Category: Korean Film Review

KFR | The Yellow Sea 황해

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Synopsis

A cab driver in the Yanbian Province of China who is deep in gambling debt and whose wife has gone missing while working abroad gets offered a deal by a local gangster: his debts paid off and a chance to find his wife in exchange for murdering a man on South Korean soil.

Review

As The Yellow Sea starts it should be clear that this will not be a happy tale. Gu-nam’s (Ha Jung-woo) opening anecdote should be evidence enough of that. It is populated by a-moral characters who will stop at nothing in pursuit of their selfish desires. It is a cautionary tale on dangers of unchecked human ambition. Though this may hardly be new territory, The Yellow Sea packs enough thrills and intrigue to keep proceedings interesting. Continue reading

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KFR | A Tale of Two Sisters 장화, 홍련

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Synopsis

Two sisters who, after spending time in a mental institution, return to the home of their father and cruel stepmother. Once there, in addition to dealing with their stepmother’s obsessive and unbalanced ways, an interfering ghost also affects their recovery.

Review

A Tale of Two Sisters is a film which revolves around a number of revelatory twists. As such it is integral that the film both effectively masks these twists and gives us a reason to care when it happens. Unfortunately that is not the case here. A Tale of Two Sisters is, for the most part, an empty experience that never truly shocks. Continue reading

KFR | Masquerade 광해: 왕이 된 남자

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Synopsis

Amid national chaos and fear for his life, tyrannical King Gwanghae orders his trusted councilor Heo Kyun to find a royal body double. He hires Ha-seon, a peasant mimic who bears a perfect resemblance to the King. When King Gwanghae collapses from a mysterious poison, Ha-seon reluctantly becomes a King. He must follow his conscience to save his country from collapse, avoid assassination, and pull off the biggest masquerade in history

Review

South-East Asian period dramas are generally a very solemn affairs. Often populated by stoic and unyielding characters, there is often very little room to glimpse the humanity that they hid behind the facade. From the off it would seem that Masquerade is yet another entry in the genre. Quite the contrary. Masquerade is in fact a film that looks at what lies behind the stoicism of the time. The fish out of water tale of a commoner in the royal court helps peel back the layers of pretence and probes the humanity behind it. Though it may be by the numbers, Masquerade is one of the most charming films in recent memory. Continue reading

New Segment | Korean Film Review [KFR]

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Spike Lee’s Oldboy was released earlier this week, and so far has been met with much disdain from both the press and audiences. If there is one good thing that has come of its release, it is that I have rediscovered my interest in Korean cinema. It all started when I watched Kim Ki-duk’s Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter, and Spring back in university. What followed was a brief period of fascination with South Korean, including the work of Park Chan-wook. Between then and now I have watched very few Korean films, a shame when I know there is such a plethora of high quality content out there.

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