Categories
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

Categories
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

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
Live Action Movies Shorts

Ladies Of The Forest (San-na-mul Cheo-nyeo, 산나물처녀)

Director – Kim Cho-hee – 2016 – South Korea – 29m

*****

A woman descends from the heavens in search of a mate, but lands in a forest where the pickings are slim – 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

The source of this plot is a folk tale known as The Fairy And The Woodcutter or The Heavenly Maiden And The Woodcutter. There seem to be a number of variants of the story – a good, much longer summation can be found here – but, broadly speaking, it concerns a woodcutter so poor that no woman will marry him. He lives alone with his mother. One day, he hides a deer from a hunter and in return, the deer offers to grant him a wish. He wishes to be married. The deer tells him of a pool to which beautiful maidens descend from the heavens to bathe. If he steals the clothes of one, she’ll be unable to return and he’ll be able to make her his wife. He must not, however, return her clothes until she has birthed three children, otherwise she will use her clothes to fly back to the heavens.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

The Bacchus Lady (Jug-yeo-ju-neun Yeo-ja, 죽여주는 여자)

Director – Lee Je-Yong – 2016 – South Korea – 111m

****

An elderly prostitute takes in the child of a woman in trouble with the law – on MUBI as part of their New South Korean Cinema season

After visiting the doctor to discover, not entirely unexpectedly, that she has gonorrhea, elderly woman So-young (Youn Yuh-jung) witnesses his being stabbed by a woman claiming he’s her child’s father. In the ensuing chaos as the woman is taken away by police, she tells her son Min-ho (Choi Hyun-jun) to get away. Taking pity on him, So-young helps the boy evade the police and decides to look after him.

Her condition directly affects her work: prostitution. As she cheerfully tells upstairs landlady Tina (An A-zu), “no work today – the product is out of order.” However, that doesn’t stop her soliciting for blow jobs. The Bacchus of the title refers to an energy supplement, the supply of which is her cover for working at the oldest profession.

What does get in the way, though, is having to look after Min-ho. Sometimes she can get Tina to babysit, sometimes fellow tenant Do-Hoon (Yoon Kye-Sang), sometimes she must take him with her, leaving him on street corners or cheap hotel lobbies while she entertains clients.… 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

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