The South Korean/New Zealand/American co-production of The Warrior’s Way (Sngmoo Lee, 2010) is wildly uneven in tone with its typhoon of severed limbs and humorous farts, but if you’re not looking for anything serious or heavy and just accept the forced juxtaposition of gore and silliness, than you might discover a little gem of adolescent entertainment. Imagine that time in your life of budding film geekery where you’ve just discovered Zatoichi (Kenji Misumi, 1962) and Django (Sergio Corbucci, 1966) and then you learn of the Samurai/Cowboy mashup Red Sun (Terence Young, 1971)…and then you actually watch Red Sun and it’s a tremendous disappointment. If only you had The Warrior’s Way!
Archives For Korean Blogathon 2012
Young-doo Oh’s second film. Invasion of Alien Bikini, was a film that I missed at last year’s Fantastic Fest. At first it made me a wee bit sad, considering I tend to have a soft spot for strange Asian cinema, especially when it comes to South Korean film. But then I heard nothing at all about this film from my colleagues at the festival, which confused me. Even the horrible films (like Human Centipede II) had people waxing poetically about their horribleness, but this film had nobody talking. Which worried me toward the end of the festival and prompted me not to throw it on my ticket list of films I had to catch up with.
Rufus, James and Billy break out the tissue box for Lee Chang-dong’s Poetry and Secret Sunshine in this very special 2012 Korean Cinema Blogathon edition of our podcast!
Direct download here.
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If you look at the posters for Oasis, you will see a quote calling it a “Brave Film”. The fact that it can be considered such an unconventional and ‘Brave’ piece of work only helps reinforce one of its major themes. Love is supposed to be the one thing everybody wants in life, something that is deserved by everyone regardless of their decisions, or the path they decide to follow. However in our society love is not always excepted if it falls outside the general picturesque. Lee Chang-dong’s film touches such themes with a bold hand by telling a love story shared by a mentally unstable ex-convict, and a young woman suffering from cerebral palsy. It’s a story about two people whose personal disabilities have left them simply swept aside from society, and family. Only to be brought to one another through fate and seeing beyond each others physical differences they find what can easily be called true love.
There is no denying that when you first hear a brief plot summery for The Chaser you will most likely scratch your head, then again that’s the wonderful world of Korean Cinema! In a Nutshell, a detective turned pimp, starts losing his girls to a serial killer and uses his professional skills and connections to start a personal manhunt for the suspect. However the hunt will be heavily skewed by wave after wave of frustrating red tape in what appears to be a slight at a broken justice system.
Neon lights and holograms light the rainy streets of a depressing future city, while cop R’s life spirals out of control in writer/director Byung-chun Min’s reworking of Blade Runner (Ridley Scott, 1982), Natural City (2003). Even with a chicken alarm clock to wake up with, R isn’t satisfied until he gets his drunk hands on despondent, nearly expired cyborg Ria. There’s also a young prostitute/fortune teller/gardener living in the slums who inexplicably loves R. Oh, and there’s a cop who likes R for some reason, and keeps trying to save him. And some killer cyborgs (who never miss a spinning class). And a creepy little albino-Yoda guy who knows his brain-chips. These characters very, very slowly start coming together, and I guess a plot begins to develop.
It started with a joke, as it usually does. On a bench in high school I told my friend I was going to hide in his suitcase and steal my way into Korea for the summer. “Do you really want to visit?” I was shocked for a moment, as what was meant as a joke also gave into my desire to leave the confines of the small town I had spent my life in. A few seconds of silence later: “Are you serious?” Cue plane tickets, travel plans, my first passport (with an awkward photo where I had a white shirt on a white background and ended up a giant floating head with a lopsided smile-this was before 9/11 changed the passport to something dour, serious and entirely devoid of joy), and a battle with nerves as I faced an 18 hour flight with a connecting one to Daegu. At the time I didn’t realize how hot it would be there in the summer. At the time I didn’t realize that this single joke would define my scholarship, writing and career choices for the next decade. Continue Reading…
“Life is about chasing and being chased.” –Kang-ho Song, The Weird
To even mention that The Good The Bad The Weird (Jee-Woon Kim, 2008) is a “Kimchee Western” spin on the quintessential Spaghetti Western, The Good The Bad and The Ugly (Sergio Leone, 1967) is obvious and boring. So let’s just skip those comparisons and move on. Jee-Woon Kim spent more than two years in production with GBW and with budget estimates ranging from $10,000,000 to $17,000,000 it ranks as one of the most expensive films in Korean history (although word is spreading that The Fast and The Furious director Rob Cohen has plans for a U.S./South Korea coproduction costing well north of $100,000,000—take that world cinema!). It’s an Epic worthy of its moniker, and delivers on the thrills in an entertaining fashion where most contemporary American Westerns seem more interested in engaging you with gloomy morality plays.
I wanted to start my contribution to The 2012 Korean Blogathon with a bang! I wanted to start with something big, something explosive, something exciting, an edge of your seat thrill ride! Well, I didn’t. Instead I decided to share my thought on one of the most unique and quirky films I have ever seen, and one that I truly love. I’m a Cyborg, But That’s Okay is one of my personal favorite films from my absolute favorite Korean Director, Park Chan-wook. Maybe you’ve heard of him? Over the years Park has delivered us some unforgettable films, going back to 2000’s political thriller-masterpiece JSA. Then immersing himself in the internationally acclaimed vengeance trilogy (Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy, Lady Vengeance). For Cyborg we get the opportunity to see a different side of Park, the romantic comedy side. Don’t let that frighten you, because this is not your typical romance comedy. Remember, it’s a romantic comedy written and directed by Park Chan-wook. . .
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