Seen in Jeonju

Archive for April, 2010

Metamorphosis (2009)

30th April 2010

metamorphasisAh–My first day at the 11th Jeonju International Film Festival and I couldn’t be happier with the movies I saw. I absolutely loved Metamorphosis although judging by the audience’s reaction, I may be in the minority. I admit that this movie will not be liked by everyone, particularly if you go to the theater to watch a movie, not to read it. The main ..and for 98% of the movie, the ONLY…character loses his ability to speak. The only sounds he can make are barely audible grunts and heavy breathing. However, he does think a lot and we are treated to his thoughts through some very excellent captioning. Both the Korean and English subtitles. They appear slowly and with pauses so we never know exactly what the main character is going to say until he gets to the end of his thought.  Sometimes his thoughts are quite funny as when he mistakes Mozart music for a Girl’s Generation song or when he exclaims to himself, “…my body is jumping around! I’m being transformed into…a hiphop artist!”–which of course, he isn’t.

Metamorphosis is loosely based on Kafka’s work of the same name. However, just as the main character is not transformed into a hiphop artist, neither is changed into a giant cockroach. So what does happen?

In the movie, set inexplicably in 2016, the main character’s parents have been killed in a car accident and he has lost an inheritance dispute with his sister. Although he got none of the cash, he was allowed to keep the house in which he has been living with his parents since the IMF crisis twenty years earlier made it difficult for him to get a job. He admits that he was comfortable with that arrangement and claims to have felt neither embarrassment nor guilt. He recognized though that that in a capitalist society his contentment with being unemployed is akin to a crime.

At one point he considers God is punishing him for his contentment for, one morning, the character wakes up and finds that he is losing all feeling in his limbs while his hearing and voice disappear. Naturally, he initially panics and tries to convince himself that it is only a dream or that it is just temporary. But that first morning stretches into a day, and the day becomes a week. The longer he remains in this state, the more complacent he becomes. Even trips to the restroom become a burden until he finally just gives up. “Don’t pity me,” he thinks to the viewer as he lays in his own filth, “I am satisfied.”

Unlike Kafka story, there is a reason why this has happened, but I will not be revealing that here. Why I think this movie has little chance of a DVD release, you never know. Frankly, I don’t know how well this movie would work on a television screen. Sitting in a dark, hushed theater it was very effective–but on a small screen with distractions, it might not be as good.

The camera for most of this film seems to be worn around the character’s neck, but as the character cannot move much, it means we are treated to a single view of a curtained window for most of the movie–unless the character rolls over. Then we can see the door of his small room, his blankets or, rarely, a part of his body–a glimpse of his face at an akward angle, his hand or his foot. But that’s all we see. Now, personally I did not find this to be dull because his thoughts justifying his life and trying to make sense of his current situation are quite interesting. But I could see that some members of the audience were not happy with this.

This film is the first feature-length work by Lee Sam-chil. Lee had previously worked under Lee Myeong-se as assistant director of The Duelist and his short films have screened at other film festivals. He wrote, directed, performed the cinematography and starred in Metamorphosis. I applaud him for creating something I had never seen before, but I have to say he is going to have to comprise his artistic style a little if he wants to ever become a commercially successful director. Metamorphosis screened as part of the Korean Competition section at JIFF. After the screening, the audience was asked to rate it from 1-5.  I gave it a four.

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Korean Box Office: April 23-25

27th April 2010


In its second week in theaters, Best Seller was able to creep slip past Clash Of the Titans which, after three weeks at number one, slipped a notch in the rankings. A Long Visit (which I had called Mother-in-Law last week based on a direct translation of the title–it has since been assigned an English title)–opened strong and landed in third. Best Seller’s achievement will be short lived however, as Iron Man 2 is opening this Thursday. Also expect the movie listed below as Gooreumeul Beonseonan Dalcheorom–(a romanization of the Korean title–it also has yet to be assigned an English name)–to open strong.  These and other movies being released this week are listed below. ..and of course I should mention that this Thursday also marks the opening of the 11th Jeonju Film Festival. 


1. Dear Doctor (jp)–d. Miwa Nishikawa, starring Tsurube Shofukutei, Eita

2. Gooreumeul Beoseonan Dalcheoreom (kr)–d. Lee Joon-ik, starring Cha Seung-won, Hwang Jeong-min

3. Halfway (jp)–d. Eriko Kitagawa, starring Masaki Okada, Kii Kitano

4. Iron Man 2 (us)–d. Jon Farreau, starring Robert Downey Jr.,Scarlett Johansson

5. Lost & Found (kr)–d. Jeon Gye-soo, starring Lee Dong-gyu, Joo Min-ha

6. Sister Smile (fr)– d. Stijn Conix, starring Cecile DeFrance, Filip Peeters

7. Viewfinder (kr)–d. Kim Jeong, starring Yang Eun-yong, Lee Ho-yeong

8. Willow Tree (iran)–d. Majid Majidi, starring Parviz Parastui, Roya Taymourian

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Executioner (2009)

25th April 2010

executionerWith all my mid-term exams graded and the scores recorded, I had the chance to sit down and watch a dvd–something I had not done for about two weeks due to preparing the aforementioned exams and then scoring them. That took longer than I would have liked because my classes are all large this semester–the smallest having 40 students and the largest,80. Anyway, I could finally see a dvd and I struggled to choose between the Executioner and White Nights, finally choosing the former. I was curious about this film when it was first released back in November 2009. It hung around in the box office for just three weeks and was seen by under half a million people. However, it did fairly well considering that it was up against some tough competition including Good Morning President and 2012. With no action and no CG, this film instead relied on a thoughtful story and solid acting. While it wasn’t really enough to succeed in the box office, is it enough entice someone to sit down and watch it now? Let’s see…

The story opens in a prison where a tough-as-nail warden, Jong-ho (Jo Jae-hyeong), works. It is the first day on the job for rookie guard Jae-kyeong (Yoo Gye-sang–former g.o.d. member) and he finds that prison life is as bad as he feared it would be. His nervousness and uncertain nature make him a target of the inmates who seek to intimidate him. Well, not all the inmates. One prisoner in particular, nicknamed ’Shrimp Eyes’, has developed a friendship with at least one guard and seeks redemption for his past crimes through treating others with compassion. He often can be seen outside his cell playing a game with Cheol-gu, the oldest guard in the prison.

Jae-kyeong learns that if he is too succeed, or even survive at his job, he has to adapt. He is taught by Jong-ho to use violence if necessary and if he is on duty then ‘anything goes.’  His first time beating a prisoner who nearly killed him is both traumatic and carthatic for him. Although peaceful by nature, he realizes that he must be stronger than those he is trying to keep in line. As Jong-ho tells him, “Animals do not attack something that is stronger than themselves.’ Jong-ho sees his charges as little more than animals and often compares them to trash that must be ‘crushed down.’ Jae-kyeong has no plans to become as unfeeling as his supervisor, but he does begin to change, a fact noticed by his worried girlfriend.

A balance is soon struck at the prison, but it is short lived. There is soon the addition of violent Chang-doo who has been put away for killing dozens of women. Jong-ho quickly asserts his place as leader of the prison before Chang-doo can get out of line, but it turns out to be all for naught. The public outcry over Chang-doo’s crimes is so great that the government decides that he must be executed along with two others to send out a message against violent crimes. One of the people to be executed is a faceless member of the prison, one is the clearly reformed Shrimp Eyes, and, of course, the prime target of the government’s crackdown, Chang-doo.

Cheol-gu is the most experienced at performing executions and he is drafted into assisting even though he asks to be exempt from this dreadful duty. During the 70s and 80s he took part in the execution of many suspected communists, student demonstrators and others whom the government had labelled as criminals. He is wracked by guilt as he now knows them to be innocent. Jong-ho, out of frustration with his staff, volunteers to be one of the executioners even though it is unusual due to his high rank. The other officers hold a lottery to determine who will be the final member of the execution team and Jae-kyeong loses. The main focus of the movie deals with how each of these three characters deal with the growing stress of the impending executions and the effects it has on their lives afterwards.

Director Choi Jin-ho is clearly against the death penalty as am I, however even I found the manner he got his point across to be too heavy handed and lacking in any sort of subtlety. He spends of great deal of time focussing on the guilt felt by the guards–even Jong-ho whose guilty conscience is destroying him from within. Choi also fails to attempt to see both sides of the arguement. Arguments could be made that the unrepentant Chang-doo is completely unreformable and perhaps does deserve to be killed. However, he avoids that issue completely and instead opts to botch the murderer’s execution horribly leaving no room for debate. The director clearly views the executions as murder. He gave us hints of his feelings earlier in the film by having the sister of one of Chang-doo’s victims says she would ‘kill him a thousand times except it would make her no better than him.’

The unbalanced viewpoint was one of the problems I had with the film. All sides of an issue should be explored if anything meaningful is to be discussed. I had another problem with the story. There is a sub-plot about Jae-kyeong’s girlfriend who is pregnant. She doesn’t really want the child but is willing to leave the decision up to Jae-kyeong. He delays making any decision at all as he mulls over the issues and then gets caught up in the drama of the executions. I did not like at all how the movie was paralleling the possibility of an abortion with the upcoming executions. No matter how one feels about abortion or the death penalty, I think most people would agree that they are completely separate issues with absolutely nothing in common. I felt linking them was at best a clumsy way of getting his ideas on the subjects across and at worst an over-simplification of the issues that is insulting to the intelligence of the viewers.

However, despite these problems I did end up liking the film. The acting was quite good, especially Jo Jae-hyeong.  If I had to rate the movie, I would give it 3.5 out of 5 stars. It could have been much better if a more balanced and thoughtful approach was taken to the plot and more emotional if more time had been spent developing some of the characters.

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DVD Releases: April 25-May 1

25th April 2010

I had been busy with giving and grading mid-term exams last week which didn’t leave me very much time for this blog.  But I have almost finished with the scoring the test so I think I can catch up a little now.  Here’s what coming to DVD this coming week.

windy countryFirst up is a drama called WINDY COUNTRY that aired over KBS a while back.  It featured Song Il-gook, Jeong Jin-yeong and Park Geon-hyeong in leading roles. The series is being released on a 13-disk set region-coded for regions 3,4,5 and 6. Episodes 1-36 are on the first 12 disks while the 13th contains the special features including  ’special broadcast’, ‘deleted scenes’ and ‘the making of the drama’ sections.  The drama is rated for ages 15+. The disks are formated as 16:9, and have Dolby 2.0 sound. Despite the multi-region compatability, there are no mention of subtitles of any sort in the promotions. Assumed to be unsubtitled. This set will be released on April 26th with a recommended sticker price of 121,000 KRW.

Releasing on April 28th is WOOCHI. This action, fantasy, comedy was a hit earlier this year. The film features Kang Dong-won, Kim Yoon-seok, Yoo Hae-jin and Im Soo-jeong. woochiThe dvds are subtitled with Korean and English captions, are formated in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen and have Dobly Digital 5.1 sound. The first disk contains the film with several choices for optional commentary tracks. Disk two contains sections Pre-Production (developing the scenario, casting, hunting, action school and a still gallery), Production (acting, CG, special effects, wirework, set design and filming) and Just for Fun (NGs, trailers, Im Soo-jeong’s dance and cameos).  The movie will be released on dvd with a recommended price of 25,300 KRW.

brand new lifeA BRAND NEW LIFE will also be released this week. This was a small, independent production starring Kim Se-rom and Park Do-yeon and helmed by the French director Ounie LeComte.  Although it is a co-production between France and Korea, the language of the film is Korean and the subtitles on the DVD are in Korean and English. The movie is rated for ages 12+ and the disk will be formated in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and have Dolby Digital 5.1 sound.  This is just a single disk release but it will contain special features including a 5-minute audition tape of Kim Se-rom, still galleries, and trailers.  The DVD will be released on April 29th and will go for a suggested price of 25,300 KRW.

no mercyNO MERCY is another film that will be released on April 29th. Despite its high-profile cast of Seol Kyeong-gu and Ryu Seung-beom, this thriller did not do very well in the box office. Perhaps that is why it is only being treated to a single disk. The movie will have both Korean and English subtitles and it is rated for ages 18+. The disk is formated as 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen and has Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. Special features on the disk consist of optional commentary by the director and crew (none with the actors), the making of the film, an interview with Dr. Han Gil-ro, and the music video by Epic High, “Slow Motion.”  This dvd will also be priced at 25,300 KRW.

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Korean Box Office: April 16-19

19th April 2010


Uhm Jeong-hwa’s new movie Best Seller opened strong, but it could not compare to the popularity of Clash of the Titans which remained in the top spot for a third week in a row. Mother-in-Law, listed 10th in the Jeonju Box Office above, officially opens this week. The astrisk indicates that I do not yet have an official English name for KOFIC on that film or Hi Killer. Instead I have opted for literal translations for now. Below are other films that are opening this Thursday.


1. Desert Fower (uk)– Sherry Horman, starring Liya Kebede, Sally Hawkins

2. Easy Virtue (uk)– Stephen Elliott, starring Jessica Biel, Colin Firth

3. Fingerprints (us)– Harry Basil, starring Leal Pipes, Kriston Cavallari

4. G- Force (us)– Hoyt Yeatman, starring Bill Nighy, Will Arnett

5. Hurt Locker (us)–Kathyrn Bigelow, starring Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie

6. Kick Ass (us)– Matthew Vaughn, starring Aaron Johnson, Nicolas Cage

7. Mother In Law (kr)– Yoo Seong-yeob, starring Kim Hae-sook, Park Jin-hee

8. Palermo Shooting (gr)– Wim Wenders, Campino, Giovanna Mezzogiorno

9. Seoul (kr) Yoon Tae-yong

10. Sex Volunteer (kr)– Jo Kyeong-deok, starring Han Yeo-reum, Jo Kyeong-ho

11. Turn It Up To 11 (kr)–Baek Seung-hwa, starring Ri Gyu-yeong <documentary>

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Index of 1970: 181-195

18th April 2010

Here are the next 15 fims produced in Korea in 1970. Click the thumbnails to view the full-sized plates or access the complete list by director through the tab at the top of the page marked Movies of the 70s.


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DVD Releases: April 18-24

17th April 2010

Here’s what movies are coming to DVD this week. Please note that all are region 3 unless otherwise specified and that the prices listed are just the suggested prices.  You can certainly find everything here for less.

queen seondeok










First up, we have one of the most successful recent tv dramas, QUEEN SEONDUK. You can purchase the entire 23-disk set which contains episodes 1-62 plus a special episode, a behind the scenes look at the filming of the final episode, bloopers, and more. The dvd comes with English subtitles, sound: Dolby Digital 2.0, format: 16:9 anamorophic widescreen and a price tag of only 235,000 KRW. What? That’s too much–You can also buy the entire run of the show in three separate volumes containing approximately 20 episodes each –and each at a cost of around 88,000 KRW.  You can pick this up starting on April 20th.

letsget on the busAlso being released on the 20th are several indie-documentaries shedding light on various social issues in Korea. Pictures left is the documentary TWO WORKS BESIDES LET’S GET ON THE BUS. This is a collection of three featurettes focusing on the difficulties of the physically challenged in Korea. It is comprised of the films Endless Struggle (1999, 47 min), Let’s Get On the Bus (2002, 57 min.) and Noddle Baram (2003, 123 min). This collection is on a single disk which contains English subs. It is rated for 15+, formatted in 4:3 full screen, and has Dolby 2.0 sound. The dvd is ALL REGIONS.  The suggested retail price is 16,500 KRW.

shocking family

If I had to just pick one of these documentaries to buy, SHOCKING FAMILY would be it. It comes with some pretty impressive credentials. It won awards at the 7th Seoul Women’s Film Festival, the 7th Jeonju International Film Festival, and the 2007 David Plath Media Award. It was also invited to screen at the Osaka International Women’s Film Festival, the Asian Women’s Film Festival in Germany and theSyracuse International Film Festival. The single disk has Korean, English and Japanese subtitles. It is 111 minutes long, rated for ages 12+, and is ALL REGIONS.  The price tag on this dvd has been set at 19,800 KRW.

american alleyAMERICAN ALLEY is the next documentary on the list. Again a single disk release, this one has Korean and English subtitles, is rated for ages 15+, has Dolby 2.0 sound and formatted in 4:3 full screen. The 122-minute dvd is divided between the 90-minute films and 22 minutes of extras including the director’s commentary and an interview. The movie looks at the lives of the international community of women (Korean, Russian, Filippina, etc) that live and work outside of the American camps in Korea. This disk is also ALL REGIONS and carries a price of 16,500 KRW.

dejavuThe final documentary being released on April 20th is DEJA-VU IN WONDERLAND. The genre is actually listed as documentary/classical music as images and interviews of Korea’s belabored workers are set to music. There are three short films in this collection– Sanggye-dong Olympics, Special Song of Woojin Factory, and We Are Not Warriors. The film is rated for ages 15+, has Dolby Digitial 2.0 sound and is in 4:3 full screen format. The running time is 106 minutes for the films and 16 minutes of extras.

seoulIs this the first time SEOUL is seeing a dvd release? Originally released in theaters in 2002, this action film was directed by Masahiko Nagasawa and starred Choi Min-soo,Tomoya Nagase, and Kim Ji-yeon. The subtitles are in Korean and Japanese–NO English subs. The movie is rated for ages 12 or more, formatted in 16:9 anamorphic widescreen, and has Dolby Digital 5.1 sound.  It is 109 minutes long and has a recommended price of only 9,000 KRW. It will be available for purchase from April 23.

Finally, we have FATHER LIKES WOMEN (pictured below), the latest film starring actress Lee Na-yeong. It is rated for ages 12+, formatted in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, contains Korean and English subtitles and had Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. The 113-minute is on disk 1 which also contains commentaries by director Lee Kwang-jae, Lee Na-yeong, Kim Ji-seok, Jeong Ye-yeon and Kim Hee-soo. However, this is a two-disk set, so there’s more. The second disk contains the making of the film, character profiles, the making of the father, deleted scenes, bloopers, the poster photoshoot, trailers and more. This romantic comedy hits the shelves April 23.

father likes women

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Remake of Cemetery Under the Moon (1967)

17th April 2010

cemetery under the moonIt was announced this morning that the 1967 film Cemetery Under the Moon will be remade.  This marks the third film from Korea’s Golden Age of movies to see a remake in the works this year. The first of course is The Housemaid opening in theaters in less than a month. The second is Manchu whose earlier incarnations have been called Late Fall in English–the remake seems to be going just a Manchu for now. Regardless of name, it is currently in production. Now Cemetery Under the Moon is getting the remake treatment. Like the other two films listed in this post, Cemetery Under the Moon (sometimes called the Public Cemetery of Wolha) has already been remade once before.  In 1996, Nam Ki-nam gave us his take on the film. Director Nam has been involved in mostly comic children’s films since the late 80s (he is famous for directing the Young-Gu series of films starring Shim Hyeong-rae) and is still involved in that area making ‘Galgali’ movies with former members of Gag Concert–another one is due out this year.  But I am getting off track…

I was very excited when I read about the upcoming remake of the original which was directed by Kwon Cheol-hwi–under I got to the second paragraph.  Then a little bit of doubt eked its way into my joy.  Apparently, this remake will be 3D animation along the lines of Toy Story and Avatar… In fact, one of the three studios contracted for the project is the Seoul-based division of Pixar called Puppetar Studios.

I have to wonder why they would choose to remake Cememtary this way.  The entire film composed of CG seems entirely gratuitous–the story is too simple for this and I think it would, depending on the style of animation, either be overwhelmed by special effects (ala Avatar) or made too childish (ala Toy Story).  I guess I will remain cautiously optimistic and trust that the producers know what they are doing.

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14th April 2010


I received the below email this morning. Frankly, I was unsure if it was spam or not at first. I actually get a lot of spam promising to boost my visitors–all of which I ignore. But this one seemed different as the site is actually about movies. Plus the custom banner was a nice touch.If I don’t have to do anything more than I am already doing, I see no harm in linking: 

 My name is Ben, a Community Manager with  (If you haven’t heard of us yet, we’re the world’s largest community of movie enthusiasts.)  I really like Seen in Jeonju and wanted to include you in a new program we’re rolling out called Flixster Certified Bloggers.  Here’s what you’ll get for your participation:

  • Traffic & Exposure:  Get exposure to Flixster’s 120M users via a link to your blog in our Certified Blogger directory.
  • Search Engine Recognition:  Flixster will link to your blog, which will provide your pages with a boost in Page Rank, meaning more traffic for you.
  • Featured Blogger Consideration:  Once a month (starting soon), our editors will select, publish, and promote a review written by a Certified Blogger in our directory.
  • Certified Blogger Trophy:  To let your readership know the Flixster Community loves your blog, we’ve also created a custom trophy identifying you as a Certified Blogger.
If you’d like to join us, all we ask is that you post one of the trophies we’ve created for you (attached to this email) on your blog (or just a link back to us at  
Thanks Ben! Glad you like the blog. Things like page rank or visitor count are never things I think about–but I will let Seen In Jeonju be linked if it helps raise the visibity of Korean films even a little.

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Korean Box Office: April 9-11

13th April 2010


Clash of the Titans continues to reign in the box office while in the lower tiers some interesting things were happening. Avatar reappeared albiet in the lowest rung nationally while here in Jeonju, Harmony re-0pened and wound up 6th. As of this post (April 13) neither the movie called Searching for My Wife (or Runaway from Home) nor Hi Killer have official English titles according to the Kofic website. The names listed here are from other sources. I am looking forward to the opening of Best Seller and A Little Pond this week. Check out the trailers from the official websites listed below.


1. Best Seller (kr)– Lee Jeong-ho, starring Uhm Jeong-hwa, Ryu Seung-yong

2. Blind Side (us)– John Lee Hancock, starring Sandra Bullock, Quinton Aaron

3. Book of Eli (us)– Alber & Allen Hughes, starring Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman

4. Bounty Hunter (us)– Andy Tennant, starring Jennifer Aniston, Gerard Butler

5. Little Pond (kr)– Lee Sang-woo, starring Moon Seong-geun, Kim Rwe-ha

6. Matter of Size (is)– Saron Maymon, starring Itzik Cohen, Dvir Benedek

7. Me, Too (sp)– Antonio Naharro, starring Pablo Pineda, Lola Duenas

8. Sayonara Itsuka (kr)– John Lee (Lee Je-han), starring Miho Nakayama, Hidetoshi Nishijima

9. 700 Days of Battle (jp)– Renpei Tsukamoto, starring Hayato Ichihara, Kuranosuke Sasaki

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