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Thread: Korea Path

  1. #1
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    Korea Path

    Brief comments on some Korean films I've seen. I'll update as regularly as possible.

    So here are the first few.

    Feel free to add your own comments, criticisms, thoughts, reviews, in fact anything you like.

    Index.

    Sympathy for Mr.Vengeance 2002

    Holiday in Seoul 1997

    Samaritan Girl 2004

    Acacia 2003

    Joint Security Area 2000

    Bad Guy 2001

    Love Wind Love Song 1999

    Addicted 2002

    Oldboy 2003

    Oldboy 2003 Oscar's comment

    Christmas in August 1998

    Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter... and Spring 2003

    Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter. . .and Spring 2003 Thread started by Chris Knipp

    This Charming Girl 2004 arsaib4's comment

    This Charming Girl 2004 Oscar's comment

    Birdcage Inn 1998

    The Harmonium in my Memory 1998

    3-Iron 2004

    3-Iron 2004 Chris Knipp's comment

    Arahan 2004

    Real Fiction 2000

    Oseam 2003

    Happy End 1999

    Still to come list

    Spider Forest 2004

    Il Mare 2000

    Wonderful Days 2003

    Save the Green Planet 2003

    R-Point 2004

    Tell Me Something 1999

    Interview 2000

    Pisces 2000

    Failan 2000

    Whispering Corridors 1998

    Whispering Corridors 2, Memento Mori 1999

    Art Museum by the Zoo 1998

    Untold Scandal 2003

    H 2002

    Crying Fist 2005

    Crying Fist 2005 Hengcs comment

    Spring in my Hometown 1998 Oscar's comment

    The President's Last Bang 2005 arsaib4's review

    Memories of Murder 2003 Oscar's comment

    Camel 2002 Oscar's comment

    A Moment to Remember 2004 Hengcs comment

    Why Has Bodhi Dharma Left for the East? 1989 Oscar's comment

    Woman is the Future of Man arsaib4's comment

    Oasis 2002 Thread started by Howard Schumann

    The Turning Gate comment by pmw and Oscar

    Sympathy for Lady Vengeance 2005

    Into the Mirror 2003

    Ring Virus 1999


    See also - Bad Korea Choices

    Cheers Trev
    Last edited by trevor826; 03-08-2006 at 05:26 PM.
    The more I learn the less I know.

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    Boksuneun naui geot (2002) - Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance

    Directed by Chan-wook Park

    Starring Du-na Bae, Ha-kyun Shin, Kang-ho Song

    In years to come when the fuss over "Oldboy" is but a distant memory, this film will still stand out. No outrageous set pieces, no ott displays of over-emotive acting and a story line that is believable, out of the 2 films this is by far the better.

    Ryu who is deaf and dumb does everything he can to help save his sisters life, she is in desperate need of a kidney transplant. Unfortunately time and again everything he tries goes wrong until in the end he is seeking vengeance while others are seeking him for vengeance. Brutal but for the most part believable, the film illustrates that revenge isn’t sweet and often leads to even greater levels of violence.

    Asian aspect – Organs, kidneys etc are often stolen from the living and sold for large amounts to wealthy patients. The illegal trade in human organs is a serious problem in several Asian countries.

    Recommended viewing.

    Cheers Trev.

    BBFC rating 18
    The more I learn the less I know.

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    Holiday in Seoul (1997)

    Directed by Ui-seok Kim

    Starring Min-jong Kim, Hee-kyung Jin, Jin-shil Choi, Dong-Kun Jang

    “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” If that saying is true then Wong Kar Wai can consider himself well and truly flattered. If there was no Chungking Express there would be no Holiday in Seoul, certainly not as it is, the construction, editing, styling, photography, character narration, pacing, the whole shebang is a Korean version of Chungking Express.

    That said, I found it to be a good film (once I could get over the similarities) the story revolves around two groups of two people, the first a bellboy who has an obsession with women’s legs and falls for a leg model, problem is she has a boyfriend and a high flying career. The second half is centered around a taxi driver and a hotel phone operator, again he falls for her but she is already involved with a married man.

    The biggest difference between Holiday in Seoul and Chungking Express is the overall feeling, Holiday in Seoul has an air of despair, inner city loneliness and sadness, you feel that the hotel phone operator in particular is in a severe state, clutching at straws and on the edge, another similarity with Chungking Express is the fact that she becomes an airline stewardess at the end of the film.

    The acting is fine, the pacing is good (as it should be) and despite the obvious comparison it’s quite a decent film.

    The title is actually wrong, it should be Holiday Inn Seoul, this is where two of the characters are situated and where a large amount of the film is set.

    Recommended, especially if you haven’t seen Chungking Express yet.

    Cheers Trev.

    No BBFC rating but probably 15.
    The more I learn the less I know.

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    Samaria (2004) - Samaritan Girl

    Directed by Ki-duk Kim

    Starring Ji-min Kwak, Min-jeong Seo, Eol Lee

    Two naive schoolgirls are saving money to visit Europe, one Jae-Yeong prostitute's herself while her friend Yeo-Jin acts as unwilling look-out and protector. The film is split into three acts in the same way as an opera and indeed it is very much an opera without singing.

    You have love, tragedy, death, murder, redemption and salvation. The film does feel disjointed at times but again this is also a familiar theme with opera as each part deals with a distinct area and rhythm of the story.

    Act 1 Vasumitra - Named after an Indian prostitute, her skills were said to be capable of turning her clients toward God. Jae-yeong adopts the name feeling she is doing good by selling herself.

    Act 2 Samaria - Where Yeo-Jin seeks redemption for herself and for Jae-yeong, her father though has other ideas.

    Act 3 Sonata - A murderous finale but one that leads to the salvation of Yeo-Jin, hopefully!

    Probably the most awkward of his films in narrative terms (at least from what I've seen) as usual, it brings up controversial topics but with Ki-duk Kim's unique interpretation. The film is not sexually explicit and the only (brief and discreet) nudity is very natural.

    Teenage prostitution is a widespread problem in Asia, unfortunately although films have been made as far apart as Japan and India, the problem still tends to get ignored especially when it brings copious amounts of money into a country, like Thailand.

    Cheers Trev.

    No BBFC rating, maybe 15 but probably 18
    The more I learn the less I know.

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    Acacia (2003)

    Directed by Ki-Hyung Park

    Starring Hye-jin Shim, Jin-geun Kim, Oh-bin Mun, Na-yoon Jeong

    Slow paced horror about a middle aged couple who adopt a boy, the woman picks him because of his artistic talent, personally if I saw his pictures, I’d send him for psychiatric treatment but that’s me.

    The boy “Jin-Seung” is always drawing trees, quite often with disturbing looking figures near them, it turns out he believes that his mother died and became a tree so if he’s not drawing them, he’s talking to or hugging them.

    After a little bust up one day, Jin-Seung runs out in a storm and disappears, the police are informed but then the adoptive father starts having recurring nightmares, the mother starts cracking up and the next door neighbours little girl starts talking to the Acacia tree in the garden, strange things also happen to the grandparents.

    What has become of Jin-Seung, what is the truth about the Acacia tree and why have the parents suddenly gone mad?

    If you don’t mind the pacing it’s not a bad film, far more thoughtful than the average horror and if anything, it’s the scenes that try to make this a horror film which stand out as weak, it didn’t need them, this would have made a fine psychological thriller without them.

    The gore hounds won’t enjoy it, but those who like a bit more in the way of a cerebral thriller will at least get some entertainment value from it.

    If you enjoyed “A Tale of Two Sisters” there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy Acacia.

    Cheers Trev.

    BBFC rated 15
    The more I learn the less I know.

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    Gongdong gyeongbi guyeok JSA (2000) Joint Security Area

    Directed by Chan-wook Park

    Starring Yeong-ae Lee, Byung-hun Lee, Kang-ho Song

    A poignant film showing the futility of war and the stupidity of humans.

    For years Koreans on both sides of the DMZ (De-Militarised Zone) have been raised to see the other side as enemies, the story covers an investigation into the killing of 2 border guards in North Korea. The problem is compounded because there are injured troops on each side of the DMZ as well and both their
    accounts of the incident are completely different.

    Swiss and Swedish investigators try and get to the truth of the matter but receive minimal help from those involved, we see the story unfold Rashomon style with variations of the truth, unfortunately the true story is more dangerous to
    those directly involved than the cover stories they’ve invented, will it ever be told?

    JSA is an impressive film which tries to see both sides as decent humans, which I’m sure the majority are, it was a huge hit in South Korea and has hopefully opened the eyes of people to realise that North Koreans are the same as them, they are their kin and it’s only because of the super powers that the split occurred in the first place, Korea will hopefully be re-unified one day and then as in Germany the old views and stupidity will dissipate.

    Recommended viewing, well constructed and generally very good performances.

    There is a classic Homer(ism) in the film where the Swedish investigator talks about the bridge at Panmunjeom in the DMZ, he comes out with a classic line something like, "People who cross this bridge never return, that's why it's called The Bridge of No Return." And I thought Homer was still in Springfield!

    Korean aspect - something that pops it's head up in a number of Korean titles but without it this film wouldn't exist, the North/South split and the hopes of re-unification.

    Cheers Trev.

    BBFC rating 15
    The more I learn the less I know.

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    Nabbeun namja (2001) Bad Guy

    Directed by Ki-duk Kim

    Starring Jae-hyeon Jo, Won Seo

    The basic premise for the film is that a college girl is forced into becoming a prostitute by an almost mute thug /pimp, what soon becomes clear though is that Han-gi, (the pimp and bad guy of the title) is obsessed with Sun-hwa (the college girl), an obsessive love that for some reason cannot be consumated. A form of relationship develops between captor(s) and captive and the phrase “Stockholm Syndrome” came into my mind during the film but the story is deeper than that.

    Han-gi could not in anyway be described as a normal person, he has his own sense of what is right and wrong, he metes out his own punishment to those who cross him but he can and does feel guilt. You get the impression that his whole life has been spent in the red light district, probably the only women he knew while growing up were prostitutes and violence is second nature to him. This way of living is normality to him

    Sun-hwa is his polar opposite, the impression given is that her life has been very safe, she is very naïve and once set up, easily manipulated, but inner strength can come with adversity, and she will need it.

    Dark and disturbing, violent and deeply vicious, the majority of the film takes place in Seoul’s red light district; the pavements are teeming with prostitutes trying to hook any passers-by into their brothels. The pimps hang around to keep control of their produce (sic) and to ensure customers don’t damage the goods.

    I don’t want to dwell on the storyline because I don’t want to include spoilers. Ki-duk Kim has a way of looking into the dark and in some way bringing it into the light, this is no romanticised “Pretty Woman” type film, this should leave you feeling at least slightly disturbed and as usual, with plenty to think about.

    I've seen "Bad Guy" three times now and still find it disturbing. As far as human behaviour is concerned, I fInd it even more troubling than "The Isle", probably because of the end section, without which this film would not have been complete.

    A challenging film and not one you could heartily recommend to just anyone, the accusations of mysoginy that accompanied the initial screenings don't hold water but most of us would rather not have to deal with the darker aspects of life.

    Cheers Trev

    BBFC rated 18
    The more I learn the less I know.

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    Thanks for adding your reviews here, Trev. I know that you got a lot of 'em. ;)

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    Yeonpung yeonga (1999) Love Wind Love Song

    Directed by Dae-yeong Park

    Starring Dong-Kun Jang, So-young Ko

    Tae-hee lives and works in Seoul, he has recently split from his fiancé and is looking after his ill father. Young-suh lives and works on Cheju as a tour guide ferrying people around the Island, neither are outwardly searching for love but both are in need of it.

    A gentle romance set on the beautiful Island of Cheju, Tae Hee takes a well deserved short break and he and Young-suh constantly bump into each other till he asks her to be his guide around the Island, a favour turns into friendship which gradually takes a romantic turn to love.

    They plan to meet before he has to fly back to Seoul but when she gets there she finds he’s already gone on an earlier flight, her friends and in particular her mother are quick to put Tae-hee down as someone just looking for a holiday fling but Young-suh doesn’t give up hope, love has taken hold and she doesn’t want to let it go.

    Pure escapist romance in a beautiful setting, the film has some nice little touches such as Young-suh’s English classes where the phrases she learns reflect the state of the romance and her feelings. So if you just want to chill out especially with your partner, this is an ideal film.

    Cheers Trev

    No BBFC rating but suitable for any age group - U.
    The more I learn the less I know.

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    Jungdok (2002) Addicted

    Directed by Young-hoon Park

    Starring Byung-hun Lee, Mi-yeon Lee, Eol Lee

    Yet another Asian film that’s getting an American remake, this time though (unlike everything from Ringu through Oldboy to Shall we Dansu) there shouldn’t be any reason to change the story in the slightest way. This film could easily translate to almost any culture as there is nothing specifically Asian about it.

    As with “Happy End” you won’t understand the meaning of the title till the end of the film but unlike that you won’t have to think about how the title applies. Ho-jin and Dae-jin are brothers, they’re very close despite the fact that they’re very different from each other. Ho-jin, an artist is married to Eun-su, after three years they still send each other love letters and are very happy together. Dae-jin has just completed his national service is single and his addiction appears to be speed, he races cars for a living, they live in the same house and get along really well.

    Tragedy strikes both at the same time though, Ho-jin is involved in a car crash that puts him in a coma and Dae-jin suffers a similar fate during a race. Dae-jin pulls out of his coma but starts acting strange, instead of showing interest in cars he suddenly starts creating artworks and furniture just as his brother used to, he claims to be his brother confusing poor Eun-su. The rest of the film is spent trying to work out the truth, has Dae-jin gone mad or is he genuinely possessed by his brother’s soul?

    Towards the end I was wondering if this would get a Hollywood style finish, I’m glad to say the saving grace of the film is that it didn’t. It is fairly slow paced and a lot of the acting is performed through the eyes which works very well. Not a must see film by any means but a tragic romantic drama that is well constructed with good acting. Addicted is one film that is likely to appeal to both men and women equally which is a rarity these days.

    Cheers Trev.

    BBFC rated 15.
    The more I learn the less I know.

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    Oldboy (2003)

    Directed by Chan-wook Park

    Starring Min-sik Choi, Ji-tae Yu, Hye-jeong Kang

    If one film has raised the general populaces awareness of South Korea in terms of film production then this has to be the one.

    Oh Dae-Su is kidnapped and imprisoned for 15 years, why? On his release he is intent on finding out and exacting revenge!

    A paper thin plot with some stupendously memorable sequences guarantee this film a good reaction where ever it's screened. I have seen so many serious comments and reviews on Oldboy which in a way is more comical than the film. The film is based on a Japanese Manga of the same name by Minegishi Nobuaki and Tsuchiya Garon and it is a "Black Comedy Revenge Drama" see it, enjoy it, laugh with it (although an understanding of the Asian sense of humour is certainly beneficial) be stunned by the set pieces but please, please, please don't look for any serious messages, there aren't any!

    The film asks you to make a few leaps of faith especially when the 2 main protagonists are supposed to be of a similar age and one looks old enough to be the others father, in actual fact the age difference between the actors is 14 years.

    Korean aspect - Well I don't know about Korean but eating a live squid/octopus? is definitely not something I'd expect to see in my local restaurant.

    Essential cinema - No of course not but a spectacular slice of hokey entertainment. Highly recommended as a good night out at the cinema."

    Cheers Trev.

    BBFC rating 18
    The more I learn the less I know.

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    Palwolui Christmas (1998) Christmas in August

    Directed by Jin-ho Hur

    Starring Suk-kyu Han, Eun-ha Shim


    Whereas Ikiru deals with every stage of grief having been told your dying, Christmas in August bypasses the first stages and is already on terms with the final stage, acceptance.

    Jung-won runs a small photo shop/studio and is terminally ill, we never find out what he’s dying of but that doesn’t really matter. He’s obviously been ill for a long time, long enough to have accepted the knowledge that he will soon be gone. He spends his days quietly running the photo shop; drinking with friends and sharing time with his immediate family, his father in particular.

    Dar-im is a traffic warden (meter maid) who starts using Jung-won’s studio to get pictures of traffic violations developed, within a short time you can feel a mutual attraction developing.

    The film is not a romance, nor a lamentation on death, there is little if any sorrow or misery. It is a film about a man preparing, ensuring that life carries on after he’s gone, making the most of the time left to be with the people he cares about and sharing what he knows can only be a brief friendship with Dar-im.

    Moving and deliberately underplayed acting, some clever cinematographic flourishes and no melodramatics, all in all a quiet but powerful film that may just bring a tear to your eye.

    A definite recommendation.

    Cheers Trev.

    BBFC rated 12
    The more I learn the less I know.

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    Bom yeoreum gaeul gyeoul geurigo bom (2003) - Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter... and Spring

    Directed by Ki-duk Kim

    Starring Yeong-su Oh, Ki-duk Kim, Young-min Kim

    Is this a Buddhist philosophical film? is it a film about the circle of life?

    Given the director is Catholic it's definitely more of the second but with a hint of trying to understand the first.

    Set on a beautiful lake in a secluded floating temple, the human tale of a monk and a boy’s lives told through several stages each set during the appropriate season reflecting actual and spiritual growth:

    Spring - the child, innocence.
    Summer - the adventurousness, vitality and arrogance of youth
    Autumn - the adult, learning to take responsibility for ones actions
    Winter - Older wizened, resigned, responsible, redemptive.
    Spring - Re-birth, back to childhood.

    Obviously these are sweeping generalizations and this is another essential film, thought provoking? Yes but so are all of Ki-duk Kim's films, at least all the ones I've seen.

    If you want a Buddhist film try Why Has Bodhi-Dharma Left for the East? if you want a film that tries to cover life but with Buddhist sentiments, try this.

    Cheers Trev.


    BBFC rated 15
    The more I learn the less I know.

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    Paran daemun (199 - Birdcage Inn

    Directed by Ki-duk Kim

    Starring Ji-eun Lee, Hae-eun Lee

    Jin-a is a prostitute working and living in a small run down motel, she seems to provide most of the finance for the Birdcage Inn and yet constantly suffers abuse at the hands of the patrons and the family that run the motel. The main structure of the story concerns the relationship between Jin-a and the daughter of the family, university student Hye-mi.

    Hye-mi despises Jin-a for the degrading work she does and also because she provides most of the family's income, things gradually get worse until...............!

    There is a strange turn in the tale toward the end that seems a bit fanciful but this is early Ki-duk Kim and it certainly doesn't affect the overall impact of the film.

    Food for thought as you would expect from Ki-duk Kim, I always find I question my own ideals after seeing any of his films and lets face it, that's not a bad thing.

    Essential? No but still a cut above the average.

    Cheers Trev.

    No BBFC rating but 15 at least
    The more I learn the less I know.

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    Nae maeumui punggeum (1998) The Harmonium in My Memory

    Directed by Young-jae Lee

    Starring Do-yeon Jeon, Byung-hun Lee

    A light romantic drama set in the early 1960’s, Hong-yeon an awkward 16-17 year old girl develops a crush on the new teacher at her school, the story is told from her perspective and often throughout the film we hear her thoughts. The teacher is young, fresh out of University and takes the eye of more than a few of the villagers, his eye though is taken by another new teacher at the school, slightly older and with a common love of American music.

    This is the set up then for a touching drama where love is ignored or cannot be returned. The pupils are chaotic, education not being their top priority, the fact that most of their parents are illiterate doesn’t help but the teacher manages to organise them even quicker than Arnie did in Kindergarten Cop. The village itself provides a good backdrop with a few little scenes to break away (though not detract) from the main story.

    A rich colour palette, good acting and a real sense of a living community all help to strengthen what could have been a sickly sweet romance. Do-yeon Jeon in particular is exceptional as Hong-yeon, completely convincing as a shy awkward girl, she was 25 at the time and her performance in this as opposed to her role in the following year’s Happy End just goes to show what a terrific adaptable actress she is.

    The storyline might seem a little familiar to those who've seen Zhang Yimou’s “The Road Home” but that’s only the basic premise, it’s certainly not art-house but it is a well played and for the most part a well constructed film.

    Overall then well worth seeing especially if you’re only used to Hollywood style romantic dramas.

    Cheers Trev.

    BBFC rated 12
    Last edited by trevor826; 08-24-2005 at 02:47 PM.
    The more I learn the less I know.

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