Seen in Jeonju

Archive for November, 2009

Korean Box Office: November 13-15

15th November 2009



All the signs indicated that 2012 dominate this weekend’s box office and that is exactly what happened. The disaster flick raked in approximately 65 percent and had more than 1.5 million viewers since opening last Thursday.  I do not think that any of the new movies opening this coming week will present much of a challenge and 2012 will probably remain right where it is for a while.


A. Broken Embraces (sp)–d. Pedro Almodovar, starring Penelope Cruz, Lluis Homar

B. Rabbit Without Ears (ger)–d. Til Schweiger, starring Til Schweiger, Nora Tschirner

C. Soloist (uk)- – d. Joe Wright, starring Jamie Foxx, Robert Downing Jr

D. Triangle (kr)–d. Ji Yeong-soo, starring Ahn Jae-wook, Kong Hye-jeung

E. Veronika Decides to Die (us)–d. Emily Young, starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jonathan Tucker

F. Walking the White Night (kr)–d. Park Shin-won, starring Han Seo-gyu, Son Ye-jin ww

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The Story of Mr. Sorry (2008)

15th November 2009

story of mr sorryIn October 2009, the Korean Academy of Film Arts released a box set containing four projects of their graduating class.  Among the films was one animated feature entitled The Story of Mr. Sorry.  While I may write fairly often about animated movies from earlier decades, most Korean animations from the last ten years or so, with the exception of Oseam, have left me cold.  I was unsure what to expect with Mr. Sorry, but I am happy to say that I was pleasantly surprised.  The animation is relatively low-key and in a style that reminded me of Rene Laloux’s film The Fantastic Planet (1973).   Actually, this new movie shares more than just style with that classic movie.  Both contain quite a bit of surrealism and more than  a few symbolic images and characters which depict modern society in a rather critical light. And qhile The Fantastic Planet depicted a race of doll-sized humans revolting against their giant masters, The Story of Mr. Sorry involves a man shrunken against his will to serve the business aims of his boss.

The story begins on a strange note.  A bizarre gameshow is underway hosted by I. M. Heartless and panelled by various political figures and ‘experts’. The gameshow, To Kill or Not To Kill, is a trial of sorts where viewers call in to decide whether the defendant should be executed on air or set free. This is the programs first broadcast and the defendant in this case is a hideous spider which is accused of driving an important politician incurably insane.   The spider emerged from the politician’s nose and the only other person present at the time was Mr. Sorry who has mysteriously disappeared.

The movie then backtracks to give us Mr. Sorry’s story.  He is a lonely, timid young man who works as an Ear-Cleaner (a totally fictional career).  His company both gives assignments to its workers as well as sending them door-to-door to attract random customers. As the job implies, the ear-cleaners professionally scoops out earwax from his clients for money. As an ear-cleaner though he is not much of a success and most of his customers are very unsatisfied with his work. We learn that the only reason that he entered the field was because he older sister used to clean his ears for him when he was a child and it those times are the happiest memories Sorry holds. Sadly, Sorry’s sister disappeared years ago and he has no idea how to find her.

Then one day the company owner takes an interest in Sorry because of his timid nature.  He is called into the office and given a ‘vitamin’ package.  However, the pills he begins taking begin shrinking him.  For the first couple of days, Sorry doesn’t notice as his clothes become looser and more ill-fitting and he finds himself growing weaker and weakder.  When his shoes become to big for him to walk in though, he goes to the company doctor and is given the same vitamin pills his boss supplied him with. The result?  One day, Mr. Sorry finds himself rapidly shrinking to about half and inch tall and struggling for his life within the ear of his client.

Now able to crawl into people’s ears, Mr. Sorry becomes an instant celebrity and much-sought after ear-cleaner. He makes tons of money for his boss who keeps the tiny man in a dollhouse.  Mr. Sorry thinks that life cannot get any better until he accidently discovers that their is a door from the ear canal into the subconscious of people.  Learning how to cross the barrier, Sorry gains insights into each person he meets that seems to explain their actions in real life (such as the body builder’s secret well of tears or the accountant’s secret loss).  He cannot cure people’s psyches, but he understands them better.

Not everything he learns is pleasant however as he learns in the subconscious of a young girl who hold incestuous thoughts towards her father. This causes Sorry to question his own motives in finding his sister and his actions towards her in the past. He learns far more than he wants to however, when he enters the ear and subconscious of the handsome and powerful Highes T. Peak.  It is there that Sorry learns something about his sister and more than he ever wanted to know about himself.  And meanwhile, there is the fate of the spider and how it all connects.

The Story of Mr. Sorry is an enjoyable film and is available with English subtitles in the KAFA boxset.  It was written and directed by Kwak In-geun, Kim Il-hyeon, Ryu Ji-na, Lee Eun-mi and Lee Hye-yeong.  I look forward to seeing what these young filmmakers will come up with in the future.

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Pirates convicted

14th November 2009

I just read the following article on the KOFIC homepage.  I have no sympathy for illegal downloaders and even less for the people who make these films available to download.  Here is the article in full:

The internet pirates convicted of illegally downloading Korean mega-pirates jailedblockbuster hit Haeundae have just been convicted in court.  All three people involved have been sentenced to more than 18 months in jail.  The tsunami like leak was reported back in September when the film was downloaded 100,000 times over one weekend.  At the time CJ’s, the film’s distributor swiftly launched an aggressive probe into the downloading.

Haeundae was the first major film to be illegally downloaded while still in its theatrical run since land-mark laws were put in place.  In a country where the downloading of films was common place before the laws’ enactments, this conviction is a sign of a growing willingness to tackle the problem head-on.  The court thus stated that the sentences were intended “to strike alarm against the practice of copyright infringement through illegal copying”.

written by David Oxenbridge (KOFIC) 

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A Woman with Half a Soul (1973)

14th November 2009

woman with half a soulOriginally posted July 26, 2007–I had the opportunity to watch the 1973 classic A Woman With Half A Soul the other night.  It was a surprisingly good film directed by legendary Shin Sang-ok who was able to imbue the atmosphere and feeling of the Universal monster movies of the 1930s such as Dracula, Frankenstein and The Mummy.

Looking at the above ad, one would never realize that this is a horror film. In fact, the ad seems to dedicate a lot of space to the lead actress rather than revealing much of anything about the movie. That is because the lead actress was none other than the great Hong Kong actress Li Ching. Throughout the seventies, Hong Kong films were very popular. Shaw Brothers’ releases enjoyed a high degree of success. Li Ching was a staple of those ‘kungfu’ films but in the early 70’s she did made a handful of Korean films. One was the melodramatic A School Mistress. Another was this competent horror film.

The story is about the handsome young noble Han Do-ryeong who comes across a house in the forest. Living in the house is the beautiful Yeon-hwa and her elderly guardian. Clearly attracted to each other, Han makes his way each night to their house and the young couple fall in love. What Han doesn’t know is that everyone in the village fears the name of Yeon-hwa.  One night, his servants follow him to his lovers house, however they are shocked to see Han conversing with no one at all. There is not even a house..Han is sitting on the forest floor talking to himself. The merely strange becomes the terrifying when Yeon-hwa’s guardian makes her presence known and the servants are lucky to escape wih their lives. Everyone else who sees the true face of the guardian dies of fright.

Yeon-hwa seems like a very sympathetic ghost. After all, she is merely looking for someone to love, right?  Well…I was thinking that too until she and her guardian attack the customers at a bar–scaring some of the revelers to death when they reveal their gruesome features. As Han is forced to confront the true nature of his lover, the ghosts become more desperate. What do they want? And how does Han fit in with their plans?  I don’t want to spoil the ending so these are questions you will have to find out for yourself if a dvd of this film is ever released.  It seems an increasing number of older films are slowly finding their way to dvd—so maybe you won’t have to wait long.

This is a very easy film to watch. It is very well paced and the acting is quite good, and Han’s servants steal quite a few scenes.  This is one that I highly recommend.

Posted in 1970s, Review | 2 Comments »

Director Park Nam-Ok

14th November 2009

park nam okOriginally posted February 5, 2008–The woman who would become Korea’s first female director was born on February 24, 1923 in Hayang, North Gyeongsang Province.  She was the third of ten children and was a self-proclaimed tomboy. She proved her athletic prowess by taking home the third prize in a national track and field competition. The field she excelled at was Shotput.  In 1943, she entered what is now Ehwa Women’s University in the Department of Home Economics, however she dropped out before graduating and began working as a reporter in Daegu where she would write a film column.

After Korea regained independence, she relocated to Seoul where she studied film editing and camera work.  She worked as a scripter on the set of Director Shin Kyeong-gyun’s 1947 film A New Oath. When the Korean War broke out, Park took a job behind the camera filming events for press releases by the Ministry of the National Defense.  In Busan in 1953, she met and married playwright Lee Bo-ra.  The following year, she started filming her husband’s scenario and her resulting film was released in theaters on December 10, 1955.

The movie’s name was The Widow.  The title refers to the main character Shin who lives alone with her daughter Ju. She is able to survive with the help of her deceased husband’s friend Lee Seong-jin. However, as time passes, Seong-jin falls in love with Shin. This does not go unnoticed by Seong-jin’s wife who seeks to ease her lonliness through an affair with a much younger man named Taek. She is not the only one in love with Taek–the young man saves Ju from drowning and to two develop feelings which ends his affair with Lee’s wife. However, Shin also falls in love with Taek, cutting off relations with Seong-jin and sending her daughter away so she can live alone with Taek. Her plans come crashing down around her though when Taek’s girlfriend Jin appears out of nowhere. Taek believed her to have been killed in the war but reunited he quickly rushes back to her arms leaving Shin to take some desperate measures.

After this, Park would write for the magazine Cinema Fan and worked for Dong-a Films, but she never directed another movie. In 1992, she and her husband moved to Los Angeles where they live today.  In 1997, The 1st Seoul Women’s Film Festival officially declared her the First Woman Korean Director.

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Timeless by Ryu Seung-wan

9th November 2009

timelessDoes anyone remember back in 2005 when BMW hired three directors from Korea to make short films that would showcase their cars?  The movies were not about the cars–they had stories–but BMWs appeared in many scenes.  They had hired an impressive trio comprised of Kim Ki-duk (Spring Summer Fall Winter and Spring, Samaritan Girl), Kim Seong-soo (Musa, Please Teach Me English) and Cha Eun-taek (a television director).  I remember watching them and really enjoying these short films–they were done in such way that the commercial aspect did not interfere with the movie.   Unfortunately, they were only available online for a relatively short time and are now extremely difficult to find.  

Well, now it is Ryu Seung-wan’s turn.  Ryu, the director of such action films as Crying Fist, Arahan and City of Violence, has made a twenty minute short film with Motorola entitled Timeless.  It stars Jeong Doo-hong (actor in City of Violence and reknowned stunt choreographer working on such films as Bittersweet Life and The Good The Bad And The Weird) and Japanese actor Kane Kosugi (War, DOA).

The movie is the story of Jeong, playing himself trying to put together a film with director Hwang (Hwang Byeong-guk, director of Wedding Campaign). They hire a former stunt school classmate of Jeong’s (Kosugi) who has become a big star and conflict ensues over how to make their film. 

The movie does not have subtitles, but about half of it is in English–Kosugi and his staff speak fluently–and much of the film is the kind of amazing, old-school stunt action that we have come to expect from Jeong’s work.

Want to watch it?  Go to   You will encounter a giant phone.  Click “launch’ at the bottom and a new window opens.  After a short preview of the film plays, a menu appears at the bottom of the screen.  Choose “Theater” and click the first choice in the new menu.  You will see options to play the full 20 minute film, a 1 minute preview or a 15 second commercial. 

The principle characters and director Ryu also provided interviews.  Kosugi’s is in English.  Click “Theater” again and choose the third option.  You will be given three choices–the first is the Ryu interview, the second is with Jeong and the third, in English, is Kosugi.   Enjoy!

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Korean Box Office: November 6-8

8th November 2009



Since its opening three weeks ago, Good Morning President has sold more than two million tickets and has been at the top of the box office the entire time.  That seems likely to end this week however with the opening of 2012 which is receiving an incredible amount of hype.  Not only is the teaser ad frequently on television, but the networks are getting involved as well by airing disaster movies  to get us in the mood.  Oh, well… I might have gotten sucked into excitment that the media seems intent on building, but then I realized that it was made by the same director who gave us The Day After Tomorrow, Independence Day and .. worst of all… 10,000 B.C!  Judging from those movies I can guess how this one will end… Millions may die, but the hero’s family will escape and live happily ever after through the power o’ love…    I hope A Camel Doesn’t Leave the Desert’s limited release allows it to open around here…


A. 2012 (us)–d. Roland Emmerich, starring John Cusack, Amanda Peet

B. A Camel Doesn’t Leave the Desert (kr)–d. Jo Gyu-jang, starring Kim Nak-hyeong, Kim Hyeon-joo

C. Cheongdam Bosal (kr)– d. Kim Jin-yeong, starring Park Ye-jin, Im Chang-jeong    now called Fortune Salon

D. Eoddeom Bangmoon (kr)– d. Hong Sang-soo et. al., starring Jeong Yoo-mi, Moon Seong-geun  now called Visitors

E. Genova (uk)– d. Michael Winterbottom, starring Colin Firth, Willa Holland

F. Nineteen (kr)–d. Jang Yong-woo, starring TOP, SeungRi

G. Postman to Heaven (kr)–d. Lee Hyeong-min, starring Yeongyong Jae-joong, Han Hyo-joo

H. Tricks (fin)–d. Andrej Jakimowski, starring Damian Ul, Ewelina Walendziak

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Manchu Remake in the Works

8th November 2009

manchu remake

Most fans of Korean cinema proabably are already aware the Kim Ki-yeong’s classic masterpiece, The Housemaid, is currently being remade starring actress Jeon Do-yeon (Secret Sunshine).  But while all eyes are on that film, which has been given a tentative release date of May 2010 even though it has not started schooting yet, another remake nearly slipped by unnoticed.

Manchu was originally made in 1966 by one of the most inspired directors of his times, Lee Man-hee (Evil Stairs, Girl Like the Sun).  It was the story of a woman in prison for murder but whom as earned a special leave for good behavior.  She is allowed to visit the tomb of her mother.  On the train to the hillside where her mother is buried, she meets a man and the two fall in love. They make a plan to meet before she is returned to prison, but he doesn’t show up.  Instead she sees him outside the jail when she is headed back inside.  The movie starred top-actors Shin Seong-il (Barefoot Youth) and Moon Jeong-sook (Aimlss Bullet).  However, it is now impossible to see this film as it has been lost.  (Although with old, previously thought lost films like Hong Gil-Dong turning up, it may simply be misplaced for now). 

In 1981, director Kim Soo-yong took the story of Manchu and remade it starring actress Kim Hye-ja (Mother) and Jeong Dong-hwan (Seven Days). The story is basically the same, but since it was released on VHS at one point, there are many more details available as to the story.  The prisoner is enroute to her mother’s tomb where she meets petty criminal Min-gi and the two fall in love. Min-gi tries to convince her to run away with him, but she refuses. Instead they promise to meet again in two years when her sentence has been served in full.  On the day she is released, she goes to the appointed spot to meet Min-gi…and she waits…and waits…and waits…  She does not realize that he has been arrested and is now sitting in a cell…

This latest version being released sometime in 2010 will be directed by Kim Tae-yong (Memento Mori, Family Ties) and there are already some new twists to the story.  The lead in the story will be played by Chinese actress Wei Tang (Lust, Caution) and she will be sharing the screen with Hyeon Bin (Daddy-Long-Legs).

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46th Grand Bell Film Awards

7th November 2009

46th grand bell festival

The 46th Grand Bell Film Awards were held Friday evening.  The categories and candidates are listed below.  The winners are written in bold letters.

Best New ActressKim Ggot-bi (Breathless), Park Bo-yeong (Scandal Makers), Lee Yeong-eun (Summer, Whisper), Jyu Ni (Sky and Sea), Seon Woo-seon (Running Turtle)

Best New Actor: Kang Ji-hwan (My Girlfriend is an Agent), Cha Seung-woo (GoGo 70s), Kim Nam-gil (Modern Boy), So Ji-seob (Rough Cut), Song Cheong-ui (Boys Don’t Cry)

Best New Director: Park Geon-yong (Bronze Medalist), Yang Ik-joon (Breathless), Lee Ho-jae (Scam), Kim Eun-joo (Summer, Whisper), Jang Hoon (Rough Cut) 

Best Costumes: Frozen Flower, Modern Boy, The Good, The Bad and The Weird, Portrait of Beauty, Sunny

Best Art Direction: Antique, Portrait of Beauty, Frozen Flower, The Good, The Bad and The Weird, Modern Boy

Best Original MusicFrozen Flower,  Mother, Scandal Makers, GoGo 70s, Sky and Sea

Best Sound Effects: Haeundae, The Good the Bad and The Weird, Chaw, GoGo 70s, Divine Weapon

Best Special Effects: Take Off, The Good the Bad and the Weird, Modern Boy, Divine Weapon

Best Editing: GoGo 70s, The Good the Bad and the Weird, Take Off, Scandal Makers, Divine Weapon

Best Lighting: Portrait of Beauty, Scandal Makers, Frozen Flower, Divine Weapon, Thirst

Best Cinematography: Take Off, The Good the Bad and the Weird, Mother, Haeundae, Portrait of Beauty

Best Scenario: Goodbye Mother, Castaways on the Moon, Rough Cut, Handphone, Possessed

Best Supporting Actress: Kim Bo-yeon (Possessed), Kim Hae-sook (Thirst), Kim Yeong-ae (Goodbye Mother), Ju Cha-hyeon (Portrait of Beauty), Kim Neung-mi (Closer to Heaven), Uhm Jeong-hwa (Haeundae)

Best Supporting Actor: Kim In-gwon (Haeundae), Jin Gu (Mother), Jeong Kyeong-ho (Sunny), Jang Geun-seok (Case of Itaewon Homicide), Kim Nam-gil (Modern Boy)

Best Actress: Kim Mi-seon (Portrait of Beauty), Su Ae (Sunny), Kim Hae-ja (Mother), Choi Kang-hee (Goodbye Mother), Jang Na-ra (Sky and Sea)

Best Actor: Kim Myeong-min (Closer to Heaven), Ha Jeong-woo (Take Off), Jeong Jae-yeong (Divine Weapon), Seol Kyeong-gu (Haeundae), Kim Yoon-seok (Running Turtle)

Best Director: Kim Yong-hwa (Take Off), Yoon Je-gyun (Haeundae), Jeon Yoon-soo (Portrait of Beauty), Jeong Gi-hoon (Goodbye Mother), Bong Joon-ho (Mother)

Best Production:  Mother, Divine Weapon, Haeundae, Take Off, Sky and Sea

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Land of Scarecrows (2008)

6th November 2009

land of scarecrows“First the children will become sick. Then the hospitals will be overflowing with the dying. You should leave here now, ” intoned the old man.  No, he is not a prophet of doom stirring up fear of swine flu.  He is the homeless old man who pops up from time to time in the film Land of Scarecrows, rather dark movie with a ray of hope in an unexpected place from director No Kyeong-tae (Last Dining Table). 

The story focuses on three main characters struggling to find that hope in a land where the clams they find are rotting, insects appearing out of season and dying in mass, and something horrible is contaminating the water.  The first one we meet is Ji-yeong aka Ji-seok.  Ji-yeong is confused sexually. Born a woman, Ji-yeong is convinced that she is a man trapped in a woman’s body and believes her problems stems from growing up near a landfill which screwed up her hormones.  We meet her on her way to the Philippines where, in her Ji-seok persona, she is part of a ‘tour’ group selecting Filipina brides. Although she/he decides not to participate at the last minute,  she winds up meeting the second member of the cast.

Rain Lopez is a woman growing up in poverty in the Philippines. She picks through garbage to eke out a living while she holds on to her single dream.  She has been swept up by the romance and opulance of Korean dramas and dreams of marrying a sensative, handsome, wealthy Korean man.  She joins a company that arranges marriages and which promises her that she will “meet her Korean prince.”  Unfortunately, most of the candidates that come through fall far short of expectations.  When Ji-seok proves himself to be much more sensative than any of the men she met so far, knows that he is the man for her and takes steps to join him in the squalid little home.

If he knew of her plans, the third member of the cast might try to dissuade her.  He is Loi Tan, a young man who was adopted when he was six by a Korean couple while they were travelling in the Philippines.  They raised him as their son— at least that is what they tell him and what he would like to believe.  In truth, he was more like unpaid labor and, when they are finally tired of him, they simply let him go.

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