Seen in Jeonju

Revenge Week: Day 2

9th July 2013

Nothing to Lose

Over the past couple of days, I have been browsing through a huge number of revenge movies and I was left with two observations. The first is that I really needed to making a working definition of what a revenge movie is to better weed through the literally hundreds of possibilities I was looking at. The second observation was that it seemed to me that the majority of films, with the major exception of the imitation Hong Kong kung fu films, the person seeking revenge was, more often than not, a woman.. at least in revenge films made before the year 2000.

To work through the first point, I eliminated all horror films despite the fact that ghosts are generally motivated by a need for revenge. Horror is a completely different genre than what I felt the theme of REVENGE WEEK is about, despite the fact that a ghost’s motivation is almost always revenge. That does not mean that a revenge film has to be realistic. I would consider A Teenage Hooker Becomes KIlling Machine.. as a revenge flick even with its science fiction elements. Also, someone seeking revenge in a movie does not automatically make it a revenge film if the motivation is not all-encompassing. Of course, a character may give up on his or her revenge plot before it is complete, but I would still consider it a revenge movie is it was a major element in the story. I have a good example of that which I am saving for later in the week.

Since most of the films that I will be dealing with this week are about women avenging wrongs wrought by man, I decided that today I would give an example of a man seeking revenge. The image above and the trailer below are from the film I Have Nothing made in 1991. Directed by Im Seon, it is the story of Choi Kang-ta who was raised an orphan by a monk on a lonely island. The monk trains Kang-ta in how to fight, preparing him for a dangerous future. Upon reaching his 24th year, the monk explains the Kang-ta that he pulled his pregnant mother from the sea where she had been thrown by some men wishing to drown her. Unable to save her, he promised to tell Kang-ta her story when he was old enough.

Kang-ta heads to the city to find out more about his background and avenge his mother’s death. Along the way, he earns the respect of several small time swindlers and thugs and winds up putting together his own gang. This brings him to the attention of his mother’s killer, Kang-ta’s own father, who wants to see the young man dead. The older man had married Kang-ta’s mother for position and money as her father is an elderly, wealthy man–with gang ties of his own. Kang-ta’s father throws the power of the gang at his son trying to stop the young fighter from making contact with his grandfather and telling his story.

Click here to view the trailer to I Have Nothing

Now head on over to Modern Korean Cinema and see what other revenge filled flicks they are talking about!

Posted in 1990s, video & trailers | Comments Off

They Shot the Sun (1981)

9th July 2013

They Shot The Sun (1981)– director: Lee Jang-ho– Starring: Park Il, Lee Yeong-ho, Bang Hee, Lee Kyeong-shil and Kim Gi-beom. Running Time: 100 minutes. Release Date: February 25, 1982.
theyshotthesun Looking for a film to write about for REVENGE WEEK over at Modern Korean Cinema, and wanting to review I film I had not seen before, I stumbled across this title and wanted to take a look. As an action/crime movie, there was a chance it could have been revenge-themed but as it turns out, it wasn’t. Of course, I could have saved myself the time by reading the descriptions of the film available online, but then I would have missed out on seeing this exceptionally well-crafted movie.
The story begins with a collage of events– a woman praying in a church, a group of children catching insects in a field, and a drive-by shooting of a woman with an infant followed by a tearful interview of a family whose father was just found shot. These last two events we soon learn are connected. The shooting of the woman was accidental. It was the result of a struggle taking place within the care owned by the two criminals who are the stars of the film, Jong-bae and Do-seok. These two men had just kidnapped a man carrying a company’s payroll. Oblivious of the danger, the man struggled with Do-seok in the back of the car and, in the course of the fight, Do-seok’s gun went off and the woman on the street was shot. A few moments later, Do-seok ends the struggle by shooting the frightened man as well.

Returning home after spending some of their money, the pair shower their families with presents. Both men have two children and a devoted wife. Their interaction with their families reveals more about their characters– Do-seok, now guilt-ridden and determined to leave the life of crime behind, is gentle to his kids and loving to his wife. Jong-bae plays a little rough with his son and his wife is clearly less trusting of her husband although it will be revealed just how deeply she loves him at a later time. Unlike her counterpart at Do-seok’s house, Jong-bae’s wife is instantly suspicious of her husband..even before he returns home. While watching the news, she hears the story of the shooting and the type of crime committed. She immediately goes to the set of drawers in her room and discovers the gun and ammunition kept within are gone. When she confronts her husband with this fact, he spins a quick lie as to why he needed the guns and she allows herself to be convinced..or at least to pretend to be convinced.

She has the right to be suspicious. Jong-bae is an ex-con and that is where he met the Do-seok. The two seem to be a perfect match and act like they have known each other all their lives. However, when Do-seok announces that he wants to turn himself in as a murderer, Jong-bae does not hesitate to beat up his friend in a scene that I noted on a scrap of paper, “Looks like the ending of Rough Cut” — the fight takes place on a mudflat and by the end of the very long fight scene, the two combatants are so covered in mud that they are indistinguishable. In the end, Do-seok agrees not to go to the police, but neither will he join Jong-bae on any more crime sprees.

His resolve however is remarkablely short-lived. In order to make an honest living for himself, Do-seok buys a taxi. But while driving around clients one night, he hears on the car radio about another robbery/shooting of a payroll courier, this time with many witnesses present. He is so distracted by the report that he drives recklessly and causes an accident that lands him in jail. His wife comes to bail him out, but that is the end Do-seok’s attempt at an honest living.

The irony of trying to live right but winding up in prison while having gotten away scott free with murder is not lost on Do-seok and he becomes more brutal in his crimes with Jong-bae than he was before. He stands by, not even looking concerned as Jong-bae chokes an innocent man to death as part of their plot to secure a getaway vehicle for their next crime– the robbing of a bank. The plan this caper as if it were a game, joking, laughing and role-playing their way through the heist, and blindly see it as the perfect crime. However, before they are barely underway, they run into problems–namely car problems. While pretending to repair their car on the side of the road and making plans to steal another from a good samaritan, they have an encounter with a police officer who is immediately suspicious of them. This leads to a shootout and a car chase as the two robbers try to get back to Seoul where it will be easier to hide.After avoiding many roadblocks, the pair make it home, only to discover that the police had thier ID’s and know where they live.

This last part of the film is the most shocking and I will be spoiling it here. However, the movie is not available on DVD (although it really should be) and unless you are living in Korea, you are unlikely to ever come across it. For that reason– and the fact that the movie is thirty years old– I feel no pangs of conscience about revealing the end. If you don’t want to know it, skip the next paragraph.

Do-seok and Jong-bae know the police will come for them. Do-seok removes his wife and eldest son from their home and takes them to a house owned by Jong-bae–much larger than the virtual one-room dwelling the latter lives in with his wife and two children. His youngest child, an infant that does not yet know his father, is left in the care of the housekeeper. Do-seok gives his wife a long note while he leads his son upstairs. By the time she reaches the end of the letter where he explains what he is going to do, it is too late. From upstairs a shot is heard and the terrified woman dashes up the stairs begging her husband not to kill their son. It is too late. Another shot rings out as Do-seok commits suicide. For his part, Jong-bae joins the police in a firefight with his wife and children in the house. Surrounded by more than two dozen cops, plus reporters and onlookers, it looks like Jong-bae is hopelessly outgunned– until his wife picks up a gun as well and joins him in the fight, foregoing the chance to escape. However, the situation is still hopeless and they too decide on suicide to escape capture and disgrace. Jong-bae’s wife begs him to shoot her first as she cannot stand seeing her children killed and Jong-bae proceeds to shoot them one by one before turning the gun on himself. Roll credits.

This has to have been one of the most shocking Korean films I have seen from the ’80s and it was social commentaries. One of the things that I loved was the comparisons of the family dynamics. Jong-bae more violent and wild nature was making his son into the same kind of person which we see while the boy is playing with toy guns. Many children do play with toy guns, but Jong-bae’s son is especially aggressive and gleaful at the imagined bloodshed he is causing. On the other hand, he is shown doing small acts of kindness –such as given money to a homeless man unbidden- and we know there is hope and innocence still in him. The two children of the first shooting victim are also followed by this film for a time, long after they have direct impact on the plot. They are just there to hammer home the relationship and bonds between father and children perhaps to help us understand the later actions of our anti-heroes, though certainly not to condone them.

There are some excellent technical bits to this movie as well as some things that don’t quite work. The use of black-and-white while the two men are planning the bank robbery was a good choice as was making that whole scene almost–but not quite– like an interpretive dance which highlighted the fact that this scene was a fantasy and that their plan in real life was full of holes that only in their daydreams could be avoided. I was not as sold on the brief musical number near the beginning of the film, nor the filtered lens during the sex with the crazy woman on the beach scene. However, both of those scenes got me thinking that the friendship between those two cellmates was very close..and made me wonder just how close the director wanted us to think of them. This was especially the case during the sex scene where Jong-bae spends the entire time watching his non-participant friend on the beach.. the camera focused on Do-seok and moving up and down with Jong-bae’s humping of the crazy, flower-eating woman. However, the film makes nothing more of that so further speculation is useless.

I might be feeling extra-generous today– (I decided to stay home rather than type this in my office and I feel very relaxed..) — but I am giving this film nine out of ten stars. It is an excellent movie that I hope will one day get a wider audience.

Posted in 1980s, Review | Comments Off


8th July 2013

Trailers of REVENGE!!
It’s REVENGE WEEK over at Modern Korean Cinema. When I first heard about RW, I initially thought I would track down some older movies with a revenge-themed plot and write about them, and I still may. However, I was sidetracked by another thought. While trying to locate an appropriate film, I stumbled across a trailer for one of the movies I was considering—Janus, Lady of Fire. In this 1987 film directed by Kim Seong-soo, (not the Kim Seong-soo still directing today), Eun-ji arrives early at a cabin where she will be meeting her soon-to-be husband but is gang-raped while waiting for him. Upon recovering, she sets out to seek out her attackers and kills them one by one in creative ways. However, before dying, one of the rapists confesses that they had been hired by her boyfriend so Eun-ji gets herself a gun and sets out to commit one final killing.

More to come this week! Meanwhile head over to MKC and see what other revenge plots they are revealing!

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Index of the 70s: Director Kim Shi-hyeon

6th July 2013

Director Kim Shi-hyeon was born in Daegu on December 27, 1935. After finishing high school in his hometown, Kim moved to Seoul and entered the Pharmaceutical Department at Seoul National University. It was not for him and he dropped out during his second year of study. In 1964, he landed a job as an assistant director working under Jeong Cheong-hwa and debuted as a director in his own right the following year. In the decade related to this post, Kim made 32 films. Several of these I had previously posted images for and can be viewed by clicking the tab at the top of the page marked ‘The 1970s.’ The rest are below. Click the thumbnail to view the full-sized plate:
kimshihyeon1974 awanderinghero, kimshihyeon1974 blackleopard, kimshihyeon1975 blackspider, kimshihyeon1975 farewell, kimshihyeon1975 secretgoing, kimshihyeon1975 spyremaining behind, kimshihyeon1975 tombofastrongman, kimshihyeon1976 chasewithouttomorrow, kimshihyeon1976 greatescape, kimshihyeon1976 righteousfighteriljimae, kimshihyeon1976 seoljoongmae, kimshihyeon1976 tragicmaninseonghwa, kimshihyeon1976 vagabondiljimae, kimshihyeon1977 6milliondollarman, kimshihyeon1977 apatrioticfamily, kimshihyeon1977 fistoftigermissionginseng, kimshihyeon1977 hotcoolvicious, kimshihyeon1977 lastfistoffury, kimshihyeon1978 fivebrothers, kimshihyeon1978 womanknighterrant, kimshihyeon1979 100dayflowerandfist, kimshihyeon1979 fivemurimswordsmen, kimshihyeon1979 nevergiveup

If you look at nothing else, you should at least treat yourself to the beautiful poster for Black Spider!

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Index of the 1970s: Director Kim Seong-soo

4th July 2013

I just came back from a trip to Jeju Island and I am keep dozing off.. I had a great time, but I need a nap! So I will keep this short. Fortunately, the next director on the list is Kim Seong-soo, (1938-2004) and had only two movies in the decade covered by the post. He was born Kim Seok-gyu in Ulsan on September 20, 1938. While he was attending Seokgyunkwan University in Seoul, he also took classes at a film academy and that proved to be where his passion lay. He starting working as an assistant director in the mid-60s and debuted with his own films in the late seventies. His career took him through the middle of the 1990s. Kim Seong-soo is a common name and this Kim should not be confused with another director, still active today, who shares that name. There have also been several actors by that name as well. To see more films from directors from the 1970s, just click the tab marked ‘the 1970s’ at the top of this page.
kimseongsoo1978 comebacktopusan, kimseongsoo1978 atoasttous

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Happiness For Sale (2013)

2nd July 2013

HAPPINESS FOR SALE– director: Jeong Ik-hwan– starring: Choi Kang-hee, Bong Tae-gyu, Joo Jin-mo, Jeong Gyu-soo, Kim Won-hae– 106 minutes– Release date: May 16, 2013.
I was asked recently by an airline to review Happiness For Sale for their August inflight magazine. I never expect much when I review films for them as they often select very mainstream films as they are not usually films I would have picked to see in the theaters. In this case however, the movie was not bad and had several good aspects. I wrote a light review of it and submitted it to the editor, but I thought that I would write a review here as well. When I review recent films I usually try to avoid spoilers as with the review of Horror Stories 2 that I wrote a couple of days ago. However, if this case, I will not be avoiding spoilers. The rational behind this decision is that Happiness For Sale is a very simple, family-friendly film. As such there are no unexpected twists in the plot. In fact, once you know the setup of the story, any audience member could write it him/herself. So.. Spoilers there are spoilers ahead…. You have been warned.

The film features on Kang Mina (played by Choi Kang-hee). Kang is a low-level civil servant working in a tax office and having a very bad day at the start of the movie. She has just broken up with her longterm boyfriend who has been cheating on her and clients are giving her trouble. One traffic accident and a case of road rage later, Kang finds herself on a two-month suspension. Having nothing better to do at this time, Kang decides to respond to calls she has been receiving regarding her estranged father who has been hospitalized and is deeply in debt. She heads to the small town of Muju to handle her father’s affairs but she does not do this graciously. She is short and sulky the moment she enters her hometown and in her brief dealings with her father. Furthermore, she seems to take a bitter delight in the idea of selling off that store her father owns as soon as she can even as she is moaning about all the work it she will have to do in order to clean up the dusty shop.

Mina is a classic example of an adult who blames everything in her life on her parents and childhood. The personality she has demonstrated up to this point in the film is petulant and immature, prone to temper tantrums and likely to respond to problems by either sulking or lashing out. We can see the root of her problems stem from being teased as a child by her classmates because of her father’s stationary/toy shop located just outside of the elementary school she attends. However, we see her father being very kind and friendly to the very same children who torment his daughter at school. Mina reacts by becoming volitile with her father, frequently telling him that she hates him when he shows her patience and kindness. What she fails to see as a child is that the way she acts perpetuates the cycle of being ostracized by the other children. But as an adult, she fails to realize that she has a choice in how she acts. I have very little patience with any adult who continues to blame their parents or minor things that happened in elementary school for all the problems in their lives.

Fortunately, there is another, infinitatley more likable character in the film. HIs name is Choi Kang-ho. A former classmate of Mina, and her only friend as a child, Kang-ho was also bullied because he was very shy and introverted. However, his reaction to the bullying and his life afterward, was quite different than Mina’s. Kang-ho is now a new teacher at the elementary school and it is only a matter of time before the two main characters renew their friendship.

One of the things I liked about this movie is how the children from 20 years ago mirror the children in the present day. Same characters but different faces. Having been on the receiving end of being teased in school, Choi takes some creative steps towards making his classroom a tolerant and accepting place. This is not lost on Mina, whose early dealings with the children were quite hostile. However, she finds an identification figure among them.. one who reminds her of herself as a child. And while our leading lady plots to take as much money from the children as possible to clear out her father’s stock, she unknowingly becomes attached to them emotionally and they come to rely on her.

Choi Kang-hee often overacts her role as Mina, but that was clearly because she was playing a caricature rather than a real character. Bong Tae-gyu gets the much better role to play, although early in the film Choi Kang-ho is played for comedy as he is still as awkward as an adult as he was as a child. But in general I liked the film.. the evolution in the lead and the gradual changes we see among the relationships among the children. Certainly not the best movie of the year, but a nice family movie nonetheless.

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Trailers for Korean Movies Opening July 4, 2013

1st July 2013



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Horror Stories 2 (2013)– spoiler free reaction

30th June 2013

Horror Stories 2– 무서운이야기 2– directed by Kim Seong-ho, Kim Hwi, Jeong Beom-shik, and Min Gyu-dong. Starring Seong Joon, Lee Soo-hyeok, Baek Jin-hee, Kim Seul-ki, and Jeong In-seon. –96 minutes–Release date: June 5, 2013.

still_02 I am amazed at how quickly my internet TV provider gets ahold of movies these days. Horror Stories 2 was released at the beginning of the month and just three weeks later it is on tv. Of course there are some drawbacks to this speedy service. One is that I rarely take the trip into town to watch movies anymore.. a drawback because I am afraid I am turning into a homebody. The other drawback is that it costs slightly more to watch new movies on tv than in the theater..It is 10,000 KRW instead of the usual 7-8,ooo KRW.. Of course, it is more cost efficient if I factor in gasoline or bus fare. and if you watch it with someone, then it is definitely a savings.

I watched this movie alone… it is the only way to see horror movies and get the full impact.
Because this movie is so new, I am not going to give any information about the plot. I will only mention my feelings about each chapter of the film.

Horror Stories 2 consists of three main tales encompassed by a framing story. The first story, in my opinion was the scariest. It was titled The Cliff.. well..that is a translation of the title anyway, I did not see it with subtitles. I will not give away spoilers about the plot at all. I just want to say that it was expertly crafted and acted by the two leads. I did not like the acting of the brother of one of the climbers, but it was a small role so there is no real problem. Tension and suspense build in this short for excellent effect. I just wish that slow, steady build had been maintained until the end. The final scene is rushed and should not have been.

The second story, The Accident, was my least favorite.. not because of any major faults in directing or acting.. but because it was too predictable. I knew what was happening and what was going to happen about thirty seconds into the story. There have been too many horror movies with the same set up. While it does have a few good scenes, it never really frightened me.

The same is not true for the third story, Escape. About five minutes into the tale, I thought that I was going to hate it. It looked like more of acomedy than a horror film, which isn’t always bad, but the comedy was quite childish and much of it even relied on bathroom humor. However, the movie went in a direction I had not seen before and, while it retained a comedy feel about it, it became more of a black comedy. .. and parts of this film were genuinely terrifying. Of all the stories, this is the one I thought about when I was nervously trying to get to sleep last night. (I wound up closing the opaque sliding window in the master bedroom that looks out on the veranda– when you watch this movie, you will know why). It is not perfect because of the comedy, but I appreciated the originality of the film.

The framing tale, 444, was hastily thrown together I think and is not meant to be really frightening. It serves its purpose in setting up each story, but it fails as a story in its own right. Again, I don’t blame the director in this case. The structure of the film fails this story as it has to be broken up to introduce the other, longer chapters. So when the twist is thrown in, it comes out of left field and feels quite unneccessary.

I am satisfied that I liked two out of four stories in this film.. especially since the two films that I liked really managed to create feelings of dread and/or terror in me that I want to experience when watching a horror movie.

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Index of the 1970s: Director Kim Seon-kyeong

30th June 2013

Kim Seon-kyeong was born on June 23, 1939 and majored in English Literature at Dongguk University. In 1968, he started work in the film industry as an assistant director before debuting with his won film in 1972, He directed 18 films in the 1970s and most are listed below. To see the others,,or images of films by other directors.. click the tab marked ‘The 1970s’ at the top of this page.

kimseonkyeong1974 billyjang, kimseonkyeong1974 lastfivefingers, kimseonkyeong1975 blackdragon, kimseonkyeong1975 missyeom, kimseonkyeong1975 twoemperorsofnightandday, kimseonkyeong1976 blackdragonriver,
kimseonkyeong1976 secretagent, kimseonkyeong1976 specialmission, kimseonkyeong1977 biryongmoon, kimseonkyeong1977 fourmasters, kimseonkyeong1977 goldengate, kimseonkyeong1977 righteousfighter, kimseonkyeong1978 manwithsevenfaces, kimseonkyeong1978 murimbattle, kimseonkyeong1978 teninstructorsofshaolin, kimseonkyeong1979 collegegirlsconfession, kimseonkyeong1979 desperatetarget

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Index of the 1970s: Directors Kim Mook to Kim Sa-gyeom

28th June 2013

This posts consists of next several directors in alphabetical order whose filmographies of the 1970s I have either almost nearly completed or who did not have very many films to begin with. Their films not listed here, and those of many other directors, can be viewed by clicking the tab marked “the 1970s” at the top of the page.

Kim Mook (1928-1990)– Born in Pyeongyang on November 21, 1980, Kim Mook spent most of his early life there. However, by the time war broke out in 1950, Kim was working as a newspaper editor on Jeju Island. After debuting in film, many of the movies Kim made were anti-communist in nature. Kim passed away in a housefire in March 1990. While we will be dealing with him again in earlier decades, Kim made a total of 13 films in the 1970s most of which I have already posted plates for. Only one remains to be done and that can be viewed by clicking the thumbnail below..
kimmook1974 undertheskyofsakalin

Kim Moon-ok- Kim Mook may have been finishing up his career in the 1970s, but this next director was just getting started. Born Kim Byeong-yeol in Nonsan on October 28, 1945, Kim Moon-ok majored in Korean Literature at Joongang University. After graduating, he entered into the film world as an assistant director starting in 1974. In 1979, he was given the opportunity to direct a film written by Choi In-ho. He directed only one film in the time period we are dealing with here, but his career continued into the 2000s.
kimmoonok1979 othersroom

Kim Myeong-yong was born on January 7, 1938. In the 1960s, he worked as part of director Jeong Cheong-hwa’s staff. Jeong was famous for action films and Kim followed in his footsteps, often co-directing with a director from Hong Kong to capitalize on the kung fu craze of the era. He had made 4 films in the 1970s, three are depicted below and one had been done earlier.
kimmyeongyong1974 dangeroushero, kimmyeongyong1977 fistsofbrucelee, kimmyeongyong1978 themagnificent

Kim Sa-gyeom was born on July 7, 1938 in Masan. He started out attending Hae-in University (now Gyeongnam University) not far from where he grew up, but he did not enjoy his major, Korean Literature and dropped out before he finished. He moved to Seoul and enrolled in an Art College where he majored in Film & Performing Arts. In the early 1960s, Kim was working as a reporter for the Arts and Culture section of a sports newspaper. It was there that he became acquainted with director Yoo Hyeon-mok and in 1965 he began to work under him as an assistant director. He debuted with his own film in the 1970s– and stopped directing after making just two movies. He did continue in the film world however, working as a Busan-based film critic. His debut film had been listed previously.
kimsagyeom1975 changsusheydey,

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