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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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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

A Day Off (Hyuil, 휴일)

Director – Lee Man-hee – 1968 – South Korea – Cert. 18 – 110m

*****

A man passes the boredom of Sunday in Seoul by spending time in the park with his lover, robbing an old schoolmate then going out drinking and womanising in bars – watch for free at the Korean Film Archive’s YouTube channel (link at bottom of page)

Shot in stark black and white, this opens with a voice-over which immediately makes you think you’re watching a film noir. However, A Day Off is something else entirely – there are no cops or gangsters in sight, the narrative concerning instead a couple of doomed lovers and the opening voice-over bemoaning the hero’s meeting with his lover Ji-Yeon every Sunday. That said, it’s all about poor people struggling to survive on Seoul’s mean streets and the main character is constantly cheating his fellow citizens or stealing money from them, so its subject matter is not entirely noir unrelated.

Heo-uk (Shin Seong-il, a huge star who also has a bit part in the earlier Bloodline a.k.a. Kinship, Kim Soo-yong, 1963) asks a consults a bird fortune-teller as to what the day will bring: her trained bird picks out a card warning him to Stay Away From Women.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

The Woman Who Ran (Domangchin Yeoja, 도망친 여자)

Director – Hong Sang Soo – 2020 – South Korea – Cert. 12A – 77m

*****

Three women – plus one. An urban woman’s visits to three out-of-town friends gently calls into question both their and her everyday lives – at Curzon Bloomsbury and on Curzon Home Cinema from Friday, December 11th, then on MUBI from Sunday, December 20th

Seoul resident Gam-hee (Kim Min-hee) is away from her husband for a few days and while he’s on a rare business trip is taking the opportunity to visit old friends. As she explains to each of them, her husband says that people in love should stick to each other. She feels loved.

Yet this mantra is called into question by the presence and lives of the three women she visits. Divorcee Young-soon (Seo Young-hwa) has a nice little apartment which she shares with a flatmate Young-ji (Lee Eun-mi) who is an incredible cook. Su-young (Song Seon-mi), who puts together dance performances, has discovered a nice little local bar full of artists, architects and other creative types. Woo-jin (Kim Sae-byuk) is tiring of her famous author husband Mr. Jung (Kwon Hae-hyo) who she thinks talks too much.

Jung is only seen briefly towards the end and is representative of the men in the film in that he is a peripheral character in the drama.… Read the rest

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Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Totally Under Control

Directors – Alex Gibney, Ophelia Harutyunyan, Suzanne Hillinger – 2020 – US – Cert. 12 – 123m

***1/2

Documentary looks at the Trump administration’s handling of the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic in the US – in cinemas from Friday, October 23rd and on iTunes, Amazon, Google, BFI Player, Curzon, Sky, Rakuten, Virgin. On BBC iPlayer from Sunday, November 1st.

This is a documentary shot, as it were, on the hoof. It constitutes a record of near-contemporary events as they unfolded in the recent past, in two of three very specific geographic locations. Two or three because the subject is the early months of the 2020 global COVID-19 pandemic in the origin of which the third country, China, specifically the city of Wuhan, played the major part. But this film isn’t really about China beyond that country’s being the source of the infection.

Nor is it really about the second country, South Korea, here quite reasonably held up to the audience as a paragon of virtue in its handling of the crisis. The film is really about the first country, the US, during this period, which had a playbook ready and waiting should such a crisis come to pass.… Read the rest

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Documentary Features Live Action Movies

The Remnants (Gong-Dong-Jeong-Beom)

Director – Kim Il-rhan, Lee Hyuk-sang – 2016 – South Korea – 116m

****

Revisiting the Korean towering inferno: follow-up doc to Two Doors, has survivors of the Yongsan tragedy released from prison to tell their side of the story and grapple with the resulting emotional and psychological problems – from the London Korean Film Festival 2017

Set to open in Korea in 2018, this is the follow-up documentary to Two Doors (Kim il-rhan/ Hong Ji-you, 2012) about the Yongsan tragedy in which a policeman and five protesters were killed in a fire atop a housing block during a protest. One of the limitations imposed on that film was the incarceration of those protesters that escaped the burning rooftop lookout atop the Yongsan building. Viewers of the first film kept asking what had happened to these people.

The short answer is: four years after originally being sentenced, they were pardoned and released. This meant that they were now available to tell their own stories, so Kim and Lee from the Pinks film making collective and their crew started talking to them on camera. Slowly, a second film started to emerge. It’s not exactly a sequel, more a follow up.… Read the rest

Categories
Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Two Doors (Doo gae-eui moon)

Director – Kim Il-rhan, Hong Ji-you – 2011 – South Korea – 101m

*****

Is this the Korean Grenfell Tower? Threatened eviction, SWAT, lethal building fire: compelling documentary about the Yongsan tragedy in which a police raid on a group of housing protesters went horribly wrong – from the London Korean Film Festival 2017

The story of the Yongsan tragedy. Yongsan is an area of Central Seoul which had been the site of a US military base and the infrastructure such as bars and prostitution which had grown up around it. Once the US military decamped to another area, the developers hoped to move in and regenerate the area. For ‘regenerate’ read ‘gentrify’, a situation not entirely unfamiliar in parts of the UK at present. In Yongsan, when some tenants in one particular housing block refused to move out, activists seized on this and helped stage a protest.

Instead of listening to their grievances as the protesters would have hoped, the authorities surrounded the block with police whose presence only served to aggravate the protesters into throwing firebombs. The police subsequently stormed the building with intent to remove the protesters who barricaded themselves inside and whose last stand would take place in a lookout structure on the roof of the building.… Read the rest