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[Movie 2015] Memories of The Sword 협녀 : 칼의 기억


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August 27, 2015

Review: Korean Warriors Seek Vengeance in ‘Memories of the Sword’

By ANDY WEBSTER New York Times

In Park Heung-sik’s historical martial-arts spectacle “Memories of the Sword,” the visuals dazzle and the emotional temperature boils. It is the Goreyo era in Korean history, and two warriors, the blind swordswoman Wol-so (Jeon Do-yeon) and the royal chancellor, Yu-baek (Lee Byung-hun), are locked in enmity over the long-ago death of Wol-so’s sweetheart, who was fatally betrayed by Yu-baek. Complicating matters is Hong-yi (Kim Go-eun), a young woman raised by Wol-so who believes that Yu-baek is responsible for the deaths of her parents. A skilled fighter, she advances toward vengeance.


Though rich in period detail, the movie grows tiresome with solemn, protracted soap-operatic encounters laden with glowering stares and tearful outbursts. (Conspicuously absent is any hint of humor.) And then there are the all-too-familiar genre trappings: lavish palace interiors, pastoral tableaus, a wizened master imparting wisdom and battle maneuvers, an assassin mowing down palace guards en route to a climactic confrontation, blades clashing in a snowy courtyard.

It would all be eye-roll-inducing were it not for Ms. Jeon’s striking poise and the luminous presence of Ms. Kim, an eager performer who imbues the film with energy. So bright is her light that when Hong-yi receives a near-fatal sword thrust, it’s alarming. She is one character you do not want to see departing from this movie. It gives nothing away to say that she doesn’t.

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August 28, 2015

Death or Glory: Memories of the Sword movie review

by beyondasiaphilia

A new South Korean action movie is usually a cause for celebration in my house and after the trifecta of richard simmons-kicking historicals last year (The Pirates; Kundo: Age of the Rampant, and The Admiral: Roaring Currents) I was looking forward to seeing Memories of the Sword, which opens this weekend in North America. As a big Lee Byung-hun fangirl, I mean, scholar, I’m also happy to see one of my favorite actors in a genuine starring role after suffering through his supporting roles in a string of mediocre Hollywood movies (GI Joe 1 & 2; Red 2, and Terminator: Genysis). And since LBH’s last historical film, Masquerade, was outstanding, I had high hopes for this new one. Alas, Memories of the Sword is no Masquerade, and doesn’t stand up to the big three historicals from last year either.

I should’ve known that things were amiss when Memories took forever to be released. Although it began production in 2013 and was completed in 2014, the film has languished for many months due to a tawdry blackmailing scandal involving LBH (who’s married) and a couple of younger women that concluded earlier this year with (suspended) prison sentences for the two women.

So despite a big-name cast that also includes Jeon Do-yeon (The Housemaid) and Lee Junho from boy band 2PM, the bloom is off the rose as audience buzz for this one has died down to a murmur. But the film has other flaws that may make this one more of a miss than a hit.

Right off the bat the film throws down the wire-fu gauntlet as young swordswoman Hong-Yi (Kim Go-eun) leaps many feet over a tall sunflower, then bounds high in the air across a grassy field. Following a swordfighting competition that she enters in drag, Hong-Yi encounters Yu-Baek (LBH) who is intrigued by her martial skills. The film then follows a convoluted narrative of betrayal, ambition, revenge, and concealed identity involving Hong-Yi, Yu-Baek, and Hong-Yi’s foster mother Sul Rang (Jeon Do-Yeon).

Although the movie possesses the usual sheen and polish of South Korean commercial movies, the film is burdened by a vastly overcomplicated plot and a dour overall demeanor. Everyone has something to hide and the angst is laid on pretty thick as characters weep regretfully while slashing and stabbing one another. The interlocking interpersonal relationships recall the intricacies of Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon minus Lee’s poeticism and his strong sense of narrative rhythm, and the film in some ways resembles CTHD in its costuming, its scenes of fights in bamboo forests, and its complicated court intrigue.

Yet Memories is missing Ang Lee’s masterful touch, as the film’s characters repeatedly explain their motivations and relationships to one another through long, anguished speeches or angry outbursts. Not much is left to subtlety or suggestion, yet the film still manages to bog down in confusing plot details. It’s not helpful either that most of the characters have two names and identities, which is not a spoiler in any way.

Lee Byung-Hun as usual cuts a commanding figure as the ambitious Yoo-Baek, and Jeon Do-Yeon is her expressive and emotive self. The younger actors, Kim Go-eun and Lee Junho, are also fine, though Lee doesn’t have a lot to do. Kim is convincing as the young swordswoman driven to vengeance by forces outside of her control and it’s nice to have a female protagonist in a martial arts movie. But the film feels murky and overly serious, with a leaden sense of import that drags down the story. Some of the images are quite lovely, including a beautiful swordfighting scene in a field of pale, feathery grasses, but too often the movie falls back on clichés like the metallic ringing of a sword drawn from its sheath that’s repeated a few too many times. In addition, when their demise would be inconvenient to the plot several of the main characters also have the death-defying ability to survive seemingly fatal sword wounds.

It’s always fun to see the lavishness of a South Korean movie on the big screen but with Memories as well as last month’s Assassination, both films feel a bit overstuffed. In both cases the over-the-top aesthetic of South Korean commercial cinema works to each film’s detriment, smothering any sense of artistry or nuance under a blanket of glossy emptiness.

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August 29, 2015


By Rob Hunter   @FakeRobHunter    FILMSCHOOLREJECTS

The folks at Well Go USA have long been fans of South Korean cinema, and happily they’ve made a habit of opening new Korean films here in the United States so the rest of us can share in the joy. Two new releases have hit our shores, and while they’re completely different experiences they’re both period action films with strong female leads. Honestly, that should be enough to get you into a theater seat, but if not keep reading for more reasons.



Hong-yi (Kim Go-eun) has been training since childhood for something very special. Her parents were murdered when she was just a baby, and the blind woman who’s raised her has worked to prepare the girl for a mission of revenge. Somewhere out there are the two people responsible for making her an orphan, and when Hong-yi is ready she’ll use her finely honed fighting skills to end their lives.

But how will she know when she’s ready? When she can leap over the tallest sunflower in the field, obviously.

Running parallel to her efforts is the story (told via flashbacks) of her parents and the betrayal that led to their demise. Her father, Pung-chun, was part of a three-person resistance during the Goryeo era — “when tea, riots, and swords dominated” — alongside Duk-gi (Lee Byung-hun) and Sul-rang (Jeon Do-yeon). The latter two ultimately trade their loyalty to Pung-chun for the good graces of the reigning lord thereby setting in motion a tale of vengeance spawning nearly two decades.

Memories of the Sword applies Hong Kong’s wuxia style of martial artistry to tell its slice of pseudo Korean history, and it lets you know right off the bat (via that sunflower leap) just how committed it’s going to be to the use of wire-fu. Very. ‘Very’ is how committed it’s going to be. It’s not a deal-breaker though as the action is well-choreographed, the production design is visually exciting and the story is just compelling enough.

There are two big plot turns at play here, and while one is fairly obvious to guess from early on the other manages to land with impact. Stronger character work and more depth would have greatly improved both though as well as the film in general. There’s tragedy afoot, but we just don’t feel the weight of it all as strongly as we should.

Director Park Heung-sik somewhat makes up for the script’s shortcomings though with style and an eye for gorgeously-shot set-pieces. Fights are airy, fluid affairs utilizing slow motion and speed ramping in equal measure, and there’s a hint of Zhang Yimou’s Hero in the film’s use of color. The third act in particular presents an action sequence set against a snowy backdrop that shifts scale with immediate grace and beauty.

Kim’s young hero is physically capable and hits some successful emotional notes late in the film, but her bubbly display feels somewhat out of place early on. It’s a rough start for a character we should believe in sooner. The dramatic weight the film does attain comes courtesy of the more experienced Lee and Jeon who portray the shifting emotions of their duplicitous characters’ past and present with real humanity.

Memories of the Sword is an engaging tale that may not reach the level of epic but should appeal to fans of wuxia action and majestic visuals all the same.

Read more at http://filmschoolrejects.com/reviews/assassination-memories-of-the-sword.php#ahtDhyWYA4goSOmz.99

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August 31, 2015

'Memories of the Sword': Film Review

The Bottom Line
This lavish action spectacle features a trio of dazzling lead performances.

by Frank Scheck THR

A young woman seeks revenge for the murder of her parents in Park Heung-sik's South Korean martial arts period epic.

American action movies would do well to take a page from Park Heung-sik's Korean martial arts extravaganza that features not one but two female badass characters. Depicting a complicated tale of violent retribution set in the Goryeo era some thousand years ago, Memories of the Sword is a visually stunning period epic that should keep genre fans satisfied until the sequel to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon hits theaters.

Indeed, this period drama bears more than a few similarities to Ang Lee's epic (and the myriad films that influenced it and have followed it), from its strong female protagonists to its liberal use of wirework choreography that enables its performers to fly through the air. Its young heroine, the teenage Hong-yi (Kim Go-eun), is introduced in a stunning sequence in which she proves her fighting mettle to herself by leaping over an impossibly tall sunflower.

It turns out that Hong-yi is in training to avenge the murder of her parents, for which she blames Duk-Gi (Lee Byung-hun, a Korean star who's appeared in such American films as Red 2 and Terminator Genisys), the ruling dynasty's military leader. When she reveals her fighting prowess in a competition it enrages Sul-rang (Jeon Deo-yeon, Secret Sunshine), the blind woman who's raised her, leading to a disturbing revelation with further plot complications.

The intricate plotting is more than a little difficult to follow, and the frequent flashbacks of the characters' backstories slow down the pacing considerably. But the film looks gorgeous, and the frequent fight sequences, including a climactic solo siege on a castle by the daring Hong-yi, are superbly staged, even if the slow-motion is laid on far too thickly.

Lee makes for a compelling and emotionally complicated villain; the lead actresses are as impressive with their graceful athleticism as their multi-layered characterizations; and Lee Kyeong-yeong is memorable as the aged master swordsman who mentors Hong-yi and who, after casually snacking on a bug, advises it to "be a king in your next life." Packing a surprising emotional punch along with its dazzling martial arts spectacle, Memories of the Sword is a memorable addition to an oft-tired genre.

Production: Lotte Entertainment, TPS Company
Cast: Lee Byung-hun, Jeon Do-yeon, Kim Go-eun, Lee Jun-ho, Lee Kyeong-yeong
Director: Park Heung-sik
Screenwriters: Park Heung-sik, Choi Ah-reum
Director of photography: Kim Byung-seo
Production designer: Han Ah-rum
Editor: Oh Myoung-jun
Composer: Mowg
Not rated, 121 min.

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August 27, 2015

Memories of the Sword (2015) Review by Paul Bramhall


Full review at link above

Despite having a cast led by two heavyweights of Korean cinema, Memories of the Sword is the perfect example of a production which, if you don’t have the quality behind the camera, no amount of quality in front of it is going to hide the cracks.

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September 3, 2015

Film Review: ‘Memories of the Sword’

Not even A-list stars Jeon Do-yeon and Lee Byung-hun can save this plodding Korean martial-arts epic.

Maggie Lee
Chief Asia Film Critic Variety.com

An archetypal tale of love, betrayal and revenge among swordplayers of South Korea’s Goryeo dynasty (918-1392), “Memories of the Sword” is a visually arresting but vacuous, instantly forgettable period martial-arts romance. Helmer Park Heung-sik aspires to the vibrant color schemes and multiple twists of Zhang Yimou’s “Hero” and “House of Flying Daggers,” but his underdeveloped screenplay (co-penned with Choi A-reum) and overwrought narrative makes for plodding viewing, squandering the clout of its A-list stars Jeon Do-yeon (“Secret Sunshine”) and Lee Byung-hun (“I Saw the Devil”). The pic took a beating at the domestic B.O. but will have a good stab at overseas ancillary following its U.S. bow.

The Korean title “Hyubnyeo: Kal ui ki-eok,” which roughly translates as “Martial Arts Heroine: Memories of the Sword,” alludes to King Hu’s “A Touch of Zen” (“hyubnyeo” being the Korean Hanja pronunciation of “Xia Nu,” the Chinese title of Hu’s classic about a female swordswoman with a righteous vendetta). However, Park’s story is too much of a potboiler to achieve Hu’s philosophical depth, and the director’s style is more reminiscent of Lee Myung-se’s “Dualist” in its visual extravagance and incoherent, quasi-surreal narrative.

The yarn circles around three martial artists, each caught in his or her own anguished predicament. Innocent teenager Hong-yi (Kim Go-eun) has been raised by her blind adopted mother Seol-rang (Jeon) with the sole mission of avenging her parents’ deaths. Seol-rang once belonged to a band of warriors dedicated to overthrowing the corrupt monarchy. During one uprising, the rebels captured Jon-bak (Kim Tae-woo), the son of an evil magistrate (Moon Sung-geun) and stormed the city gates. However, they were double-crossed by Seol-rang’s lover, Deok-ki (Lee), who killed his sworn brother Poong-chun (Bae Soo-bin) and his wife. Were it not for Seol-rang, the traitor would have finished off Poong-chun’s infant daughter, Hong-yi too, and the girl still bears the scar of a gash made by his sword.

Eighteen years later, Deok-ki has risen in court to become the King’s most favored man; yet he misses Seol-rang, whom he still loves. Nevertheless, when he accidentally spots Hong-yi displaying the same sword techniques as Seol-rang at a public sparring contest against his protege Yool (Lee Jun-ho, from the boy band 2PM), he doesn’t hesitate to snuff out any threat to his status by whatever ruthless means necessary.

The three protags’ relationships — bound by strict martial-arts codes of honor and justice, yet thwarted by passion or ambition — are typical of the genre. However, able performances aside, the emotional turmoil of Deok-ki and Seol-rang meeting again, or Hong-yi’s faltering assumption of her avenging role, are lost in the overwrought structure of mulitiple flashbacks, replayed scenes and contrived coincidences. Even a twist that should intensify the trio’s love-hate conflicts culminates in a ending so lurid and overblown it’s almost comical. The budding attraction between Hong-yi and Yool would also have added some light-heartedness to the somber tone, but that, too, fizzles out after two mildly steamy scenes.

While it’s almost impossible for Jeon to disappoint in any film, her imitation of blindness is not convincing as she alternates between fumbling around helplessly and slicing her opponents like carrots. Lee, on the other hand, rises above the banality of the story to deliver a layered turn that makes Deok-ki’s love for Seol-rang feel genuine, despite his duplicitous behavior in all other respects. Deok-ki’s power struggle with Jon-bak, culminating in a grisly scene, is limned by Lee with cool, blood-curdling sadism. With her peachy complexion and pageboy looks, Kim has become the “it” girl of the Korean film industry since her bold performances in the Lolita drama “Eun-gyo” and mother-complex gangster pic “Coin Locker Girl.” Here, she again remains undaunted in the presence of superstars, demonstrating impressive range in action, light comedy and heavy melodrama.

There’s no question that the ravishing widescreen images by veteran lenser Kim Byung-seo (“Cold Eyes,” “Castaway on the Moon”) and the exquisite sets by production designer Han A-rum represent the pic’s biggest selling points. Even so, the exaggerated artifice of the seasonal tableaux of sunflower patches, dandelion fields, rainswept pavillions and snow-covered grounds situate them in a graphic dimension of their own, isolated from the main plot. And for all the meticulous re-creations of period architecture, from Deok-ki’s magnificent estate to Seol-rang’s Arab-influenced salon, there’s too much dawdling on decorative details, especially scenes devoted to brewing and sipping tea.

Action setpieces, though exceedingly lavish, are a throwback to ’90s Hong Kong wire stunts. The swordplay is sometimes fanciful and eye-catching, as when Hong-yi gets training from Seol-rang’s master (Lee Kyoung-young), but group combat sequences are downright sloppy. Overall, the action choreography fails to draw a line between period authenticity and pure fantasy, so characters levitate into the clouds as if endowed with magical powers one moment, then become vulnerably mortal in the next. The profusion of slow-motion and freeze-frame will give some viewers a headache. Other tech credits are uniformly first-rate.

Film Review: 'Memories of the Sword'
Reviewed at Lotte Cinema, Busan, Aug. 14, 2015. Running time: 121 MIN. (Original title: "Hyubnyeo: Kal ui ki-eok")

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Guest adikkeluangman

[Memories Of The Sword] Junho from chai_action's ig

I think she is stuntwoman or double for this movie.

150906 MBC Let's Go! Video Travel - 'Memories of the Sword' - Yool cut (Junho)

Talking about his acting scene in the movie. 

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@rubie, I did go and see it with some other Asian friends last Friday, over a week ago.

This film throws an unexpected twist, actually - 2 of them - and my guess is that because of these twists (which really guide how the film progresses) is the reason why the film was not as well received as we would have hoped for. It sort of turned it into a "Shakespearean Korean movie" in a way - that leaves us debating those twists and the progression of the movie based on them. It is certainly thought provoking.

The strong point in the movie for me - was Lee Byung-Huns performance. He never disappoints. I just love the quality of his acting, and how his characters come to life. I am not a fan of Hollywood or the genre he acts in for Hollywood, so it is a double pleasure to see him in Korean films and especially sageuk - how I loved him in "Masquerade!"   (rather than action film - for me). (Although I loved him in his earlier romance films, such as "Harmonium in My Memory," "Once in a Summer" and "Addicted." - but I think it is unlikely he will pick up a role like this now)

Jeon Do-Yeon is also superb, in a very tough role - and certainly harder to understand.

Most of my friends whom I went with felt that the fighting scenes, or learning to fight scenes were way too long, and I tend to agree, even though cinematography is fantastic.

I also enjoyed Lee Kyeong-Young, in his short appearance here, as the teacher.

Another drawback for me (and most of us, actually) was that although we like Kim Go-Eun, we felt her character was not well developed. It was harder to follow her choices, for me - at least.

@cynkdf  Sad to say - Bae Soo-Bin's appearance here is beyond short. He is really hardly there at all. Just for minutes. I don't know why they bothered to give him such a role. They could have gotten anyone for this very short role. I am pretty sure that when he signed up, he thought the role would be larger.


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@irilight, what a delightful post to read at the thread. So glad to know that you managed to watch the movie. Finally, a review by a fan that we wanted to hear after all the critics' trashing or otherwise.

So, there were indeed those twists -- read them in the non-spoiler reviews as well as Korean viewers reaction on Instagram, particularly. Using Google translate, the main words had been twist,ending and action though not quite giving a good impression, from my guesses. However I kinda feel that I know what the twists would be because all that's written in the synopsis was not necessarily the case.

Thanks so much for the breakdown of the characters. Most of the reviews really had no issues with Lee Byung Hun's acting, just that the movie's flaws had overtaken everything, dragging it downward, Jeon Do Yeon (her character and her action scenes) however, had quite a few mixed responses even from writers who are biased for the actress. Indeed Kim Go Eun's character, had not been fully developed (or presented?) In a martial-arts movie, her transition to an expert swordswoman seems impossibly quick, right. I have not watched the movie but reading the reviews, and your feedback explains what went wrong. A pity, huh.. with such a great cast all around, it's the plot's awry execution leaving a regretful waste of talent, energy and obviously a lot of money.


Hopefully you could copy & paste the LBH's paragraph to share at his thread. We would love to have this shared and probably continue a talk on this, too.

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@irilight many thanks for your review of the movie - just what I've been waiting to read :)  I kinda expected that BSB's appearance would be really limited since on one of the posters it says " special appearance by BSB".  My guess is that one or two of his scenes might have ended up on the cutting room floor.

A cute moment at the media premiere : (05:20 - 05:26):



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Guest adikkeluangman

Movie Memories of the Sword confirm the date to be release in Japan. It will be on next year January 23. Here also the website for Japanese. It only got a poster with the main actor.

Hope to see Junho. LBH and JDY will go for the promotion. 

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Thanks @adikkeluangman for the highlight. Didn't get any updates on this LBH-wise, obviously Japan is still one of the biggest Korean movie buyers. However, it remains to be seen if it'll be better received than in Korea. If he goes for the promotion, it'll be an indicator to LBH's personal popularity. He would be involved for a Hollywood movie promos (premiering in February) but I guess he would still have to consider his Japanese fans most especially and having his image on the website poster is something not to be overlooked as well.

Thanks again for the website highlight.


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October 6, 2015

Action and violence are different"

by HA Sung-tae / KoBiz


Fifteen years since his debut with Die Bad, SHIN Jae-myung is now going through the biggest turning point in his film career. Having monitored the release of Memories of the Sword which has pioneered “martial art period film,” SHIN is now preparing for his film debut as a director. As an action director who has mastered the “Korean style action,”  he is now ready for another big challenge. To be sure, the box office failure of Memories of the Sword was painful for him. However, through this experience, he believes he has changed and now he knows how to blend the character’s emotion within action without violence. In fall 2015, he attempts to convey hopeful life through action. In 2016, we could probably interview a film director SHIN Jae-myung.
I guess you, as an action director, always had this wish for and challenge spirit towards martial art period film. Was Memories of the Sword such an opportunity?

You are right. Directing action for the last 15 years, I felt that I was becoming more and more violent. Memories of the Sword helped me set a kind of limit, I mean, the kind of limit where violence is not exactly violence.
So you worked hard to design that action. You must have been disappointed by the box office result. 
All the staff were depressed because of its bad performance. So depressed that it was hard even to propose a drink to console each other. I am really sorry for the result. Maybe Korea is just not ready for martial art films yet, or the film itself was too hard to understand. We had big hopes, and worked very hard. The action team worked hard for more than one whole year for this film. When we were done with shooting, I boasted a lot to my friends as well. People often talk about Korean style action, and if this film did well, then it would have made a new definition of Korean style action. We made a lot of efforts to express action scenes as described in the scenario. In fact, a lot of action scenes are cut away; director PARK Heung-sik must have put a lot of thought on editing.  
Memories of the Sword must have been very much different from other Korean films since it is a period film dealing with authentic martial art action.

In Korean cinema, action has been, in fact, pure violence disguised as martial art. Quite honestly, Korean action films are sheer violence, and they certainly in a way justify violence. That is because the subject matter is limited. Most action films deal with rascals, detectives, and secret agents. However, Memories of the Sword was different. We are not familiar with the sword but we tried very hard to describe it in a non-repulsive and non-violent way. Not only the main characters KIM Go-eun and JEON Do-yeon but also the whole stunt team learned dancing.
Korean viewers are bound to visualize the Chinese action films when it comes to martial art.
PARK asked me not to ignore gravity. So I designed the action movement in the way that you fall harder when you go higher, and bounce more if you jump further. On the other hand, I missed out some parts deliberately. It is often compared with Chinese films, but a glamourous action such as spinning 360 degrees and so on are deliberately missing. Those kinds of decorative action have appeared in a lot of films already, but I wanted to give a reason to every action scene. Every time you slay, stab, hit and get beaten up, you must have a reason why. Just like actors need the right lines when they act, I wanted to assign them with action that fits their emotions.




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