Seen in Jeonju

Archive for February, 2010

DVD Releases: Feb. 28-Mar. 6

28th February 2010

no new dvds

Well, the sign above says it all. No Korean films are scheduled for release on DVD or BlueRay this coming week. But stay tuned. Next week looks pretty good for shoppers, especially with the coming of  Thirst on DVD.  Instead, I am going to hijack this post to blow my own horn.  Starting tomorrow, I begin an additional role at Woosuk University. I have been named Director of Study Abroad Programs. I knew this promotion was coming for awhile and I learned early what duties were expected of me although they were unsure initially what my title would be. I found out last Friday that I am  now a director and I couldn’t be happier. I am the first non-Korean in the history of  Woosuk University to hold an adminstrative position. I am deeply honored at the trust they put in me and am going to work hard at expanding the partnerships the university has.

This will not have any influence on my posting here. But there will be one small change over the next 15 weeks. More than half of my class hours for the week are on Monday.  That means I won’t be able to post the box office results until Monday evening local time. If you are reading from Europe or the Americas, this will not make any difference–the posts will still be up by Monday 6a.m. US Eastern Standard Time.  If you are reading from Asia or Australia though, the post will be coming…just later in the day.  The semester starts March 2, so this will not be an issue until the 8th.

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Fantastic Parasuicides (2007)

27th February 2010

fantastic parasuicidesI am sure you have all experienced a case where you have been looking forward to a movie but when you see it you are disappointed. Well, I am happy to report that this is definitely NOT the case here. The movie had a lot of expectations to live up to–I had heard good things about it but I wasn’t able to watch it when it was released as part of the Pusan International Film Festival and then I could not locate the DVD for many years. But I found that the new DVD company I am using has a lot of hard-to-find films (things like the 1986 version of Hwang Jin-yi or the Crying Nut movie Looking for Bruce Lee) and I was finally able to get my hands on it.  After watching it I can say that this movie was well worth the wait and one viewing will not be enough to satisfy me.

Fantastic Parasuicides is not actually one movie. It is an omnibus of three short films all involving people attempting to commit suicide but who are not quite able to pull it off. The first of these is goes under the English title Hang Tough. It was directed by Park Soo-yeong whom I see has numerous short films starting around 2003 but whom has yet to helm a feature lenght move. That is disappointing. If the quirky style of Hang Tough is anything to go by, I definetly want to see more of Park’s work in the future. In Hang Tough, a young school girl misses an important exam because she fell asleep in the library. Deciding that she does not want to live any longer she throws herself from the top of the school…only to wake up on the ground. She picks herself up and walks away confused, only to find that things are not quite the same as before and she is about to embark on a surreal adventure. This short features some excellent and surprising performances including roles played by Tablo (lead singer of Epik High) as a high school boy with a plan to blow up the school with a homemade bomb. (I am afraid to see the spam that sentence is going to bring me!) Park Hwi-soon (of KBS2’s Gag Concert)plays the girl’s teacher–a man so afraid that one of his students is going to kill him that he is willing to kill himself first and Kim Ga-yeon plays the school’s nurse intent on declaring her love for the young school girl who is now trying to stop everyone else from killing themselves. This is a funny mix and the whole film feels like a blend of Alice in Wonderland and It’s a Wonderful Life.

The second story, Fly Chicken, features Kim Nam-jin who also starred in Shadows In the Palace the same year this film was released. Kim plays a soldier who, disgusted with the horrors he witnessed in battle, decides to go to the coast and shoot himself in his hotel room. He prepares three bullets, one for his heart, one for his soul and one for his life. But fate has arranged several interruptions that when combined may prevent him from carrying out his plan. This segement was also good, but much more somber than the first. The generous amounts of comedy are carried out in a deadpan fashion and the results generate more of an air of the bizarre than laugh-out-loud humor. Once the film got started, I enjoyed it but I wound up turning the volume on low for a couple of minutes during the ‘talking to the chicken’ part. No, Kim was not shouting at the chicken. He was talking to the chicken in chicken language. Clucks and crows that were subtitled at the bottom of the screen. While it is bizarre and amusing that Kim’s character knows chicken-speak without any explanation…it did grate on my nerves after about a minute. Fortunately, that does not last too long.

The final story, Happy Birthday,  was also good. It is about an old man who has been living alone for six months after the death of his life partner. He wakes up one day, realizes it is his birthday and suddenly feels more alone than ever. He decides he is going to jump off something but along the way meets a young man, carrying a satchel full of gold teeth, standing on the train tracks.  He learns the man is being chased by a couple of gangsters and decides to help him out even if it means his own life will end.

This is a great collection. I was surprised how quickly the 92-minute running time seemed to fly by. If you can track it down, don’t hesitate to buy it. I know I will be watching it again soon.

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1970 Index: 46-60

27th February 2010

Here are the next 15 films produced in Korea in 1970. You can click below to expand each image or you can access the films through the ‘Movies of the 70s’ tab located at the top of the page where they are listed by director.


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1970 Index: 31-45

27th February 2010

Here are the next 15 plates of Korean films produced in 1970.  These can be clicked to enlarge or can be accessed through the tab  called ‘Movies of the 70s’ at the top of this page, where they are listed by directors.


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Director Kang Ho

24th February 2010

This has been a very busy week with preparations for the new semester that begins next Tuesday which is why I have been negligent about posting here for the past few days.  I will catch up though and will work on updating the ‘films awaiting release’ section later this afternoon.  In the meantime, here is a little something about a director during the age of silent films, Kang Ho.

kang hoKang Ho was born on August 6, 1908 in South Gyeongsam Province as the eldest son of a tenant farmer. When he was just 9 years old, he left his local school to get an education at a more prestigious school in Seoul. However, he did not have enough money and was forced to withdraw after not paying his tuition in full.

Unable to follow the path he wished, Kang Ho came up with a different plan. He had demonstrated a talent for drawing pictures  from a very young age so he decided to pursue a career in art. Without he parents’ knowledge or consent, Kang Ho stowed away on a ship to Japan. Once he arrived, he worked at any job a boy his age could–in a bakery, delivering milk, as a messenger and as a newspaper boy.  Eventually he had enough money to enter school in Kyoto and later was able to enter the Tokyo Art Institute.

When he returned home to Korea, he started studying moving pictures with the Joseon Movie Arts Association. There he befriended Kim Yoo-yeong and Seo Gwang-je, two other soon-to-be directors (more on them at a later date).  While studying art and set design at the Movie Arts Association, Kang Ho made a film entitled Be A Winner, Soonyi about a young girl who enters a footrace in the hopes of winning a magnificent prize that would assist her bedridden father.  The movie was released in 1928 and it may be the first film made with a target audience of children but, as no copies of the movie are known to exist, it is impossible to confirm this. But it is known that Kang had expressed an interest in writing stage plays for children.

His next film was released  in  1929.  A few years earlier, Kang Ho had become associated with KAPF (The Korean Artists Proletariat Federation). That organization operated between 1925 and 1935 and was founded to help spread some of the philosphies that had come out of the Russian Revolution through various forms of art. Kang Ho was originally involved as an artist, but as he was continuing to develop his interest in films, he would soon start working for KAPF’s production company, Namhyang Kinema.

In 1929, Kang Ho produced, directed and starred in The Dark Road. It was a film that tried to depict the plight of the farmers who were suffering terribly from a long economic depression. The film, which was very realistic and dark, split the opinions of film critics down the middle. Critic Yoon Hyo-bong, in the March edition of Movie Comments, tore into the film and the veiled communist philosphy behind it calling it a failure from start to finish whereas Seo Gwang-je writing for the Joseon Ilbo declares it an excellent attempt at filmmaking with no clear faults. Kang Ho was unsure how he felt about attaching his name as the director of this film and so he created the fictional Dok Go-seong and it is that name that appears in the credits.

His next film was called The Underground Village and it clearly reflected the ideals of KAPF.  It was about a society of laborers living under a city that was the epitome of capitalism–where wealth, production and pleasures of the flesh are all that is important. Among the laborers in an ironworks factory is Kim Cheol-geun who tries to organize his fellow workers into a union that would prevent the factory owner from carrying through on his threats to fire his employees whenever he is angry. Another character was the wealthy Hyo-seok who gets a lesson on just how many unemployed workers there are living beneath his feet and joins the cause of the poor after hearing an impassioned speach by the eloquent and charismatic Seong-geun, Cheol-geun’s younger brother.

This movie met with a wider aproval but it still had numerous critics, most notably the authorities.  The activities of KAPF were getting to be too influencial for the Japanese Colonial Government to ignore and they began cracking down on the organization, erradicating it completely by 1935. 

After Korean independence in 1945, Kang Ho moved to the north and became a university professor.  He stayed in what would become North Korea and was very active in helping to spread communist ideals.  He passed away on July 3, 1984.

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Korean Box Office: February 19-21

21st February 2010


Not to much changed in the upper rankings of the box office. In fact, the only thing I want to comment on is the absence of The Neighbor Zombie which also opened last week.  The Neighbor Zombie ranked 21st on the national box office chart.  It did not open in Jeonju–actually not only did it not open in Jeonju, it was not released anywhere in the entire North Jeolla Province. Therefore, I was unable to see it. The movie had a very limited release–only 12 theaters throughout the country. While that is not good news, there is a plus side. Hana TV often picks up these smaller releases and has them airing, for a fee, within a month. I will probably be able to see it soon.

Below is what will be released in theaters this coming weekend–the last weekend of winter vacation before classes start again.


1. Chloe (us)– d. Atom Egoyan, starring Julianne Moore, Liam Neeson

2. Couples Retreat (us)– d. Peter Billingsley, statring Vince Vaughn, Kristin Davis

3. Eighteen (kr)– d. Jang Geon-jae, starring Seo Joon-yeong, Lee Min-ji

4. Fourth Kind (us)– d. Olatunde Osunanmi, starring Milla Javovich, Will Patton

5. Haengbokhan Ulreungin (kr)– d. Hwang Seok-ho, starring Yang Dong-am, Nam Jin-hyeon <documentary> Title translates as ‘The Happy Man of Ulreung Island’ but there is no official English title yet.

6. Happily N’Ever After 2 (us)– d. Boyd Kirkland, starring David Lodge, Doug Erholtz

7. Lovely Bones (us)– d. Peter Jackson, starring Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weis

8. Milk (us)– d. Gus Van Sang, starring Sean Penn, James Franco

9. P.S. Only You (us)– d. Dylan Kidd, starring Laura Linney, Topher Grace

10. Water (ca/in)– d. Deepa Mehta, starring Lisa Ray, John Abraham

11. White Silk Dress (vn)– d. Luu Huynh, starring Truong Ngoc Anh, Khanh Quoc Nguyen

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DVD releases: Feb. 21-27

20th February 2010

sword with no name 3

This week, there are two versions of The Sword With No Name being released on February 23.  First up we have the three-disk version picutured above. The first disk contains the movie with two, optional commentary tracks. One set of commentaries is by the director and actors (Su Ae, Choi Jae-woong and Kim Yeong-min). The second track has comments by the director, cinematographer and music director.  Disk 2 has chapters labeled Making of Film, Production Design, Actor Interviews, Action Story, Deleted Scenes, Poster Photoshoot and Trailer. The final disk contains the OST and a picture book is included in the box. The movis is rated for audiences ages  15+, has subtitles in Korean and English and comes with a suggested retail price of 27,500.

sword with no name 2Being released on the same day is also a two-disk version. This contains just disks one and two as described above–the OST and book are not included. The recommended retail price of the two-disk set is 25,300. This makes it clear to me–I will be buying the three-disk set. The difference in price is just about 2000KRW which is nothing. I have to admit that I am not interested in the OST, but the book looks good. Some of you might remember that I am not really a fan of this movie as well and you might be wondering why I am buying the more expensive version. Frankly it is becuase I like the producers of DVDs go the extra distance to provide extras like nice looking packaging and books with the disks. Several years ago, it was a common thing but these days it seems we just get very basic plastic box and we are lucky if a second disk is included at all. I would like to see more DVDs released with the same treatment as Sword With No Name and the recent release of Haeundae and the best way to see that happen is to purchase what is offered to let the makers of DVDs know this is what I want.

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Bread & Milk (2003)

19th February 2010

short films like a jewel in my heartI got home a little later than I thought I would last night due to a delicious duck dinner and didn’t think I would have time to watch a whole movie before I slept.  Turning on the tv, I saw that Hyperbole of Youth was showing on KTV but it was well into the movie, or at least past the singing nurse scene, and since I own the DVD, I kept looking. I started watching a British movie called Doomsday on another channel, but found it to be unwatchable. It seemed like it ripped off every movie from 28 Days Later to Alien 2 to Braveheart. After thirty minutes of that, I turned it off and had even less time. I decided to watch a short film instead. Earlier in the week I had recieved an order of DVDs. Among them was a collection of shorts I had been hesitant to buy because of the price. The four disk set was on sale for 40,000 won–down from 60,000–and I figured the price would not go lower than that I bought it. There was no English title on the collection, but it translates as ‘Short Films Like a Jewel in my Heart’ and consists of 25 movies–all subtitled. Among them was the film I chose to watch, Bread & Milk.

bread and milkBread & Milk is not the first film of the collection, but I remembered the title from years ago. It had won several awards at film festivals when it debuted in 2003. And after watching the story, it is easy to see why. It is the story of man, the only person we see during the entire film, and his struggle against the universe. At the beginning of the movie, he is at the end of his rope and believes he is finished. He has taken out a huge insurance policy that will help his family in the case he has an accident, and then proceeds to try to arrange a suicide that will look like an accident. However, fate has other plans for him and the man finds that his struggles with the forces of the universe are far from over.  It is really an excellent film and has made me excited to see what else is in the collection.

Bread and Milk was directed by Won Shin-yeon. Won began his career, not as a director, but as a minor actor. He debuted in a children’s film in 1991 and did not direct until 2001 with a feature length film called Jeok that never saw a release. This was followed by the very successful short film Cradle Song in 2002 and then Bread & Milk the next year. In 2005, Won tried his hand at another feature length film The Wig and then followed these with Bloody Aria and Seven Days. Director Won is currently working on a live action version of Robot Taekwon V.

The first image in this article is that of the DVD collection. If you are interested in seeing Bread & Milk or other shorts, then you should check with where you buy your DVDs to see if they can get it for you. Pricey, but worth it.

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1970 Index–13-30

18th February 2010

Well, as I mentioned a couple of days ago. I would be uploading about 30 of these a week for awhile. Last time I posted  a dozen as a test to see if I could link them with the index page I’m making. That turned out to be successful (but time-consuming) so here are the other 18 for this week.  I also updated the ‘filming/awaiting release’  and ‘ (my) dvd’ lists…

1970-13  1970-14  1970-15  1970-16  1970-17  1970-18  1970-19  1970-20  1970-21 1970-22  1970-23  1970-24  1970-25  1970-26  1970-27  1970-28  1970-29  1970-30

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Woman of Fire ‘82 (1982)

17th February 2010

woman of fire 82Originally posted November 21, 2007–I have enjoyed having Hana Tv installed in my house. Not only can I see some of the newest movies that I was unable to watch in theaters just a month (sometimes less for low-budget films) after their theatrical releases, but I can also see short films and sometimes older movies.  One that I saw last nigh was Kim Ki-young’s Woman of Fire.

This 1982 movie is a remake of a film with the same title that Kim Ki-young made in 1972. The ‘72 version is available on video somewhere–it is just a matter of finding it.  And both movies are based on Kim’s 1960 classic film, The Housemaid.

I loved the film The Housemaid. It has earned it reputation as one of the best Korean films of all times. I even like the ending which is sometimes criticized as dismantling the story.  In the 1982 movie The Woman of Fire, there is no such ending that offers an alternative explanation to the story we are watching unfold.  However, this change and others that were made to the original plot do NOT make the story better.

Unlike The Housemaid, Woman of Fire is not a thriller at heart. It is a melodrama. The elements of being a thriller are so diluted that we never feel any threat or sense of entrapment that is prevalent in the original. In fact, it seems like at any time, any one of the characters could have ended the chain of events before they got out of hand.

The movie begins with Myeong-ja (Na Yeong-hee) being hired as a maid by Jeong-soon (Kim Ji-mi), the wife of composer Dong-shik (Jeon Moo-song). Jeong-soon runs a poultry farm and, besides her duties of cooking and cleaning, Myeong-ja must help collect eggs, make feed and take care of the chickens. Myeong-ja, portrayed as slightly simple with an odd, wild streak, is only too happy to comply and, in fact, secured the job partly just because she needs a place to stay and to be treated kindly. She claims not to be interested in the salary.

Please remember that ‘you get what you pay for’ applies when hiring household help.  But even at her rates, I don’t think Myeong-ja would have lasted more than an hour if she were in my employment. I would have fired her the moment she grabbed a live rat out of the cupboard and started swinging it around in front of my face by its tail before slamming it down on the ground and stomping on it.  Myeong-ja uses rat poison to get the rest of the rats and chases the children around the house with a shovelful of dead rodents the next morning. I’m sure that looked good on her resume..

Dong-shik has many students practicing songs and music at his home and one of them, Hye-ok, is clearly trying to seduce him. She does this right under Jeong-soon nose leading to both she and Myeong-ja disliking the singer. In fact, their dislike for her is one of the things that binds them together even later in the film when the two women are at each other’s throats. When Jeong-soon is away for a few days, Hye-ok makes her move on the drunk Dong-shik. Myeong-ja, however, interferes and tosses Hye-ok out of the master bedroom locking the door from the inside.  In his drunken state, Dong-shik mistakes his maid for Hye-ok and rapes her. Simple Myeong-ja now decides that this means they are married and she sets herself up as the mistress of the house.

The character of Dong-shik is one of the most frustrating things about this movie. He seems to be totally powerless to think straight whenever any woman bares the skin of her shoulders or tussles his hair. His character in this film just exists to be seduced by one of any number of women in the film and he makes no move to stop the fighting occurring in his house even when it results in the death of one of his children. I, for one, was at a loss over why Jeong-soon was fighting for him at all–his character is so emasculated and ineffective that I think his wife would have been better off without him.

The children are another problem in this movie. In The Housemaid, the kids were central to the plot and the boy’s death offered some of the most shocking moments in the film. In Woman of Fire ‘the boy’ dies the same way as in the original movie except that it may have been  accidental due to Myeong-ja’s bizarre sense of humor. ‘The girl’ (were these kids even given names?) turns to prayer and thus survives the film. The infant (which I have read was thown from a balcony in the 1972 movie) has a similar scene in the ‘82 story but it turns out simply to be Jeong-soon’s imagination preying on her.

Let me back up for a moment. Myeong-ja’s killing of the boy was an accident? Yes. This Myeong-ja is not at all like the original housemaid just as her mistress in not the placid wife in the 1960 film. Myeong-ja even states that she has no intention of hurting anyone. In fact, it is Jeong-soon who first attempts something lethal by adding rat poison to lunch. It is Jeong-soon again who convinces Myeong-ja to get rid of the maid’s ex-husband permenantly and it is Jeong-soon who seems to be taking care of bodies with the grinder she keeps in the basement to make chicken feed.  Myeong-ja actions are based on instict, Jeong-soon is the calculating planner.

As a melodrama of the early 80s––the film is filled with long scenes of people crying and this also helps to derail any tension that manages to mount. If the crying time was halved–this film might have been twenty minutes shorter…

It was not all bad though–It is watchable if you are not comparing it to the source material. And the strange love scene shot with the camera on the inside of the fireplace framing the couple painted on gold body paint was quite interesting–although clearly out of place in this film. 

<Update> Woman of Fire ‘82 is now on DVD  but without English subtitles

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