Posts tagged "Korea"

Claire’s Camera (Review)

Claire’s Camera

aka La Caméra de Claire
Claire's Camera
2017
Written and directed by Hong Sang-soo
Claire's Camera
Hong Sang-soo continues to be an unstoppable movie-making machine, and with Claire’s Camera he continues his streak of producing high quality, entertaining films quickly and distinctively. I immediately pounced when I saw this was screening in this year’s SFIFF, but luckily had I missed it, 4-Star started screening it soon after. Which means I’ll have to make it up to 4-Star by seeing a different film there, no big deal as I don’t mind heading over there at all.

Like On the Beach at Night Alone, Claire’s Camera deals with the results of an affair involving a director, braiding the ropes of reality and fiction of his real life affair with Kim Min-hee into more artistic output. While On the Beach at Night Alone dealt more with the feminine side of a scandal and had a cathartic scene of confrontation, Claire’s Camera is more directly abstract, crystallizing the differences of before and after incidents. Some might argue that Hong is mining the same themes far too often, but he’s handling it in unique ways each time and so many other relationship films deal with similar themes, so hold all criticisms until things start actually getting stale.

Jeon Manhee (Kim Min-hee) is a buyer for films, in France along with the production company she works at, as one of their clients, Director So Wansoo (Jung Jin-young) is screening a film. She meets her boss at a cafe, where the boss Nam Yanghye (Chang Mi-hee) forces her to quit, explaining she no longer has trust in her to do the right thing. This gives Manhee time to wander around France, as she decides to spend a few days in town before heading back to South Korea. Later we learn that the director had an affair with her, and that Nam Yanghye is basically in a relationship with him, explaining the motivations.
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - April 25, 2018 at 7:42 am

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On the Beach at Night Alone (Review)

On the Beach at Night Alone

aka 밤의 해변에서 혼자 aka Bamui Haebyeoneseo Honja
On the Beach at Night Alone movie Korean
2017
Written and directed by Hong Sang-soo
On the Beach at Night Alone movie Korean
Hong Sang-soo has gone into overdrive, releasing three films in 2017. While you’d worry that this might lead to a reduction in quality, On the Beach at Night Alone shows that this is not the case. There is still plenty amazing in these smaller productions even as they threaten to be released at a pace where it will be hard to keep up! Luckily, good ol’ 4Star Theater still shows these, so I hoofed it over (aka drove) for a late night screening.

The hallmarks of Hong Sang-soo are all over the place. The long takes with dialogue driven scenes and minimal set up at locations. The film is divided into two parts, a shorter Part 1 takes place in Germany, while the longer Part 2 is back in Korea upon Young-hee’s return. There is also something weird going on, a mysterious guy who no one can see but seems to be around. Of course he represents something. It’s no mystery why his films drive the art house critics wild. Hong Sang-soo has become so prolific recently that I’ve begun to slip catching up with his work. That’s entirely my fault, but real world business conspiring with Hong Sang-soo pumping out a ton of neat films becomes yet another thing that I need to catch up on once I’m done studying

The entire film is built on Kim Min-hee being as awesome as possible. It’s great to see her again, and to be honest I was more interested in watching her again after The Handmaiden than caring that Hong Sang-soo was directing. Sure, I knew the rumors that they had an affair (later confirmed, and basically the basis for part of the story here), but weird things like can often lead to even better performances. And they do, Kim Min-hee owns this movie’s bones, Young-hee becoming one of the most complete and complex female characters of the year. Despite the airs of one who is contemplative of her situation and recovering from a scandal that forced her to seek a vacation away from it all, she is her own person and busts the expected attitude of a star upside its head. She is confrontational, openly admitting that she is destructive, describing herself as a a bomb. She knows she is going to cause scenes, because her life is let so full that she just can’t help it. It is who she is, she just marches in and causes a scene no matter where she ends up. Even her attempts to be good and find herself just end in herself being there all along and doing what it pleases.
On the Beach at Night Alone movie Korean
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - February 12, 2018 at 7:46 am

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The Handmaiden (Review)

The Handmaiden

aka 아가씨 aka Agassi
The Handmaiden
2016
Written by Park Chan-wook & Chung Seo-kyung
Based on the novel Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
Directed by Park Chan-wook

The Handmaiden
If you aren’t a fan of Park Chan-wook by now, I’m not sure what it will take to convince you to get out and see The Handmaiden. But if you are one of the millions of his fans around the globe, you know that Park Chan-wook is a force of awesomeness in the movie community, and The Handmaiden continues that tradition of awesome movies from an awesome guy. Basically, run, don’t walk, to the theaters and check out a wonderful psychological thriller. There is a trio of amazing performances by Kim Min-hee, Ha Jung-woo, and newcomer Kim Tae-ri. Sarah Waters’ novel Fingersmith is moved to 1930s occupied Korea, where it still manages to work in a culture of repression and male dominance.

Kim Min-hee is heiress Lady Hideko. Hideko is isolated and lorded over by her cruel uncle, Kouzuki, who covets her money and title. Her mother died in childbirth, and her aunt was found hanging in a tree when she was a child. Hideko never leaves the family estate and her only contact with outsiders is a weekly reading of erotic literature to exclusive guests. If you are familiar with the concept of that literature, some of it is ridiculous, basically the dime store erotic trash novels peppered with flowery poetry and filled with imagery that at times stretches believability that the writers have even interacted with people who have sex. Hideko’s Uncle Kouzuki has designs on becoming a Japanese nobleman despite being neither of those things and Hideko’s money and title his avenue to obtain them. Kouzuki rejects his Korean heritage in an admiration for the occupying Japanese, but his true passion is rare books, specifically the aforementioned erotic literature.

Kim Tae-ri plays Sook-hee, a gifted pickpocket and thief embedded as a handmaiden whose job it is to help convince Hideko to fall for the fake Count Fujiwara (Ha Jung-woo — Assassination). Fujiwara has a knack for making forgeries and is just the thing Hideko’s creepy uncle needs, as he can’t bear to part with any of his rare books, but is perfectly fine with selling off faked replicas of them. This gives Fujiwara the access he needs to scope out Lady Hideko and enact his plan of seduction and asset seizure, enabled by Sook-hee as Hideko’s new handmaiden. And then it is seduction time.
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - November 1, 2016 at 8:06 am

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Assassination (Review)

Assassination

aka 암살 aka Amsal
Assassination
2015
Written by Choi Dong-hoon and Lee Ki-cheol
Directed by Choi Dong-hoon

Assassination
Despite the years of ups and downs, South Korea cinema continues to deliver great films, even if it isn’t at the breakneck pace that it once had. And deliver Assassination does, giving us a great wartime espionage tale with a core group of interesting players to follow. Characters battle and scheme, motivated by their honor, for some the honor of appearing strong and powerful more alluring than the actuality.

Assassination wins not because of the action sequences of the story of a ragtag group of unlikely heroes battling against a gigantic evil Empire, but because of the scenes of characters interacting. A heroic sniper, bounty hunters with consciences, and traitors that put their own power above their nation and peoples’ survival battling it out is well and good, but I’m going to remember Ahn Ok-yun sitting in a diner next to Hawaii Pistol where they concoct a fantasy of being a couple in order to evade detection by the Japanese army. Or Hawaii Pistol recounting how he killed his own father and wanting to spare Ahn Ok-yun the same fate. Or a traitor wiping out anyone who threatens to expose him because of he doesn’t want to die. The little bits in the larger whole where characters switch from the stereotypes you think they are to fully fleshed out beings.

Assassination spins its web of spies and intrigue before setting up the next big action scene that causes the surviving players to shuffle around and prepare for the next web. Choi Dong-hoon was best known for his heist films, including the international hit The Thieves, and while Assassination is a different genre, it still has the large cast and multiple story angles all coming together. It even follows some of the same story beats, with a mid-movie action sequence (or heist) that everything was working up towards, but it turns out it was just the beginning of the second half of the film with a smaller but larger staked sequence to follow.
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - August 3, 2016 at 5:07 pm

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The Five (Review)

The Five

aka 더 파이브 aka Deo Paibeu aka The Fives aka Deo pa-i-beu
The Five
2013
Based on The 5ive Hearts by Jeong Yeon-shik
Written and directed by Jeong Yeon-shik

The Five
The Five is a good example of Korean film’s ease of switching emotional tracks like Grand Central Feelings Station. It’s also a good crime film featuring normal people tracking a crazy killer, a good film to watch for fans of shows like Hannibal that regularly depict killers with complicated psychoses and the flawed and broken people who track them down.

The Five began life as a webtoon feature called The 5ive Hearts by Jeong Yeon-shik, who went on to write and direct this adaptation. It’s a tale of desperate people banding together to do a dark task that is much easier said than done.
The Five
A happy and idealic family is shattered by a brutal psychopathic killer. Film production team member (and fancy domino effects designer) Ko Eun-a (Kim Sun-a, She is on Duty) has a normal happy life in Korea, but we’d have no movie if bad things didn’t happen. Eun-a’s daughter recognizes the murderer from seeing him with his latest victim, a former classmate of hers, though she thinks he is the girl’s uncle and doesn’t know she’s been killed. Despite their ignorance, the family is now marked for death by killer Oh Jae-wook (On Joo-wan), who tracks them home and begins the slaughter.

By a sort of miracle, Ko Eun-a survives, though a desperate doctor, Cheol-min (Jung In-gi), is willing to declare her brain dead in order to use her organs on his sick daughter. She awakens just in time, but two years later she’s wheelchair bound, and most of her waking hours are spent trying to track down the person who destroyed her family by the only clue she has, her husband’s lighter that the killer stole. After buying boxes full of the specific lighter, there is finally a clue, and an IP address to track down
The Five
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - November 14, 2014 at 2:57 pm

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Steal My Heart (Review)

Steal My Heart

aka 캐치미 aka Kaechimi aka Catch Me
캐치미 Steal My Heart
2013
Written and directed by Lee Hyeon-jong
Kim Ah-Joon 캐치미 Steal My Heart
Let’s jump back down the well of Korean romantic comedies again with Steal My Heart! It’s got super star Kim Ah-joong, it’s got Joo Won, it’s got a director who hasn’t done much before, how can it go wrong? Unfortunately, that’s what we need to find out, because it doesn’t go right. Instead of a great film, we just get a film that squanders all opportunities to better itself. If there is anything I hate most of all, it’s a film that wastes potential.

Police profiler Lee Ho-tae (Joo Won) was having a good day, having just figured out the routine of a serial killer plaguing the area and leading a stakeout to catch him. One hiccup is the suspected kill is ran over (twice!) by a hit and run driver, which turns into a joke hanging over Lee Ho-tae’s head to the point where people are saying the car solved the case and not him (why no one seems too happy that a guy who murders people is off the streets nor that Lee Ho-tae did all the work finding him is never explained). Lee Ho-tae tracks down the car and driver to save his career, the only hitch being the driver is Yoon Jin-sook (Kim Ah-Joong), who he knew ten years ago as Lee Sook-ja when he was dating her.
캐치미 Steal My Heart
Through a series of misadventures and attempts to protect Yoon Jin-sook (and that she’s sick with a cold, probably the only time in movie history a character will cough and not be dead by the end of the film!), she ends up staying at Lee Ho-tae’s place, while he finds out more and more about how she’s a master criminal thief. They attempt to make amends by returning some of the art she’s stolen, all while staying one step ahead from the rival Detective Oh (Baek Do-Bin), who keeps getting assigned the cases that Yoon Jin-sook committed. But Yoon Jin-sook knows she has to answer at some point for the things she’s done.

A cop vs. criminal romantic comedy is one of those obvious opposites attract scenarios that you’d think this would be a hit out of the park. Especially with Korea producing a few good heist flicks recently. But instead, things are so by the numbers that Steal My Heart never rises above the material to say much of anything. Yoon Jin-sook is far to sympathetic as a criminal, and far too eager to go to jail for her crimes when caught. Lee Ho-tae is powerless before the woman he used to love before fate intervened and he thought he lost her, and now finds out he barely knew her at all.
Kim Ah-joong 캐치미 Steal My Heart
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - June 30, 2014 at 7:45 am

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