Categories
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

Categories
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

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Woman Of Fire (Hwanyeo, 화녀)

Director – Kim Ki-young – 1971 – South Korea – Cert. 18 – 98m

*****

A married couple’s housemaid seduces the husband, ensnaring him in a love triangle from which there is no escape – 4K Restoration played at the London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF) (European Premiere) and screens again 6.30 at the ICA on Friday, November 5th book here as part of a strand dedicated to actress Youn Yuh-jung (Best Supporting Actress, Minari) at the London Korean Film Festival (LKFF) which runs from Thursday, November 4th to Friday, November 19th

Kim Ki-young is probably better known for his breakthrough film The Housemaid (1960) than any other title. Not only did the film establish him as a maker of dark films about twisted relationships, it also inaugurated something of his trademark style. While a real watershed in Korean cinema generally and Kim’s career in particular, the material was something he felt he could do a lot more with: he remade it directly not once but twice as Woman Of Fire (1971) and Woman Of Fire ‘82 (1982). Where the highly effective original was shot in both black and white and the old 4:3 Academy format, the two remakes like many of his later films were both colour and scope, and made full use of both, giving them additional qualities lacking in the original.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Death, Desire And Rat Poison

An introduction to the films of Korea’s late and, lamentably, largely unknown director Kim Ki‑young – originally published in Manga Max, Number 8, July 1999. Reprinted here to coincide with London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF)’s screening of Woman Of Fire (1971) on Friday, October 29th. If you missed it, the restoration screens again on Friday, November 5th as part of a strand dedicated to actress Youn Yuh-jung at London Korean Film Festival (LKFF) which runs from Thursday, November 4th to Friday, November 19th

Kim Ki-young

It seems unthinkable that the world could have failed to recognise a director whose 2.35:1 widescreen visuals compare favourably with Seijun Suzuki and John Boorman and whose marriage of technique with subject matter is as terrifying as anything by Dario Argento or Alfred Hitchcock. Nevertheless, when 1997’s Pusan International Film Festival (PIFF) ran a retrospective season of films by Kim Ki-young (the first of a proposed series of annual events showcasing Korean directors) it quickly became clear to astonished audiences that the unthinkable had indeed happened. Sadly, on February 4th 1998 – within six months of his new-found international acclaim – Kim and his wife died in a fire in Korean capital Seoul.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

The Green Knight

Director – David Lowery – 2021 – UK – Cert. 15 – 130m

***1/2

A retelling of the story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight from Arthurian mythology – out in cinemas on Friday, September 24th

This immediately sets out its stall with a woman leading a horse out of a courtyard and Gawain (Dev Patel) being awoken by a bucket of water on Christmas Day thrown by his lover Essel (Alicia Vikander) in a building which may or may not be a brothel. He attends mass with her, then goes back to his mother (Sarita Choudhury) who is going to pass attending the King’s court this Christmas Day.

The colour blind casting here has the good sense to cast Gawain and his mother in a similar ethnicity, which is certainly consistent and avoids the problems it produced in The Personal History Of David Copperfield (Armando Ianucci, 2019).

Whatever expectations of straightforward narrative the unwary moviegoer might have had from watching the trailer have been dashed. Much of the rest of the film is similarly oblique. While there is a basic underlying structure of a quest, what happens in the course of that quest comprises serial events and incidents en route that seemingly bear scant relation to the quest itself.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

The Bold, The Corrupt And The Beautiful (Xue guan yin, 血觀音)

Director – Yang Ya-che – 2017 – Taiwan – Cert. 15 – 112m

*****

A dysfunctional family, a property investment scam and sex and drugs meet head on in this impressive, female character-driven Taiwanese drama-thriller – exclusively in these cinemas for three days from Friday, September 4th

One family, three generations of women, each with their own demons. Middle aged matriarch Madame Tang (Kara Wai) is in the process of setting up illicit property deals with a network of corrupt state officials to the tune of $3m Taiwanese. Her scheming daughter Tang Ning (Wu Ke-Xi, writer and star of Nina Wu / 2019) is involved in sexual intrigues and addicted to a lethal mixture of drink and prescription meds. Teenager Tang Chen (Vicky Chen Wen-chi) seems both incapable of forming healthy relationships of any sort with other people and constantly spying on them through gaps in doors or curtains – or just by being in places she’s not really wanted.

Tragedy befalls the Lins, one of the families involved in Madame Tang’s scheme, when they are shot dead in their family home by intruders. Somehow their teenage daughter Pien (Wen Chen-Ling) survives the massacre. Her boyfriend Marco (Wu Shu Wei) is the murder suspect.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Transgression (Pagye)

Director – Kim Ki-young – 1974 – South Korea – 111m

*****

Buddhist, monastic drama. Celibacy confronts carnal desire and a new senior monk must be chosen as the incumbent nears death.

Free to view in the Korean Film Archive as part of

Korean Film Nights Online: Trapped! The Cinema of Confinement

(Friday, July 17th – Thursday, August 27th)

Viewing links at bottom of review

From its opening, a lengthy shot of a mountain hillside slope, this throws anyone unfamiliar with the more complex tenets of Buddhism in at the deep end, peppering voice-over and dialogue with words like ‘yulseong’ (“a monk that learns Buddha’s words”), ‘seonseong’ (“a monk that tries to emulate Buddha’s mind”) and ‘hwadu’ (“a kind of question that leads to seon”). A student disguises himself as a monk to gain admission to a Buddhist temple and see for himself what goes on there.

The temple monks meet to discuss their food problem. There are fifty older monks of more than twenty years’ standing and twenty younger newcomers. One of the old monks Doshim stole and sold some of the temple food. Another old monk tells newcomers that old monks are treated badly at the monastery, suffering deprivation of food, sleep and clothes.… Read the rest