Good friend Tony Rayns’ Korean selection consists of five films gathered together under the rubric KOREA ON THE VERGE … SOCIAL FAULTLINES IN KOREAN CINEMA. You can find the Festival program introduction if you click on this link. Tony’s notes on the individual titles and a link to book for them are set out below. So, don’t miss this SFF highlight. Each film has one screening only so care is required in getting your schedule right. IMPORTANT ADDITIONAL INFO. - Tony will be giving a Special Presentation after the screening of A Fish in The Hub at the Sydney Town Hall at 8.00 pm. (15 June). The talk will include extracts from other key Korean films of the day and is FREE.
Alice in Earnestland
Seongsilhan Nara ui Alice
South Korea |2015 | 87 mins | in Korean with English subtitles
Director, Screenwriter: Ahn Goocjin | Cast: Lee Jeonghyun, Lee Haeyoung, Seo Younghwa, Myung Kaynam | Print Source/Rights: CJ E&M
This decade’s answer to Korea’s blackest comedies, Alice in Earnestland (Best Korean Feature, Jeonju 2015) presents one woman versus the system as a theatre-of-cruelty blast.
As Soonam tells the therapist she’s tied up, she’s always tried to do the right thing but has always ended up a victim. It’s just not fair. With her husband in a coma and too many bills to pay, she works hard but finds herself on the wrong end of political disputes, police enquiries and vicious interrogations. It’s enough to drive a woman to murder … Casting present-day Korea as “Earnestland”, the film pinpoints all the dark forces which conspire to grind down a modern Candide. Ahn Goocjin’s debut (made at Korea’s premier film school KAFA) has wildly exciting visuals, even wilder action – and some very sobering implications. Bone-shaking farce meets political satire in a film which is often truly scary. But the ending will have you cheering.
South Korea | 2011 |105 minutes | Korean with English subtitles Director, Screenwriter: Park Hongmin | Cast Lee Janghoon, Kim Sunbin, Choi Soeun, Park Nosik | Print Source/Rights: Park Hongmin
Superbly shot in home-made 3-D, Park Hongmin’s neo-noir mystery involves murder, shamanism on Jindo Island, a violent gumshoe and an increasingly deranged teacher.
Professor Lee has walked out on his students in mid-class. Now he’s driving south to rendez-vous with the seedy gumshoe who has tracked down his missing wife. His mouth is very, very dry. The gumshoe seems psychotic, and he has bizarre news: apparently Lee’s wife has been initiated as a shaman on Jindo. Lee feels increasingly out of touch with reality as everything gets weirder. Meanwhile, two men on a fishing platform speculate about the dreams of fish … Amazingly skilful for a debut film (even the subtitles are in 3-D!), this delivers more frissons-per-minute than most Hollywood thrillers and is stirringly plotted, designed and cast.
Love and …
Pilleum Sidae Sarang South Korea | 2015 | 70 mins | Korean and Chinese with English subtitles
|Ahn Songki star of A Fish|
Director, Screenwriter: Zhang Lu | Cast: Park Haeil, Ahn Songki, Moon Sori, Han Yeri | Print Source: Contents Panda | Rights: Next Entertainment World
Chinese-Korean director Zhang Lu has never done mainstream, but this four-chapter conundrum (featuring three top stars) is funny/sad enough to seduce many.
It starts conventionally: a woman visits her senile grandpa in hospital and finds that he’s developed feelings for one of the staff, a woman janitor. Soon, though, one rug after another is being pulled from under our feet. First there’s a film-within-the-film, and a crew-member arguing with his director and walking out. Next, incidents we’ve already seen are replayed differently. Before we know it, we’re hearing Borges read in Chinese and reflecting on a clip from Memories of Murder. The film resolves itself as an exploration of dualities: colour and b&w, love and madness, acting and being, presence and absence. A high-protein menu, but Zhang’s touch is unfailingly light.
Non Fiction Diary
South Korea | 2013 | 93 mins | Korean with English subtitles Director, Screenwriter: Jung Yoonsuk | with Ko Byungchun, Kim Hyungtae, Park Sanggu, Jo Sungae | Print Source: M-Line | Rights: Jinjin Pictures/1 + 1 = Film
Jung Yoonsuk’s prize-winning film is more an essay than a documentary, a punch to Korea’s body politic framed as an investigation of ‘freedom’ and social control.
Jung is known for his politically barbed conceptual short films, and this debut feature echoes their wit and originality. He starts from the singular case of the Jijon Gang, young men in a rural backwater who killed five people in the year after the transition to civilian government. After exploring their confused and contradictory motivations, Jung turns to other disasters of the period – the collapse of the Seongsu Bridge in Seoul, the collapse of the Sampoong Department Store, killing many – to ask broader questions about culpability and negligence in a newly ‘democratic’ society. His provocative arguments are underlined with startling archive footage. It’s a more political complement to Bong Joonho’s Memories of Murder.
South Korea | 2011 | 115 mins | Korean with English subtitles Director, Screenwriter: Kim Kyungmook | Cast: Paul Lee, Yeom Hyunjoon, Kim Saebyuk, Lim Hyungkook | Print Source: Mirovision | Rights: Alive Pictures
Kim compares two ways of being ‘stateless’ in his devastating vision of South Korean society: an illegal immigrant from North Korea meets a sexual outlaw.
Kim Kyungmook is a social and sexual misfit – one of the few openly gay men in Korean cinema – and one of the country’s finest indie filmmakers. Here, two slowly converging storylines (one set in wealth, the other in abject poverty) allow him to reflect quite profoundly on what it’s like to be an outsider in a deeply conformist society. Jun is an illegal immigrant from the North, stuck in dead-end jobs, always on the run, living in fear. Hyeon is the kept boy of a married businessman, virtually imprisoned in a swanky apartment near the National Assembly building. Both young men are in some sense victims of a hypocritical society. A rent-boy website brings them together, with shocking consequences.