Seen in Jeonju

Archive for October, 2011

New DVDs: October 23-29

22nd October 2011

funny neighborsOctober is already coming to a close and the last full week of the month brings us three movies being released onto DVD.  However, only one of the three will have English subtitles. The dvd pictured left is Funny Neighbors directed by Yang Yeong-cheol and starring Park Won-sang and Jeon Mi-seon.  Number of discs: 1/ Subtitles: Korean and English/ Rating: Ages 12+/ Format: 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen/ Audio: Dolby digital 5.1/ Running time: 97 minutes/ Suggested retail price: 22,000 KRW/ Available: October 26th/ Chance I will purchase this: 50%– I don’t buy many comedies and I will hold off buying it right away, but I there is a chance I will purchase this at a later date.

Pictured center is The Grass Is Greener directed by Seong Ji-hye and starring Kim Yeong-ho and Hwang In-yeong. Number of discs: 1/ Subtitles: Korean/ Rating: ages 15+/ Format: 16:9 anamorphic widescreen/ Audio: Dolby digital 2.0/ Running time: 91 minutes/ Suggested Retail Price: 22,000 KRW/ Available: October 26th/ Chance I will purchase this: 75%–

Finally, we have Ghastly which I saw on television and expressed my opinion about earlier. It is directed by Ko Seok-jin and stars Han Eun-jeong and Lee Hyeong-seok.  Number of discs: 1/ Subtitles: Korean/ Rating: ages 18+/ Format: 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen/ Audio: Dolby digital 5.1/ Running time: 78 min/ Suggested Retail price: 22,000 KRW/ Available: October 27th/ Chance I will buy this: 10%– I hated this movie. It is one of the worst I have seen in a long time.  BUT I expect that in about two months, I will be able to find it for a quarter of its current cost–I can’t resist sales and will pick it up..

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Index of the 70s: Im Jeong-gyu

21st October 2011

Director Im Jeong-gyu had a short career directing animated films. Three of these were in the 70s and the other two were in the very early 1980s.  Im’s career began earlier however as an animator.  His last credit on the KMDb on the Walt Disney television series Darkwing Duck in 1991.   

imjeonggyu 1977 maruchiandarachi, imjeonggyu 1977 electricman337, imjeonggyu 1979 starlandtrio

Click the thumbnail and enlarge to view the images. Other movies in the index can be seen by clicking the tab above marked ‘the 1970s’.   Next up in the index is Im Kwon-taek

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The 48th Daejong Film Awards

19th October 2011

best film Frontline48 Grand Bell Movie AwardsThis past Monday, the 48th Daejong (which means Grand Bell) Film Festival was held in Seoul. Not really a film festival at all, it is actually an awards show akin to the Academy Awards, giving out prizes to the best domestic films.  Winning the grand prize for ‘Best Film’ was the epic war movie pictured right, Frontline. It faced some stiff competition though from Unjust, Sunny, War of the Arrows and Yellow Sea. But, although Frontline won first place, it’s director, Jang Hoon, did not win the title of Best Director.  Instead, that went to the director of Sunny, Kim Hyeong-cheol.  The award for Best New Director went to Yoon Seong-hyeon for his film Bleak Night. Actor Won Bin one the “Toyota Most Popular” Award and veteran actor Lee Dae-geun was given a lifetime achievement award.  Actually, the night was filled with veteran actors and actress being nominated for prizes, which was nice to see. Below the nominees and the winners for the best/supporting and new actors and actresses.  Let’s start with the ladies…

best new actress

The prize for Best New Actress went to Moon Chae-won for her role in War of the Arrows which is still in theaters as of this writing.  Personally, I might have gone with Kim So-ra in this case for Sunny but I really have to wonder how Shin Se-kyeong made this list.  She was in the film Hindsight which is not a film I recommend…

best supporting actress

The Award for Best Supporting Actress went to Shim Eun-kyeong for Romantic Heaven.  I have to take their word for that as I have not yet seen this movie.  She must have done an excellent job because the other actresses were all quite good in their parts, especially Kim Soo-mi in Late Blossoms and Kim Ji-yeong in The Last Blossom. (that is not a typo– they are different films with similar titles).

best actress

The Grand Bell Movie Awards declared Kim Ha-neul the Best Actress for her part in Blind. Also nominated for the prize were Bae Jong-ok (The Last Blossom), Kim Hye-soo (Villain and Widow), Choi Kang-hee (Petty Romance) and Yoon So-jeong (Late Blossoms).

best new actor

Now for the men.  The award for Best New Actor went to Lee Je-hoon for his work in the movie Bleak Night… as opposed to his work in Frontline which earned him a second nomination.  Jang Gi-beom was on the list for Glove, Yoo Yeon-seok for Re-Encounter and Kim Hwan-yeong for Ryangkangdo: Merry Christmas, North! which, to the best of my knowledge has not yet opened in theaters outside of film festivals. Maybe closer to the holidays?

best supporting actor

The trophy for Best Supporting Actor was awarded to Jo Seong-ha for the action/thriller Yellow Sea. I admit that movie has grown on me and deserves to be looked at without comparing it to the director’s previous film (Chaser).  Yoo Hae-jin is also a very talented actor and I would not have minded if he had won this prize as well.

best actor

Finally, Park Hae-il won the prize for Best Actor due to War of the Arrows.  (I am very happy they changed the English title from Arrow: The Ultimate Weapon that KOFIC had originally listed on its website).  Lee Soon-jae was nominated for his work in Late Blossom, former G.O.D. member Yoon Gye-sang was listed for Poongsan, Cha Tae-hyeon for Hello, Ghost and Kim Yoon-seok for Yellow Sea.

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Korean Box Office: Oct. 14-16

17th October 2011


Last week I posed the question whether or not Real Steel would be be able to take the number one position after a strong test run which landed it in number 4.  The answer is ‘yes’ as Real Steel (featuring the very talented Karl Yune in a supporting role) surged ahead and took nearly 40% of the box office totals.  At the same time, Silenced, which has been leading the box office for the past few weeks started its descent and wound up in fourth.  But perhaps the biggest news is the fact that out of the ten top films in the box office, 8 of them are Korean movies. I can’t think of when the last time that has happened…or even if it has ever happened before…

Like last week, two films that were given a test run prior to their official openings landed fairly high in the box office.. Always directed by one of my favorite directors, Song Il-gon, and Punch.  Also opening is Wido, a mystery starring Jeong Chan and Lee Doo-il.  Other films opening this week are Senna (uk), Major: the Pitch of Friendship (jp), Four Times (it), Sleeping Beauty (au), The Music Never Stopped (us), Paranormal Activities 3 (us), and U2 3D (us).

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Widow (1955)

16th October 2011

55-004~1Park Nam-ok made a mark on Korean cinema history by being the first Korean woman to direct a film. However, it was an under-appreciated effort at the time it was made and there was no real interest in the film until the 1st Seoul Women’s Film Festival ressurected it.  At the time it was made, Park could only get one theater to screen it because she was a woman and even when she finally got it released, it was only for a four-day period. But it was still an amazing accomplishment considering the times.  Park Nam-ok was born in 1923 in Hayang, the third of ten children in her wealthy family. She demonstrated a strong character, enjoying sports such as shot-put as well as movies and literature. After graduating high school, she wanted to go on her own to study in Japan, but her family refused to let her go. Instead she had to enrol in the Home Economics Department at Ehwa Women’s College. She wound up leaving school while fighting her parents’ wishes that she marry. Instead, she became a film critic for the Daegu Daily Newspaper. After Korea was liberated from Japan, she joined the Joseon Film Company as a script editor, but again her parents forced her to return home in the hopes to get her to marry. When the Korean War started, she edited newsreels for the army. She did eventually marry a playwright who had written the scenario for The Widow which she began making into a film. She had a child at the time, but lacked a willing babysitter, so she used to go to work with her daughter on her back.  Park only made the one film. She divorced her husband and started a film magazine called Cinemafan in 1956 but again her parents got her to give it up and convinced her to work for her brother-in-law at Dong-a Publishing. After 21 years there, she moved to the USA to be with her daughter who was living there and she remains there to this day.

The movie The Widow was made at a time when money was in short supply. While director Park may have felt that less than many people living in Korea in the mid-50’s, her characters are frequently concerned about and motivated by the thought of money. The learn that the title character, widow Lee Shin-ja, is in need of money because her daughter’s school is “bleeding her dry” and the teacher has informed her daughter not to come if she cannot pay. Having no source of income of her own, Shin-ja has been relying on her husband’s friend, Lee Seong-jin, to support her but the man’s wife has become suspicious of their relationship.  Shin-ja’s best friend and neighbor, a prostitute, tells her that she could be getting a lot more money if she takes the friendship with Seong-jin to the next level. Later, again while talking to her friend about money, she forgets to watch her daughter who is playing in the beach. The child nearly dies as a result and only the quick action of Taek saves her.

Normally in these early films, the lead character is a pillar of chastity. Widows were expected to remain single as according to traditions, they were still married even though their husbands were dead. However, while Lee Shin-ja outwardly appears this way, she gradually changes throughout the movie. When we first meet her, she always wears traditional-style clothing. Often in early Korean films, what the female character wears determines the type of morals she has. For example, when we meet the prostitute, she is wearing pants which definitely brings her character into question if one is familar with films from this period. Shin-ja’s clothes style changes with the decisions she makes. After taking to living with Taek as his common law wife, Shin-ja adopts Western style clothes which we see often in early Korean film as a sign of declining morals (such as in The Coachman and The Aimless Bullet). Although Shin-ja learns to drink during the film she does not hit rock bottom and smoke as the prostitute does. Women smoking in Korean films was saved for either very elderly grandmothers who had earned the right or women who were considered the villain of the movie or, at the very least, someone whose character needed changing. 

At one point in the movie, Lee Shin-ja calls herself a bad mother and her neighbor, Mr. Song is quick to disagree.  However, I have to take issue with that. Shin-ja is a terrible mother. Normally I would not be so quick to judge, but she our heroine gives away her daughter for no more reason than the child has become an incovenience! Givingup children happens sometimes in Korean films like in the I Hate You But Again series or the One Love where the father and mother are separated and one parent is better able to support the child than the other, but this is not the case in The Widow. While she is poor, Shin-ja raises her daughter lovingly. After she meets a man whom she wants to live with, her daughter has suddenly become “a burden” and she asks her lover Taek if she should “make her go live with Mr. Song?” By this time, she has opened her own sewing business and is making sufficient money to support her child.. which she does.. but she has no interest in having her daughter around.

There is one frustrating point while watching this otherwise engrossing film.  The last part of the movie is damaged. The last scene is missing off the end of the film so we do not see what happens at the end. Even more annoying is that in the ten minutes prior to that, the sound was lost so we can see what is happening, but we cannot hear any dialogue.  Fortunately, I was able to read a description of how the film ends, but it was very vague.  Even without knowing the exact ending, I think most people could guess that it would not end happily. Considering her actions, Shin-ja fails to live up to being an ideal wife/mother/woman and therefore, according to cinematic rules, she must be punished for these transgressions.

However, although Shin-ja fails to live up to the ideals 1950 society expected of her, the movie never paints her as the villain. Neither is the prostitute ever blamed for her actions because her methods of making money were very limited at the time. Had this film been directed by a man, I think the prostitute would have come off far worse. Instead, Park made the main  and supporting female characters very human and while we may not agree with their actions, we can understand them.  

I am puzzled about the Korean title the film was released under on DVD.  The poster above shows the title to be Gwabu-ui Noomool which means “Tears of a Widow”in big red letters.   Underneath that, in paratheses and in Chinese characters, it says ‘Mimangin‘ which I understand was the name of the screenplay. Clearly the film title was the former no matter what the screenplay was called.  Why then was the DVD released under the Korean title Mimangin?  I have not been able to find any mention as to why one title was chosen over the other. However, that does not change the English title which has always been simply The Widow.

The Widow is available on DVD, but only as part of the Landscape After The War  Collection which also contains The Flower in Hell (1958), Money (1958) and Drifting Island (1960).  It is worth tracking down to see what life in Korea was like in the years immediately following the Korean War.

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DVD Releases: October 16-22

16th October 2011

The following selection of indie films are being released this week onto DVD.


Pictured left is BOY directed by No Hong-jin and starring Yeon Joon-seok and Ahn Jae-sang. Number of discs: 1/ Subtitles: Korean and English/ Rating: ages 18+/ Format: 16:9 anamorphic widescreen/ Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0/ Running Time: 113 min./ Suggested Retail Price: 22,000 KRW/ Available: October 19th.  Chance I will buy this now: 100%– I want to see it.

Pictured center is SECOND HALF directed by Jo Seong-gyu and starring Ryu Seung-soo and Lee Som.  Number of discs: 1/ Subtitles: Korean and English/ Rating: ages 15+/ Format: 16:9 anamorphic widescreen/ Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0/ Running Time: 96 min/ Available: October 19th/ Chance I will buy this now: 30%.  I don’t know very much about this film, but the promo material is not really selling it to me. 

Pictured right is THE STORY OF MY LIFE directed by Shin Choon-soo and starring Lee Seok-joon and Lee Chang-yong.  Number of discs: 1/ Subtitles: Korean and English/ Rating: ages 12+/ Format: 16:9 anamorphic widescreen/ Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0/ Running Time: 100 min./ Available/ October 19th. Chance I will buy this: 100%.. the websites I buy on neglect to mention that this is a musical as well as a drama but it is in fact a musical. I am always anxious to see Korean musicals as it is the rarest of the film genres (though you would think I would have learned my lesson with Fox Family…)

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Index of the 70s: Han Heon-myeong and Hong Ui-bong

15th October 2011

Director Han Heon-myeong only made three films, all of them animations.  Two of the three were in the 1970s. He is responsible for the now-infamous changes made to the Golden Bat character, making him far too much like DC Comic’s Batman. His first movie featured Son Oh-kong, the monkey prince from Chinese mythology who has made several appearances in Korean films.

hanheonmyeong 1978 sonohkong, hanheonmyeong 1979 goldenbat

Hong Ui-bong’s made two films during the 1970s as well. His career extended into the 90s but he only made a total of 5 films that received theatrical releases. Most of his films dealt with the life of Koreans in the USA, the sole exception is his final final film. In 1980, his films added a religious aspect which was the dominant theme of his 1990 films. 

honguibong 1976 california90006, honguibong 1978 dayandnightofkomerican

Click the tab at the top of the screen labeled ‘the 1970s’ to see more films from this decade.

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Korean Box Office: October 7-9

11th October 2011


Well, my blog is back to normal. For about a week I was stuck staring at HTML codes–which I don’t know how to use well at all– and no way to upload images. But the VISUAL system is back and I can post once again.  So here are the results of last weeks Box Office.  Better late than never!

Silenced once again came out on top although by a narrow margin as Client nearly had the same percentage of the box office sales. It will be interesting to see if it can hold on another week or if another movie will overtake it. Client stands a chance, however that film has already by in theaters for two weeks, so it may not have that much momentum left.  Real Steel did very well in a test release across the country and will officially open this week. It’s limited release was enough to land it in fourth– will it be able to take over the first place spot this coming weekend? 

Two new Korean films will be opening this week as well. One of them is the indie film Scars which will probably have a very limited release.  The other is Hit but as a comedy starring some second tier actors (sorry Han Jae-seok), it is not likely open higher than fourth.

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DVD Releases: Oct. 9-15

9th October 2011

time to loveI was not slacking off with blogging! But Wordpress went changed the site admin pages making it much more difficult to navigate (to me anyway). But the worst is that I cannot figure out how to attach pictures to posts! The icon to do that does not seem to work… I will have to go back and add images after that is straightened out. Anyway,

This week, just one Korean film is being released onto DVD, an independent movie entitled A Time To Love, co-directed by Joo Ji-yeong and Yang Ik-joon. Number of discs: 1// Subtitles: Korean and English// Rating: ages 15+// Format: 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen// Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0// Running Time: 80 min// Suggested Retail Price: 25,300 KRW// Available: Oct. 13


Update:  After a week a staring blankly at the changes to Wordpress– it is now back to normal.  I can post again!!!

Posted in DVDs: New Releases | 2 Comments »

Korean Box Office: Sept. 30- Oct. 2

2nd October 2011


Since opening, Silenced has made quite a name for itself and it won’t quickly be forgotten.  It consequences of the film have been appearing nightly on the news as the real-life case the movie is based on the the actions of authority figures are now under investigation. The film has also served as a catalyst that has strengthened the voice of the disabled community. Images of small, peaceful demonstrations have been appearing each night on the news as advocates promote stronger laws to protect the disabled from sexual predators. I think the last time I saw a movie have this much of an impact on society was when Whispering Corridors launched outcries against corporal punishment in the school system. I have no doubt that Silenced will remain on top of the box office charts next week as well.

Opening this week: 

Toohon (kr) (no English name yet), drama, directed by Kim Sang-jin, starring Kim Joo-hyeok and Kim Seon-ah.   

Gigola (fr), drama, directed by Laure Charpentier, starring Lou Doillon, Marie Kremer.    

Revenge: a Love Story (hk), thriller, directed by Wong Ching-po, starring Juno Mak and Sola Aoi

Nader and Simin: a Separation (ir), drama, directed by Asghar Farhadi, starring  Leila Hatami and Peyman Moaadi.

K-20: Legend of the Mask (jp), action, directed by Shimako Sato, starring Takeshi Kaneshiro and Takako Matsu.   

All That I Love (pl), drama, directed by Jacek Borcuch, starring Mateusz Kosciukiewicz and Olga Frycz.    

Apollo 18 (us), sf/horror, directed by Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego

Debt (us), thriller/drama, directed by John Madden, starring Helen Mirren and Sam Worthington <being released in Korea as Unfinished>

Stone (us), thriller, directed by John Curran, Robert De Niro and Edward Norton.  

Urban Warfare (us), action, directed by Keoni Waxman, starring Stephen Seagal, Meghan Ory <being released in Korea as City War>

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