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Director Kim Jee Woon 김지운 Kim Ji Woon

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September 21, 2016

Leading S. Korean directors to visit U.S. for film promotion

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 20 (Yonhap) -- Two famous South Korean directors -- Park Chan-wook and Kim Jee-woon -- will visit Los Angeles next week to promote their latest films ahead of their imminent releases in North American theaters, the Korean Cultural Center here said Tuesday.

Park will come to Los Angeles on Monday to attend a special preview of his new erotic thriller "The Handmaiden," the center said, adding that Kim will also visit here the following day to attend a preview of his latest espionage thriller "The Age of Shadows."

In this photo released by the Associated Press on May 14, 2016, South Korean director Park Chan-wook (C) poses for photographers with actors Ha Jung-woo, Kim Tae-ri, Kim Min-hee and Jo Jin-woong (from L) at the screening of his film "The Handmaiden" at the 69th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France. (Yonhap)

In this photo released by the Associated Press on May 14, 2016, South Korean director Park Chan-wook (C) poses for photographers with actors Ha Jung-woo, Kim Tae-ri, Kim Min-hee and Jo Jin-woong (from L) at the screening of his film "The Handmaiden" at the 69th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France. (Yonhap)

"The Age of Shadows," whose accumulated number of viewers in South Korea crossed a 6-million mark as of Tuesday since its opening on Sept. 7, is scheduled to simultaneously hit the screens in some 40 other North American cities, including New York, Chicago, Toronto and Vancouver on Friday.

Park's thriller depicting a conspiracy to seize a mysterious heiress' assets is also set to be released in North America on Oct. 14.

On Monday, Park, along with actress Kim Tae-ri, who starred in "The Handmaiden," will hold a news conference at the Korean culture center, and then attend a preview for professors and students majoring in cinema at the Sundance Theater in West Hollywood, the center said.

He is also scheduled to meet with American filmmakers during another preview for his film at Soho House here, it said.

South Korean director Kim Jee-woon speaks during a press preview of his new film "The Age of Shadows" at a Seoul theater on Aug. 25, 2016 (Yonhap)    

South Korean director Kim Jee-woon speaks during a press preview of his new film "The Age of Shadows" at a Seoul theater on Aug. 25, 2016 (Yonhap)

On Tuesday, Kim will also meet with professors and students at a preview to talk about the production behind his latest film, according to the center.

Kim's movie attracts keen attention here as it has been selected as the South Korean entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards this year, it added.

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September 22, 2016

(News Focus) Korean films boast memorable director-actor combination

SEOUL, Sept. 22 (Yonhap) -- This fall, Korean audiences will see a host of tested director-actor pairs coming up with new films.

While director Kim Jee-woon teamed up with actor Song Kang-ho for "The Age of Shadows" after three successful ventures, director Kim Sung-soo and actor Jung Woo-sung are getting together after also doing three films together. Other well-known director-actor teams include Yoon Jong-bin and Ha Jung-woo; Ryu Seung-wan and Hwang Jung-min; and Hong Sang-soo and Yu Jun-sang.

"Song is an actor who endlessly challenges his limits although he is already on top," Kim Jee-woon told reporters after a media preview of "The Age of Shadows."

Actor Song Kang-ho (Yonhap)

Kim said he has always been curious about the actor's limits since he has continued to show new sides in every film he stars in.

After more than 20 years together, Song said he now feels comfortable working with Kim. "He is matchless in creating original characters," said the 49-year-old actor.

Their friendship began when then-rookie director Kim hired Song as an assistant actor for his feature debuting film "The Quiet Family" released in 1998.

In the film, labeled a "comical film on cruelty," Song deeply impressed viewers, appearing as a hot-tempered son with a history of serving prison terms for assault. His excellent performance earned him his first-ever lead role in film as a timid bank clerk who works as a pro wrestler at night in Kim's second feature film "The Foul King" (2000). The actor filmed the wrestling action scenes without a stunt man. Thanks to his passionate acting, the film was a commercial success, breaking the common notion that sports movies are doomed to failure in South Korea.

Eight years later in 2008, Song returned as Taegu, the weird one, in Kim's Korean-style Western, "The Good, the Bad, the Weird," captivating audiences with his unique charms.

Director Kim Jee-woon (Yonhap)

And after another eight years, the two put their names together on the credits of Kim's latest film "The Age of Shadows."

Song played the lead, Lee Jeong-chul, a talented Korean-born Japanese police officer who is thrown into a dilemma between his duty and supporting a greater cause of helping his Korean compatriots fighting to win Korean independence in colonial-era Seoul. Korea was a colony of Japan from 1910 to 1945.

There are several more director-actor pairs boasting long-time ties.

The Kim Sung-soo and Jung Woo-sung pair of the forthcoming crime thriller "The City of Madness" is one of them.

They previously did four films together ranging from "Beat" (1997), a film which made Jung the icon of youth in the 1990s, to "City of The Rising Sun" (1998) and "Musa-The Warrior" (2001).

In the new film set to open on Oct. 28, Jung plays Han Do-gyeong, a cop who engages in all sorts of shady activities for a corrupt city mayor to treat his wife diagnosed with terminal cancer.

"I wrote the script with Jung in mind," Kim said during a recent news conference for the film. "We met in a film scene for the first time in 15 years as a director and an actor, but didn't feel any different."

Director Yoon Jong-bin and actor Ha Jung-woo are well known for their long-held friendship.

Both graduates of Seoul's Chung-Ang University, Yoon and Ha worked together for the former's graduate work titled "The Unforgiven" (2005). Ha, who is one year senior to Yoon, majored in drama at the university while Yoon studied film.

The film depicting the irrationalities of the Korean military system drew much media attention in Korea after being invited to the non-competition section of the Cannes Film Festival.

They later did three more movies together: "Beastie Boys" (2008), "Nameless Gangster: Rules of the Time" (2011) and "Kundo: Age of the Rampant" (2013).

Last year, Yoon helped Ha in writing the script for "Chronicle of a Blood Merchant," the second film directed by the actor.

Director Ryu Seung-wan's latest, "Gunhamdo," currently in production, is his third film together with actor Hwang Jung-min. Before, they had their names together in "The Unjust" (2010) and "Veteran" (2014).

The names of Hong Sang-soo and Yu Jun-sang together may also sound familiar to most local movie fans.

Yu is called "Hong Sang-soo's man" as he appeared in six straight titles by the world-acclaimed filmmaker. They are "Right Now, Wrong Then" (2015), "Nobody's Daughter Haewon" (2012), "In Another Country" (2011), "The Day He Arrives" (2011), "Hahaha" (2010) and "Like You Know It All" (2008).

sshim@yna.co.kr

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September 27, 2016

THE AGE OF SHADOWS and THE HANDMAIDEN Head to the States
Latest from KIM Jee-woon and PARK Chan-wook Book US Playdates

by Pierce Conran / KoBiz

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It’s already been a big year for Korean films and US-based Korean cinema fans who have had more opportunities than usual to catch acclaimed Korean works, with films such as NA Hong-jin’s THE WAILING and YEON Sang-ho’s TRAIN TO BUSAN scoring nationwide releases and healthy grosses, but this fall holds more in store with incoming releases for both KIM Jee-woon’s The Age of Shadows and PARK Chan-wook’s The Handmaiden.

After bowing to strong reviews at the Venice and Toronto International Film Festivals and scoring seven million admissions and counting in South Korea, KIM’s period action-thriller The Age of Shadows, which is the first Korean production of Warner Bros., was released by CJ Entertainment America on September 23rd in 40 theatres across the country. The first weekend also included screenings at Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas. More dates will be added in the weeks to come.

Following its debut at the Cannes Film Festival in competition this May, PARK’s The Handmaiden bowed in North America at the Toronto International Film Festival and also made a quick stop at Fantastic Fest in the lead up to its release on October 21st courtesy of Magnolia Pictures. The rollout will begin with three theatres in New York and Los Angeles. Amazon Studios will also release the film online at an unspecified date. 

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logofest2016.gif OFFICIAL WEBSITE

September 27, 2016

Sitges Invites 14 Films for 49th Edition
Five Features Selected for Official Fantastic Competition

by Pierce Conran / KoBiz

The Sitges International Fantastic Film Festival of Catalonia is leaning particularly heavily on Korean films this year, with 14 titles peppered throughout its 2016 program, including 13 features and one short. Five Korean films will compete in the festival’s signature Official Fantastic Competition.

Big names will be featured in the competition lineup, including NA Hong-jin, with THE WAILING, PARK Chan-wook’s The Handmaiden and both YEON Sang-ho’s animation Seoul Station and live action smash TRAIN TO BUSAN. A new name at the festival also competing will be KIM Sang-chan with Karaoke Crazies.

KIM Jee-woon will feature in the Orbita section with his new Colonial Era smash The Age of Shadows along with IM Sang-soo’s Intimate Enemies, PARK Hoon-jung’s The Tiger and KIM Seong-hun’s Tunnel.

Also playing in the coastal town will be LEE Hae-young’s The Silenced in Seven Chances, the horror omnibus Horror Stories III in Panorama Fantastic and KIM Ji-hyeon’s Throttled in Anima’t Shorts. Finally, the open air Brigadoon section will also feature NA Hong-jin’s The Chaser and KIM Jee-woon’s The Good, The Bad, And The Weird, both from 2008.

Among the Korean guests at Sitges this year will be Tunnel actress BAE Doo-na, along with director KIM Seong-hun and Karaoke Crazies director KIM Sang-chan.

The 49th edition of the Sitges International Fantastic Film Festival will unspool from October 7th to 16th.

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September 29, 2016

Director Kim Jee-woon: 'Age of Shadows' delivers message of hope, progress

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 28 (Yonhap) -- South Korean filmmaker Kim Jee-woon said his latest film "The Age of Shadows" stands out from his preceding works in that it tells of hope and progress.

"While I had mainly portrayed the dark side of human nature so far, this film is different in that it tells of hope and progress," Kim said during an interview with Yonhap News Agency at a CJ CGV theater in Los Angeles on Tuesday.

He arrived here on a promotional tour of the film that was released in 40 North American cities on Friday.

"It focused on the inner workings of a human mind, although it might seem totally like a spy action flick," he stressed.

The film depicts a highly skilled Korean-born Japanese police officer who happens to work as a double agent for Japan and a group of Korean resistance fighters plotting to bring in explosives from Shanghai to destroy key Japanese facilities in Seoul under Japan's colonial rule. Korea was a colony of Japan from 1910 to 1945.

South Korean filmmaker Kim Jee-woon (Yonhap)

South Korean filmmaker Kim Jee-woon (Yonhap)

It stars top actors Song Kang-ho, Gong Yoo and Han Ji-min among the main cast as well as Lee Byung-hun and Park Hee-sun in side roles.

Kim's visit to the American city was not merely for the promotional activities.

As a film first produced and presented in Korea by Warner Bros. Picture, a major Hollywood studio, it has received much attention from the U.S. film industry.

The Korean Film Commission (KOFIC), a government agency for promoting homegrown films, has recently selected the film to represent the country at the Academy Awards.

Questioned about the film's chance of being nominated for the best foreign film award, Kim waved his hand and said: "Honestly, I've never thought about winning an Academy foreign-language film award. The barrier is high and no Korean film has ever won."

The film drew favorable reviews from film reporters ahead of its North American release and has been invited to various international film festivals, including Venice and Toronto.

"I didn't know it would receive such favorable reviews from foreign critics, media and audiences as the film deals with Korean history. I was surprised a bit by those reviews."

He said the recent successes of Korean films set in the colonial-era Korea ranging from director Choi Dong-hoon's "Assassination" to "The Handmaiden" by Park Chan-wook is "encouraging."

 "While Korean films had taken the same approach to the era in the past, now their subjects became richer and diverse and all kinds of different films are coming out. I think that's encouraging."

The official poster of "The Age of Shadows" by director Kim Jee-woon. (Yonhap)

 The official poster of "The Age of Shadows" by director Kim Jee-woon. (Yonhap)

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September 29, 2016

'The Age of Shadows' to be released in 43 more countries

SEOUL, Sept. 29 (Yonhap) -- South Korean espionage film "The Age of Shadows" will open in 43 more countries, including Brazil, Australia and Spain, its local distributor said Thursday.

"The film's distribution rights have been sold to 45 countries, including Brazil, Australia, Taiwan, Singapore, Philippines, Spain, Portugal and Turkey," Warner Bros. Korea said. "Moreover, all contracts had a precondition guaranteeing the movie's release in theaters in the countries concerned."

The espionage thriller opened in U.S. and Canadian theaters on Friday and raked in US$165,685 in its first weekend.

Competition has become intense to buy the film's rights among distributors within the same country in Germany, England and Japan, to name a few, according to Warner.

Set in 1920s' Seoul and Shanghai, the movie depicts the story of a talented Korean-born Japanese police officer who works as a double agent for Japan within a Korean resistance group during Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule. It features renowned actors Song Kang-ho as the police officer and Gong Yoo as a key leader of the resistance group "Uiyeoldan."

In South Korea, the film has attracted an audience of more than 7 million since Sept. 7.

This photo, provided by Warner Bros. Korea, is the official overseas promotional poster of "The Age of Shadows." (Yonhap)

This photo, provided by Warner Bros. Korea, is the official overseas promotional poster of "The Age of Shadows." (Yonhap)

deserts@yna.co.kr

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Can it even be as crazy as the original Korean version? :mellow:

September 29, 2016

I SAW THE DEVIL Remake Nears Production
BLAIR WITCH Director Adam Wingard to Helm US Update

by Pierce Conran / KoBiz

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Reports indicate that production is gearing up to begin on the long-gestating American remake of KIM Jee-woon’s I Saw The Devil (2010). Two years ago, indie genre director Adam Wingard was attached to helm an update of the revered Korean revenge thriller along with his writing partner Simon Barrett and it seems that it is now the next project in the pipeline for the director.

Wingard, who previously made The Guest (2014), recently released Blair Witch, a sequel to the found footage horror The Blair Witch Project (1999) and has also completed principal photography on Death Note, a remake of the 2006 Japanese film of the same name. 

The original I Saw The Devil featured LEE Byung-hun as a special agent who goes on the hunt for the serial killer (CHOI Min-shik) responsible for murdering his fiancee, and then becomes an equally sadistic villain in his quest for vengeance. The violent thriller was seen by 1.82 million viewers (USD 12.68 million) during its original Korean release and won several prizes on the festival circuit following its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival.

KIM’s latest film The Age of Shadows recently debuted to strong reviews at the Venice International Film Festival and has been a smash in its native Korea, amassing over seven million spectators to date (USD 52.47 million).

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October 4, 2016

THE AGE OF SHADOWS Unveils Slew of Sales
KIM Jee-woon Action-Thriller Sells for FINECUT

by Pierce Conran / KoBiz

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Fresh from its world premiere at the Venice International Film Festival and gala presentation at the Toronto International Film Festival, KIM Jee-woon’s Colonial Era period action-thriller The Age of Shadows has scored a slew of deals through its international distributor FINECUT.

Latin American rights were scooped up by California Films, while La Aventura took it for Spain and Films4You purchased the Portuguese rights. Madman Entertainment bought the film for Australia and New Zealand, Edko secured Hong Kong rights, Taiwan will be handled by Filmware International and Viva Entertainment took the film for the Philippines.

The film is currently on release in the United States, where it is being handled by CJ Entertainment America and generated USD 166,000 in ticket sales during its first weekend from 33 theaters. Next up for the thriller will be Hong Kong on October 20th, New Zealand on October 27th, Australia on November 3rd and Taiwan on November 4th.

Back in Korea, the film is still drawing in crowds, having now attracted 7.36 million viewers (USD 54.52 million) in just under a month. Featuring SONG Kang-ho and GONG Yoo, the film recently picked up the Best Action Film prize at Fantastic Fest in Austin, TX, was selected as Korea’s official entry to the Academy Awards’ Foreign Language category and will screen at the 21st edition of the Busan International Film Festival.

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October 15, 2016

[interview] Kim Jee-woon with The Lady Miz Diva

Source: Hancinema.net

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In the 5 years since our last chat with Director Kim Jee-woon, he made a full-fledged Hollywood film and then returned to South Korea to create his latest box office smash, "The Age of Shadows". Director Kim spoke with me about his spy thriller, based on real events during the Japanese occupation of Korea, as it premiered in New York City as part of Korean Movie Night. 

We talked about his 20-year collaboration with acting legend Song Kang-ho, Oscar consideration, the influence of John Cassavetes and James Coburn, and he revealed the name of the lead actor for his long-awaited adaptation of Jin-Roh. Oh, and his leading lady, Han Ji-min, makes a cute cameo.

The Lady Miz Diva: Congratulations on being chosen to represent South Korea at the Oscars. How do you feel about the consideration?

Kim Jee-woon: First of all, I would say that I'm glad and happy to have the honor. However, because we are not the final candidate, I guess I would be more happy if we were chosen as the final candidate. {Laughs} I don't really have much expectations as to whether we are going to get that, but we will see about that. What I would like to say, though, is that because this movie depicts the painful history of Korea, I hope that sort of empathy can be communicated, as well as "The Age of Shadows" being an entertaining movie.

LMD: Watching Han Ji-min's character, who is one of the most important spies in the resistance, is amazing with a gun and stands up to brutal torture, made me want a Kim Jee-woon film with a female protagonist. Is that a possibility? 

Kim Jee-woon: In response to your question, one of my favorite scenes from "The Age of Shadows" is the scene where Han Ji-min's character, at the Gyeongsan train station, is shooting towards the Japanese policemen. There is a word in Korean called "cheo yeon" {처연}, which I will translate into "an exquisite sadness", or "a cold, chilling sadness". I felt that. And I felt this amazing grace in the action scene.  

I'm going to veer to the side and talk about a film by John Cassavetes called Gloria, where Gena Rowlands starts shooting toward the Mafia. In that scene, I felt there was the same kind of explosiveness and sadness that was depicted - if I'm bold enough to say - in the scene in "The Age of Shadows". I feel that is one of my favorite scenes of mine. For me, I feel that scene was not only one of the most powerful in the movie, but also one of the most solitary and lonely scenes.

And looking back on my career, I do feel that I have done quite enough of male-centered films, so I do think it's time to start looking into possibilities of films with stronger and more main female protagonists.

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LMD: Song Kang-ho's character, Lee Jeong-chool, is a Korean who doesn't think things are going to change under Japanese rule: There will be no Korean independence; this is the way it's going to be. We're seeing a lot of films about the crimes of Japan against Korea, but this is the first time I've seen a character who was as resigned and pragmatic as that. Was that an important part of that character's presentation?

Kim Jee-woon: I feel like you very well pointed out about Song Kang-ho's character. I would think it was one of the first, if not the first, to ever be depicted in Korean cinema, because most of these films deal with either the resistance, or the evil nature of the Japanese rule. So, having this character, Lee Jeong-chool, a person who is actually in the middle of the two sides, and who is a person who is constantly wavering; I feel like that actually speaks to the identity of this film, and also is the distinguishing factor of this film.

The character, Lee Jeong-chool, because he is in the middle of these two sides; he is constantly wavering and in this gray area of good and evil, so I felt like having that character as the main protagonist was an effective way to depict the contradiction of that era and that time in history. And that also goes back into the theme of this film, as well.

LMD:  After speaking with Ms. Han Ji-min, she said very complimentary things about your direction, so can you say a few words about her performance and what she brought to the character of Yeon Gye-soon that might not have been in your script?

Kim Jee-woon:  She's just a marionette! {Laughs} 

Han Ji-min:  I had a lot of ideas on set, but they all got rejected. {Laughs}

Kim Jee-woon: I am a person who gets a lot of ideas on set, so there are a lot of things that were being added onto her character as we were filming. Because this character was based on a real life person in history, in real life, actually her role wasn't huge; she was one of the main transportation means to get the goods to Seoul. But I feel like in the film, she acts as a very important emotional turning point for Song Kang-ho's character, Lee Jeong-chool, and Gong Yoo's character, Kim Woo-jin, because they really feel for her, and that causes an emotional turning point for them. And also she is depicted as a lot more proactive than in real life, so I feel like there were a lot of things were added on while on set.

LMD: What sort of research did you do into the lives of those in the Korean resistance?

Kim Jee-woon: When I first received the screenplay, I first relied on a book that actually dealt with the real life event that it was based on, and also I researched about the resistance group which was called Eui Yeol Dan {의열단}. There were many resistance groups in Korea at that time, like the one that we are dealing with, so I researched about those.

LMD: Please talk about some of the points of acting or research references that you gave your actors regarding their performance?

Kim Jee-woon: {Regarding Han Ji-min's response that Director Kim had asked her to study "small acting" in films like A Most Violent Year and Margin Call} I want to elaborate a little more on the "small acting", the reason I recommended those movies to Ms. Han Ji-min was because the premise is … Let's say there was a spy among us, and if you are going to communicate or if you are going to try and figure out who the spy is, everything - the way you communicate - has to be very meticulous; your gaze, the way you look at someone. How will you communicate in a very unassuming, subtle way? So that was where I was going for references. For the film, Margin Call, you can see these people in the face of this really traumatic event; they are constantly subduing or repressing their feelings and going about planning their lives in a very cold-mannered way.

Also, one of the other reasons I asked for "small acting", is because I feel there is a tendency for Korean actors to over-emote sometimes, and veer a bit toward sentimentality. So, I also wanted to try and step back a bit from that.

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LMD:  Much has been made of "The Age of Shadows" being Warner Brothers' first foray into Korean cinema. What exactly did that mean to this film? Was there a difference with their involvement as opposed to making any other movie? 

Kim Jee-woon: There wasn't really much difference in the production process. I think it was a highly effective process. This may sound a little bit like I'm tooting my own horn, but because in the past I had achieved somewhat moderate box office success, as well as good reviews, coming into this production, I had a pretty calm attitude. I do feel, though, because this film, funded by Hollywood, has been a success, that it will inject a sense of healthy tension into the Korean cinema market. Especially for me as a director, the fact that this film has been a success means that directors have another route or avenue to go to to express their creativity. 

There are concerns from the Korean market about splitting profits between Korea and Hollywood, but I feel that if Warner Bros. and Fox keep on setting these good precedents in Korean film, that this trend will continue.

LMD: After almost 20 years of working together, what, if anything, surprises you about Song Kang-ho's performance, or what did he add to the character of Lee Jeong-chool that wasn't in the script?

Kim Jee-woon: I feel like it's very, very difficult for an actor or actress to maintain his or her position as a top talent for more than 20 years and Song Kang-ho is a living example of that sort of person. I do think it's remarkable, because every single time Song Kang-ho comes out with a new film, critics say that 'This is the film. This is his film' - and it happens every single time, so I think that is pretty remarkable.

I would say in terms of specific scenes, there is a scene where Song Kang-ho's character and Gong Yoo's character meet for the first time in the antique shop, and they are playing this psychological game, and they're trying to hide their true intentions, but the moment that I was most surprised by was when Song Kang-ho's character reveals that he is a Japanese policeman. So in that particular moment, when he is revealing his identity, a lot of us think that because the tensions are so high, a lot of actors tend to go at it with a certain nervousness. However, when you look at that scene, he really counterintuitively sort of lets go of his breath and his gaze relaxes and he really just relaxes into that moment of revealing himself. So I really feel that that's a sign of high calibre acting, because it was surprising to me that I could see that sort of acting in a Korean actor, as well as in my film.

So in the Sam Peckinpah film, Cross of Iron - I last saw the film a long time ago, so I'm a little blurry with the details - but there's a scene where James Coburn is aiming a gun at someone, and all of a sudden he releases his breath and relaxes into his breath and then shoots. At the time, I only really considered James Coburn as an action hero or action star, but when I saw him acting that way; delivering a moment of tension in such a counterintuitive way, I was very surprised and I felt that different kind of acting was what made him very, very special.

I will elaborate by saying that Song Kang-ho is an actor who is capable of just setting the scene or just changing the atmosphere of a particular scene just by a small glance or certain look. I feel that that represents his depth and his spectrum as a versatile actor.

LMD: Now that you've mentioned James Coburn, our mutual friend Mr. Lee Byung-hun, just played a role originated by Mr. Coburn in The Magnificent Seven. When I interviewed him in July, I asked him when you two would work together again and he gave away nothing his cameo appearance about this film, but he said he hoped your time apart from each other would make a great collaboration possible in the future. Are there plans for such a larger collaboration? 

Kim Jee-woon: Well, no, we don't have any specific plans to work on a particular project, yet. My next project is a live-action movie of Jin-Roh, which I think we will be working on with Kang Dong-won. Which is not yet confirmed, but he's pretty much in there. But I will say working with Song Kang-ho or Lee Byung-hun; that is something I would not hesitate to do once the opportunity presents itself.

LMD: You are so closely associated with action pieces and thrillers. However, in the past couple of years, you made a short film called One Perfect Day, which was a rom-com, and a science fiction short called The Heavenly Creature from The Doomsday Book anthology. So now having made a rom-com, spy movies, action, thrillers, a western and a sci-fi film, is there a genre you haven't yet tried, or would like to explore further?  

Kim Jee-woon: So, I think with the film, Jin-Roh, that I will be working on in the future, with that I will be touching upon the genre of sci-fi noir, or sci-fi/thriller. I feel like a genre that I would like to work with if possible in Korea, but if not, that I would still like to work on in the US, would be an antihero film. People keep telling me to work on a romantic drama film, so I might work on that. And then I would also like to work on a film that's based on real-life events.

LMD: "The Age of Shadows" is based on real-life events, isn't it?

Kim Jee-woon: Well, yeah, that is true, but we did sort of work with the characters and tweak a little bit of the circumstances, but yeah, you're right.

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LMD: You also made another short called "The X", which I understand was in part to work with a new technology, ScreenX, which is similar to IMAX. How closely do you watch technological trends and have you considered doing something in 3D? 

Kim Jee-woon: To answer your question about 3D filmmaking, I don't really have any intention of making a 3D film for the sake of making a 3D film. I mean, if 3D is the best way to convey a certain theme or certain aesthetic that I want to convey, and if that is the most effective way, I will consider it, but I don't really have any intention just for the sake of it.

I will say with "The X", that was a new projection technique, and so I felt that it was going to open new horizons in terms of filmmaking. So, rather than that being something I that was focusing on much in terms of the story, I was focusing more on the experimental aspect of it. So I would like to think of that more of as a technical experimentation film. But I will say that if I feel like something is meaningful, and I feel like that particular technique contributes to a certain way of filmmaking, I will consider using new technology.

LMD: You've spoken about your experience making The Last Stand in Hollywood. Is there anything from your time in the States would like to see in South Korean filmmaking?

Kim Jee-woon: I wouldn't say there is something particular that I would want to adopt, because Korea has already started to adopt the Hollywood production system, itself. I feel like in that sort of system that we've adopted, we are sort of making it work within Korean culture and Korean sentiment, so there is nothing particular that I would like to try to add on. It is quite effective, I feel.

I will say one thing that the US system is very, very strict and very good about, is being very meticulous about accounting. For example, residuals: Once something goes out, it's very clear-cut; you get this much when it goes on the networks - they stick with principles on that one.

LMD: Do they not do that in Korea?

Kim Jee-woon: It's a little blurry, I feel. Rather than focusing on the profits I'm making through the residuals; that's not really what's on my mind. What's on my mind is that through those residuals, I'm constantly being reminded that my work is being shown in the US and across the world. So, for me, it gives me more of an emotional satisfaction, rather than the satisfaction of making money.

~ The Lady Miz Diva

Sept 20-21st, 2016

Special praise and thanks to the wonderful folks at Korean Movie Night/Korean Cultural Center NY and CJ Entertainment for making this interview possible, as well as our eternal blessings for the wonderful translation of Ms. Estelle Lee.

Original article on The Diva Review

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October 18, 2016

Asian film festival launches in London

By Shim Sun-ah

SEOUL, Oct. 18 (Yonhap) -- An inaugural Asian film festival will open in London this week to increase Europeans' awareness of mainly Korean films, the South Korean culture ministry said Tuesday.

The London East Asia Film Festival will screen 40 films from eight Asian countries, including South Korea, Japan and China at various theaters in the city.

Since this year's festival focus is on Korean films, more than half of the films invited were from South Korea.

They include the opening film, director Kim Jee-woon's double agent film "The Age of Shadows," Park Chan-wook's erotic thriller "The Handmaiden," and "Tunnel," a disaster flick by Kim Seong-hun. Among other Korean films on the list are Kang Woo-suk's "The Map Against the World" and "Sprits' Homecoming" by Cho Jung-rae, and "The World of Us" by Yoon Ga-eun.

AEN20161018006800315_01_i.jpg

In addition, the lineup also includes the latest works by Asian master directors such as "Beautiful 2016" co-directed by China's Jia Zhangke and "Creepy" by Kiyoshi Kurosawa of Japan.

After the screening of some of the films, there will be guest visit events involving 12 helmers, six actors and six producers. A retrospective for award-winning director Park Chan-wook was also prepared for fans of Korean films.

"Three" by Hong Kong director Johnnie To will close the 11-day festival on Oct. 30.

The film festival was organized by Jeon Hye-jung, former executive director of the London Korean Film Festival who currently leads the Korean Artists Development Agency, with help from the British cultural scene, including the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.

"Britain, the biggest film market in Europe, is like an advance base for the world film market," said Jeon, director of the London East Asia Film Festival who has made various efforts to increase the British people's awareness of Korean films over the past 10 years. "Korean films are now taking a central role in the Asian film market but now is the time to ponder over accompanied growth of Korean and other Asian films considering the fast growth of Chinese capital," she said of the reason for launching the Asian film fest.

The official poster of "The Age of Shadows" by director Kim Jee-woon. (Yonhap)

The official poster of "The Age of Shadows" by director Kim Jee-woon. (Yonhap)

sshim@yna.co.kr

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Published on September 21, 2016 by London East Asia Film Festival

LEAFF 2016 Supporting Messages #1

Supporting messages from Director Park Chan-wook, Actor Jung Woo-sung, Actor Lee Byung-hun, Actor Song Joong-ki, Director Ryoo Seung-wan, Actor Hwang Jung Min, Actor Lee Gyeung-young, Actress Kim Su-an for the 1st London East Asia Film Festival! 

October 18, 2016

Asian film festival launches in London

By Shim Sun-ah

SEOUL, Oct. 18 (Yonhap) -- An inaugural Asian film festival will open in London this week to increase Europeans' awareness of mainly Korean films, the South Korean culture ministry said Tuesday.

The London East Asia Film Festival will screen 40 films from eight Asian countries, including South Korea, Japan and China at various theaters in the city.

Since this year's festival focus is on Korean films, more than half of the films invited were from South Korea.

They include the opening film, director Kim Jee-woon's double agent film "The Age of Shadows," Park Chan-wook's erotic thriller "The Handmaiden," and "Tunnel," a disaster flick by Kim Seong-hun. Among other Korean films on the list are Kang Woo-suk's "The Map Against the World" and "Sprits' Homecoming" by Cho Jung-rae, and "The World of Us" by Yoon Ga-eun.

 

Spoiler

 

In addition, the lineup also includes the latest works by Asian master directors such as "Beautiful 2016" co-directed by China's Jia Zhangke and "Creepy" by Kiyoshi Kurosawa of Japan.

After the screening of some of the films, there will be guest visit events involving 12 helmers, six actors and six producers. A retrospective for award-winning director Park Chan-wook was also prepared for fans of Korean films.

"Three" by Hong Kong director Johnnie To will close the 11-day festival on Oct. 30.

The film festival was organized by Jeon Hye-jung, former executive director of the London Korean Film Festival who currently leads the Korean Artists Development Agency, with help from the British cultural scene, including the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.

"Britain, the biggest film market in Europe, is like an advance base for the world film market," said Jeon, director of the London East Asia Film Festival who has made various efforts to increase the British people's awareness of Korean films over the past 10 years. "Korean films are now taking a central role in the Asian film market but now is the time to ponder over accompanied growth of Korean and other Asian films considering the fast growth of Chinese capital," she said of the reason for launching the Asian film fest.

sshim@yna.co.kr

 

 

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October 21, 2016

Asian World Film Festival to feature five Korean films in L.A.

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 21 (Yonhap) -- The second annual Asian World Film Festival (AWFF) in Los Angeles will showcase five recent South Korean films in a special event, organizers said on Thursday.

Hosted by CJ Entertainment and sponsored by the Korean Cultural Center LA, "Korean Film Days" will be held over one week starting Tuesday (U.S. time), they said.

The event is part of AWFF, which runs from Monday to Nov. 1 at Arclight Theater in Culver City, the Los Angeles location of South Korean multi-screen theater chain CGV.

This image from the "Asian World Film Festival" official website shows a scene from "Operation Chromite," which will be the closing night film on Nov. 1 at the Arclight Theater in Culver City. (Yonhap)

This image from the "Asian World Film Festival" official website shows a scene from "Operation Chromite," which will be the closing night film on Nov. 1 at the Arclight Theater in Culver City. (Yonhap)

The five films are "The Age of Shadows," "Asura," "The Map Against the World," "The World of Us" and "Operation Chromite." "The Age of Shadows" has been submitted as a potential contender for best foreign language film in the Academy Awards and is a nominee for the grand prize at AWFF. "The Map Against the World" and "The World of Us" are nominated for the AWFF Lighthouse Humanitarian Award. "Operation Chromite" is to be the closing night film.

Director Kim Jee-woon of "The Age of Shadows" will attend a special screening for the members of the Academy and Hollywood Foreign Press Association over two days starting next Saturday at the Arclight Theater. Lee Jae-han, the director of "Operation Chromite," is to attend the closing ceremony on Nov. 1.

The annual festival, featuring a total of 20 Asian films this year, launched in 2015 as a chance to showcase Asian films to the public, media, Hollywood industry, and even the Academy, and also to promote Asian filmmakers and directors.

"Considering the outstanding productions and constant growth in overseas expansion, we have decided to coordinate the new program 'Korean Film Days' to solely focus on the films of South Korea," said George Chamchoum, the director of the festival.

Kim Jee-woon, director of potential Oscar contender "The Age of Shadows," stands in front of a poster of his film. (Yonhap)

Kim Jee-woon, director of potential Oscar contender "The Age of Shadows," stands in front of a poster of his film. (Yonhap)

jbokyung1@yna.co.kr

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October 24, 2016

Asian World Film Festival to feature 5 Korean films

The second annual Asian World Film Festival is screening five films from Korea.

The Los Angeles-based event kicked off Monday with the screening of British filmmaker Asif Kapadia’s “Ali and Nino,” which takes place in Azerbaijan during World War I.

Five recent Korean films -- “The Age of Shadows,” “Asura,” “The Map Against the World,” “The World of Us” and “Operation Chromite” -- will be featured throughout the week as part of the newly designed Korean Film Days program in association with CJ Entertainment. 

This year’s event will conclude with a special presentation of Korean War drama “Operation Chromite” on Nov. 1. Additionally, legendary Korean producer Park Keon-seop will be honored with the Cinematic Legacy Achievement Award on the closing night.

Founded last year, the Asian World Film Festival aims to introduce Asian cinema to Los Angeles, a city often referred to as the capital of the film industry. 

By Kim Yu-young (ivykim@heraldcorp.com)

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November 6, 2016

[USA] 14th Annual New York Korean Film Festival begins November 11

Source: Hancinema.net

The Korea Society's New York Korean Film Festival returns to New York City's Museum of the Moving Image on November 11 to 13 for its yearly celebration of the best in Korean cinema. This 14th edition of the Festival focuses on the family, as mothers, fathers, children, and grandparents struggle to survive the zombie apocalypse, law school exams, ambitious aristocrats, and secret societies. South Korea's 2016 Oscar submission, "The Age of Shadows", and American premieres make for a not-to-be-missed showcase of one of the world's most dynamic national cinemas.

ALL SCREENINGS WILL BE HELD AT THE MUSEUM OF THE MOVING IMAGE
The Museum is located at 36-01 35 Ave, Astoria, Queens, NY, 11106. 

NYKFF tickets are $12 ($7 for TKS members, MOMI Film Lover and Kids Premium members / free for Silver Screen members and above). Advance tickets will be available online at movingimage.us.

All films are in Korean with English subtitles.

Spoiler

 

OPENING NIGHT
"Train to Busan"

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 11, 7:00 P.M.
Dir. Yeon Sang-ho. 2016, 118 mins. With Gong Yoo, Kim Soo-an, Jeong Yu-mi, Ma Dong-seok.
What's scarier than snakes on a plane? Zombies on a train! Korea's biggest box office hit of 2016 finds fund manager Seo-woo (Gong Yoo) riding the rails with his daughter (Kim Soo-an). But when the undead join the commute, the passengers must fight to make it to the end of the line. Selected for the Cannes Film Festival, Melbourne International Film Festival, Fantasia International Film Festival, and the Stockholm International Film Festival.

"Zombie thriller Train to Busan comes awfully close to greatness"-Simon Abrams, The Village Voice

"As an allegory of class rebellion and moral polarization, it proves just as biting as Bong Joon-ho's sci-fi dystopia Snowpiercer, while delivering even more unpretentious fun". - Maggie Lee, Variety

"The Map Against the World"
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 12, 2:00 P.M.
Dir. Kang Woo-seok. 2016, 129 mins. With Cha Seung-won, Yoo Joon-sang, Kim In-kwon, Nam Ji-hyeon. Devoted cartographer Kim Jeong-ho (Cha Seung-won) travels across the land to make the first accurate map of Korea. However, a single-minded pursuit of truth estranges him from his family and ignites political intrigue between the King's regent (Yoo Joon-sang) and the rival house of the Andong Kims. Prolific and crowd-pleasing director Kang Woo-seok ("Public Enemy", "Fist of Legend") captures the beauty of Korea with this retelling of a well-known episode in Korean history.

"Phantom Detective"
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 12, 4:30 P.M.
Dir. Jo Sung-hee. 2016, 125 mins. With Lee Je-hoon, Ko Ah-ra, Kim Seong-gyoon. Private detective Hong Gil-dong (Lee Je-hoon) seeks his mother's killer (played by Park Geun-hyeong), but finds the murderer's granddaughters instead. Together, they set off to find the missing man, and uncover an even bigger secret. Hong Gil-dong, Korea's traditional Robin Hood character, is reborn in this film as a modern anti-hero. Selected for the Fantasia International Film Festival.

"A dazzling, spooky, sometimes comic revenge tale". - Tom Keogh, The Seattle Times

"Director Jo Sung-hee has crafted a winning thriller with a lot of heart here" - David Noh, Film Journal International

"SORI: Voice from the Heart"
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 12, 7:00 P.M.
New York Premiere
Dir. Lee Ho-jae-I. 2016, 117 mins. With Lee Sung-min, Lee Hee-joon, Lee Honey. After achieving sentience, an advanced spy satellite goes AWOL and returns to Earth full of remorse for its role in a military strike. Distraught father Hae-gwan (Lee Sung-min) finds the machine, whose memory-filled with years of recorded phone conversations-may contain clues to the whereabouts of his missing daughter. Together, father and robot-now named "Sori"-must stay a step ahead of intelligence agent Shin (Lee Hee-joon) and aerospace engineer Ji Yun (Lee Honey) to learn the truth. Winner of the 2016 Audience Choice Award at the Udine Far East Film Festival. Selected for The Asian Pop-Up Cinema Festival and Fantasia International Film Festival.

"A creative and oddball meditation on grief and acceptance". - Elizabeth Kerr, The Hollywood Reporter 

"A rewarding, heartwarming film". - Debra Davy, The Splash Magazines

"Familyhood"
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 13, 2:00 P.M.
New York Premiere
Dir. Kim Tae-gon. 2016, 119 mins. With Kim Hye-soo, Ma Dong-seok. Spoiled and aging actress Joo-yeon (Kim Hye-soo) decides to secretly adopt a pregnant teen's baby to make up for declining prospects in both her career and love life. But when news of her fake "pregnancy" pushes her back into the public eye, will she betray those who care about her for a few more moments in the limelight?

"The Queen of Crime"
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 13, 4:30 P.M.
North American Premiere
Dir. Lee Yo-sup. 2016, 130 mins. With Park Ji-yeong, Jo Bok-rae, Kim Dae-hyeon. When law student Ik-soo (Kim Dae-hyeon)-who is about to sit for Korea's notorious bar examination-calls home to ask his mother (Park Ji-yeong) to pay off a $1,000 water bill, she smells a big rat. Mom, who immediately travels to Seoul to "help out", vows to get to the bottom of the criminally suspicious water bill. But who among the eccentric law-student residents of her son's apartment complex is really the criminal?

 

"The Age of Shadows"
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 13, 7:00 P.M.
Dir. Kim Jee-woon. 2016, 140 mins. With Song Kang-ho, Gong Yoo, Han Ji-min. Lee Jung-chool (Song Kang-ho), a Korean police officer working for the Japanese colonial government, is out to stop a plot by a Korean independence group-or is he? Kim Jee-woon returns to Korean cinema after directing Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Last Stand with this stylish spy thriller. South Korea's 2016 Academy Award entry also stars Gong Yoo as the leader of the resistance and superstar Lee Byung-hun in a cameo role.

"Unfolding in classic action style, this rousing gem has everything one wants for an evening's entertainment" - Jay Weissberg, Variety

"This director is really looking to stage the action sequence". - Ken Jaworowski, The New York Times

More information : koreanfilmfestival.org

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November 14, 2016

THE WAILING Leads 37th Blue Dragon Nominations
TRAIN TO BUSAN Close Behind with 10 Nods

by Pierce Conran / KoBiz
 
The Blue Dragon Awards, the most prestigious awards body of the Korean film industry, has announced the nominations for its 37th edition, which will take place at the end of the month. Leading this year’s crop is NA Hong-jin’s THE WAILING with 11 nominations, while YEON Sang-ho’s TRAIN TO BUSAN isn’t far behind with 10 nods in 9 categories. 

Also heavily nominated were PARK Chan-wook’s The Handmaiden (8), KIM Jee-woon’s The Age of Shadows (7), WOO Min-ho’s Inside Men (6), KIM Seong-hun’s Tunnel (6), JANG Jae-hyun’s The Priests (5), KIM Sung-soo’s Asura : The City of Madness (5) and LEE Joon-ik’s DONGJU; The Portrait of A Poet (4).

In what has been a strong year for commercial Korean films, this year’s Best Film category features The Age of Shadows, TRAIN TO BUSAN, THE WAILING, DONGJU; The Portrait of A Poet, Inside Men and The Handmaiden. Minus TRAIN TO BUSAN, the same films were nominated for the Best Director prize. YEON Sang-ho was nominated for the Best New Director Prize, alongside KIM Tae-gon (Familyhood), LEE Il-hyung (A Violent Prosecutor), JANG Jae-hyun (The Priests) and YOON Ga-eun (The World of Us).

In the Best Actress category, the nominees are SON Ye-jin (The Last Princess), HAN Ye-ri (Worst Woman), KIM Min-hee (The Handmaiden), KIM Hye-soo (Familyhood) and YOUN Yuh-jung (The Bacchus Lady), while the Best Actor contenders are JUNG Woo-sung (Asura : The City of Madness), LEE Byung-hun (Inside Men), SONG Kang-ho (The Age of Shadows), KWAK Do-won (THE WAILING) and HA Jung-woo (Tunnel).

The 37th Blue Dragon Awards will take place on November 25th

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November 30, 2016

THE AGE OF SHADOWS to Open Marrakech Film Festival
KIM Jee-woon’s THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE WEIRD also on Deck in Morocco

by Pierce Conran / KoBiz

lWRzZNvFGnRujeixZLKb.png

KIM Jee-woon’s hit Colonial Era action-thriller The Age of Shadows will serve as the opening film of the 16th edition of the Marrakech International Film Festival, which kicks off on December 2nd. The film, which debuted at the Venice International Film Festival in August, drew 7.5 million viewers (USD 52.38 million) to theaters during the Chuseok holiday in Korea this year, becoming the acclaimed genre maestro’s most successful film to date.

SONG Kang-ho leads the cast as a Korean man working as an officer for the Japanese police during the occupation period in the early 20th century, whose allegiances are put to the test when he is tasked with taking down a group of resistance fighters and enters into a tense game of cat and mouse with one of their charismatic members, played by GONG Yoo.

The Age of Shadows has been very visible on the fall festival circuit this year, playing in Toronto, Busan, Mar del Plata, Sitges and Hawaii, as well as serving as the opening film of the London East Asian Film Festival. In addition, the film picked up the Best Action Film prize from Fantastic Fest in Austin and was awarded the Best Film accolade from the Korean Association of Film Critics Awards.

KIM’s 2008 Manchuria-set action film The Good, The Bad, And The Weird, once again featuring SONG, is also playing in Marrakech. Recent Korean films that have featured prominently at the festival include 2013’s HAN Gong-ju, which picked up the Golden Star which is Grand Prize, and last year’s Steel Flower, which came away with a Special Jury Prize.

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December 7, 2016

Films draw more than 200 million viewers in S. Korea

SEOUL, Dec. 7 (Yonhap) -- South Korean and foreign films drew an accumulated audience of more than 200 million viewers this year, data showed Wednesday.

It marked the fourth straight year that films have surpassed 200 million views in a country of 51 million people, according to data compiled by the state-run Korean Film Council.

Among them, South Korean films drew more than 100 million viewers this year.

The biggest box office hit is "Train to Busan," the first homegrown zombie blockbuster. The movie has surpassed 11.56 million viewers.

"A Violent Prosecutor", a South Korean movie, came next with 9.71 million viewers and "Captain America: Civil War" with 8.68 million viewers. Coming in fourth was South Korea's espionage film "The Age of Shadows" with 7.5 million viewers.

entropy@yna.co.kr

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December 18, 2016

Korean movies tops for action

By Lee Han-soo The Korea Times

The Playlist, a U.S. online independent filmmaking review, on Friday named three Korean films as having the best action sequences of 2016.

An article titled "The 25 Best Action Sequences of 2016,"included scenes from "The Age of Shadows," which was ranked fourth, "The Wailing," sixth, and "Train to Busan," 15th.

The scenes were:

ageofshadow650.jpg  
A scene from "The Age of Shadows" / Courtesy of Twitter

"The Age of Shadows"

Directed by Kim Jee-won, the review selected an action-packed train scene.

Comparing the scene to Russian nesting dolls, the reviewer wrote that the whole scene had threads of six plots, including a fight and chase scene that left a strong impression.

Spoiler

wailing650.jpg

 
A scene from "The Wailing" / Korea Times file

"The Wailing"

Directed by Na Hong-jin, the review selected an exorcism scene.

Although the scene may not be packed with intense action scenes, the review gave high points to the alternating exorcism rituals between one by a Korean shaman (Hwang Jung-min) in an attempt to exorcise a little girl and the other by a Japanese man (Jun Kunimura) to resurrect the dead.

Spoiler

traintobusan650.jpg

 
A scene from "Train to Busan" / Korea Times file

"Train to Busan"

Directed by Yeon Sang-ho, the review selected a Daejeon Station scene.

The review noted that the nail-biting scene was similar to a zombie-packed scene in the U.S. zombie movie "World War Z," but more effective. 

corea022@ktimes.com

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December 25, 2016

Korean cinema of 2016: Women, politics, horror

Women, female relationships and political intrigue were the hallmarks of Korean cinema this year. A number of films that delved into the world of the occult, driven by unfathomable forces of evil, also stood out in a year that saw the return of some of Korea’s most renowned directors, including Park Chan-wook and Na Hong-jin, who each added significant pieces to their idiosyncratic oeuvre. 

Spotlight on women 

Arguably the most globally lauded Korean film of the year, Park Chan-wook’s “The Handmaiden” took on the subject of a lesbian thriller romance, featuring two female lovers against a world of demented male figures. Provocative scenes were portrayed against a flat, fairy tale-like backdrop.

Spoiler

image

Kim Tae-ri (left) and Kim Min-hee star in “The Handmaiden.” (CJ Entertainment)

“Handmaiden” has nabbed various international accolades since its screening at the Cannes International Film Festival in May. Vogue.com named it among the “10 Most Fashionable Movies of 2016” for its lavish mise-en-scene, while the Los Angeles Film Critics Awards gave it a best production design award. 

The New York Times listed Kim Tae-ri, who stars as Hideko’s earthy, unabashed handmaiden Sook-hee, in a September article titled “Four Actresses Everyone will be Talking About this Fall.” 

Female romance was also given a stage in Lee Hyun-ju’s indie film “Our Love Story,” a subtle, realistic tale of an encounter between an art student and a stranger. 

Antagonistic relationships between women were explored in films like Kim Tae-yong’s “Misbehavior,” which draws on the jealousy and pride between two female teachers fighting for the affections of a male student. Both Kim Ha-neul and Yoo In-young are excellently cast in their roles: One is reticent and downtrodden, while the other is vivacious, young and self-absorbed.

Director Lee Eon-hee’s “Missing,” meanwhile, saw the unlikely reconciliation between two women -- a mother and the nanny who kidnapped her daughter, played by Uhm Ji-won and Gong Hyo-jin. 

In a mature tale of womanhood, “Bacchus Lady” explored the world of Korea’s elderly prostitutes and the universal solitude of growing old. 

Veteran actress Youn Yuh-jung portrayed the feisty protagonist, who, at 65, turns tricks for a living. Directed by E J-yong, the film offers an emotional reflection on life and death as Korea advances into an aging society. It was screened at the 66th Berlin International Film Festival. 

Scandalous politics

This year also saw a number of films portraying disasters and authorities’ damnable responses. 

Director Park Jung-woo’s “Pandora,” set to be streamed globally on Netflix, depicted a nuclear power plant meltdown and the lack of an emergency response system, resulting in the preventable deaths of nuclear power plant workers and residents of surrounding areas. 

Spoiler

image

Hwang Jung-min (left) and Jung Woo-sung star in “Asura: City of Madness.” (CJ Entertainment) 

Kim Seong-hun’s “Tunnel” saw actor Ha Jung-woo trapped inside a collapsed tunnel for weeks on end, the rescue squad wringing their hands at the ineffectual orders from those higher up in the government. 

Kim Sung-su’s “Asura: The City of Madness” depicted a bloodstained web of criminals and politicians. 

The latest political thriller “Master,” helmed by Jo Eui-seok, stars actor Lee Byung-hun as a con artist who amasses astronomical wealth and bribes government officials to exert power in state affairs. The flick which opened last week, rang an eerily familiar bell in Korea, currently swept up by an influence-peddling political scandal surrounding President Park Geun-hye. 

Ride into the occult

Two of this year’s most striking films were in the horror genre, ruminating on morality and human nature.

Yeon Sang-ho’s apocalyptic zombie thriller “Train to Busan” showed everyday characters -- from students to office workers -- fighting for their lives, trapped on a torpedoing train swarming with flesh-hungry zombies. It premiered at the Cannes International Film Festival’s Midnight Screenings section and has been picked up for a US remake by Gaumont, a French film studio. 

Spoiler

image

Hwang Jung-min stars in “The Wailing (Goksung).” (20th Century Fox Korea)

Na Hong-jin’s occult thriller “The Wailing (Goksung),” which also screened at Cannes’ Out of Competition section, took viewers on a terrifying journey toward unreasoning evil. Fourteen-year-old actress Kim Hwan-hee delivered a chilling performance as a possessed child. 

A period in time 

As usual, a number of period pieces also sought to reinterpret historical events from the Japanese occupation era. 

Kim Jee-woon’s “The Age of Shadows” transformed the story of Korean independence fighters smuggling in bombs from Shanghai to Korea into a stylish noir.

image
Gong Yoo stars in “The Age of Shadows.” (Warner Bros. Korea)

In “The Last Princess,” director Hur Jin-ho focused on the early stages of the Japanese occupation of Korea through the eyes of Joseon princess Deok-hye, weaving the historical into a personal tale. 

“The Portrait of a Poet” by Lee Joon-ik offered a moving portrait of poet Yun Dong-ju, in colonial Korea where the Korean language was banned. 

By Rumy Doo (doo@heraldcorp.com) 

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