gu (Park Sung-woong). He makes a habit of such actions, tossing away the camera of a carload of journalists “disrespecting” Seok’s funeral only to learn that they are actually cops working for Section Chief Kang (Choi Min-sik), who has been recently promoted from Lieutenant.… Read the rest
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 Saturday, October 22nd, 17.15 at Odeon Luxe West End 2 as part of a strand of films celebrating actor Lee Jung-jae (Squid Game) at London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF) which runs in cinemas from Wednesday, October 19th to Sunday, October 30th; 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
Director – Jeon Go-woon – 2017 – South Korea – 106m
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 Cinemaseason.
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