By Lee Hyo-won
The past year represented hope and revitalization for Korean cinema. While problems such as piracy linger on, the forecast for 2010 cinema appears promising with diverse projects in the making.
Cineastes are finding inspiration from the past and are bringing remakes of Korean classics as well as unique period movies. Big action flicks are gearing up for the 60th anniversary of the Korean War (1950-53) while much-anticipated sequels will cater to fans. Furthermore, a couple of Hollywood projects will head here for shoots.
2009 in Review
Both commercial blockbusters and unique indie films pulled the industry out of a three-year slump and cineastes made their mark near and far.
's documentary "Old Partner"
rewrote box-office history for the genre, while Yang Ik-june
made waves by sweeping almost two dozen prizes at international festivals. Park Chan-ok
's low-budget drama "Paju"
was well-received among critics and moviegoers and the micro-budget road movie "Daytime Drinking
" gained popularity near and far.
The positivity peaked in the summer. The success of the sports movie "Take Off"
fed directly into the big-time box office scores set by the tsunami blockbuster "Haeundae"
, which drew over 10 million audience members in Korea for the first time in three years since "The Host"
Stars shined strongly through the big screen. Korean actors debuted in foreign works, most notably Lee Byung-hun
in "G.I. Joe" and Rain
in "Ninja Assassin
", while Kim Myung-min
made headlines for shedding 20 kilograms for his role in "Closer to Heaven
Celebrity directors also made long-awaited returns. Park Chan-wook
revisited the Cannes Festival with his vampire flick "Thirst"
while Bong Joon-ho
made a splash with the thriller "Mother - 2009"
On the flip side, illegal online distributions of "Haeundae"
, before its release in Chinese theaters, and of "Thirst"
, before DVD sales opened in the United States, led to big financial blows and signaled the red light on piracy. The country's top stars, including Jang Dong-gun
and Kim Tae-hee
, stepped up as representatives for the anti-piracy campaign: "Good Downloader".
Meanwhile, imported 3D movies tapped into the local theater market. While the number of theaters catering to the genre remains relatively small, there seems to be growing reception for 3D films. Animations such as "Monster vs. Aliens" and "Up" drew family audiences while "Avatar", new in theaters, has drawn over 1 million audiences in the shortest timeframe among 2009 films.
Back to Classics
During Korean cinema's Golden Age of the 1960s, well over 100 films rolled out per year (more than 200 from 1968 to 1969), and cineastes are finding inspiration in films from that time. Classics never go out of style, and next year, "The Housemaid - 1960
" (1960) and "Late Autumn - 1966" (1966) will be reborn as modern reinterpretations.
's psychological thriller "The Housemaid - 1960
" fetes its 50th anniversary next year with the remake "The Housemaid - 2010
" by Im Sang-soo
. Award-winning actress Jeon Do-yeon
will play the film's lead character, a housemaid who becomes entangled in a dangerous love triangle with a middle class couple. It's slated for release in May.
The upcoming reinterpretation of Lee Man-hee-I
's "Late Autumn - 2010
" will bring together top Asian stars, hallyu heartthrob Hyun Bin
and Chinese actress Tang Wei
, who is best known as the heroine of Ang Lee's "Lust, Caution". The joint Korea-United States project "Late Autumn - 2010
" will be directed by Kim Tae-yong
("The Birth of a Family"
) and will be set in the U.S. Kim Ki-young
based his 1975 film "Promises" on "Late Autumn - 2010
", while Kim Soo-yong
also made a version of the film in 1981.
Another whiff of the past comes through Yoon Jung-hee
, a top star in the 1960s. She will return to the big screen after a 16-year hiatus in "Si" ("Poetry"
) by Lee Chang-dong
, former culture minister and director of "Secret Sunshine"
. The movie is about a woman in her mid-60s who, while raising her teenage grandson, makes her first attempt at composing poetry. It is scheduled for release in May.
The popularity of exotic period movies is expected to continue. Kim Dae-woo
, who mixed modern humor with Joseon Kingdom (1391-1910) palace life in "Forbidden Quest
", finds inspiration in the folk tale "Chun-hyang" for a modern rendition called "Bang-ja Jeon" ("The Servant"
). It will star top talents Kim Joo-hyuk
, Ryoo Seung-bum
and Cho Yeo-jeong
"The King and the Clown
" director Lee Joon-ik
returns with an action-packed Joseon-era piece, "Gureumeul Beoseonan Dalcheoreom" ("Blades of Blood
"). Actor Hwang Jung-min
stars as a legendary blind swordsman opposite Cha Seung-won
, who plays a revolutionary.
Master director Im Kwon-taek
will present his 101st film, "Dalbit Gireo Oligi" ("Hanji"
), about the art of making hanji or Korean traditional paper. Starring award-winning actress Kang Soo-yeon
, the movie is due to premiere at the Jeonju International Film Festival in April.
Korean War in Memoriam
Next year marks the 60th anniversary of the Korean War and big budget action flicks boasting male bravado are in tow. "Pohwa Sogeuro" ("71-Into the Fire
"), to open in theaters in June, will depict a 12-hour conflict that ensued between 71 student soldiers and a North Korean troop along the Nakdong River. Directed by John H. Lee
, the film boasts a star-studded male cast, including T.O.P. (Choi Seung-hyun
), a member of the K-pop band Big Bang, Kwon Sang-woo
, Cha Seung-won
and Kim Seung-woo
Director Kim Dong-weon
will bring "R2B: Return to Base
", which is virtually a sequel to the famous 1964 Shin Sang-ok
film "The Red Muffler" about pilots during the Korean War. The grandson of the lead actor of the classic film will star in the movie. Plans are for an October release.
Meanwhile, the 2002 maritime conflict between the two Koreas near Yeonpyeong Island has inspired two films: "Areumdaun Uri" ("The Battle of Yellow Sea
") and "Yeonpyeong Haejeon" ("Yeonpyeong Naval Battle"). The first film, directed by "Friend"
helmer Kwak Gyeong-taek
, is scheduled to go into production in March for a year-end release as a 20-billion-won 3D film. The latter movie, directed by Baek Woon-hak
), is a 12-billion-won project that will open in theaters in May.
Star Directors, Actors
, who appeared as a producer this year with "Baekyahaeng" ("White Night"
), will return as a director with "Ikki" ("Moss"
). The "Public Enemy"
series helmsman has based his new thriller on the eponymous Web cartoon series by Yoon Tae-ho
. Popular actors Park Hae-il
and Jung Jae-young
star in the movie, about a hermetic rural village harboring secrets. It is slated for release in the first half of 2010.
, who made a name for himself through the 2008 hit film "The Chaser"
, teams up with his former male leads, Ha Jung-woo
and Kim Yun-seok
, in another thriller, "The Yellow Sea"
. Ha plays the role of a Korean-Chinese hit man who himself becomes a target of another hit man. The 11-billion-won project is targetting a summer release.
("A Bittersweet Life
") will offer fans a horror thriller, "I Saw the Devil
". "Old Boy"
star Choi Min-sik
will play the role of a vengeful man who sets out to catch the psychopath who killed his fiancee.
, who directed "Our Happy Time
" will remake the 1986 Hong Kong noir flick "A Better Tomorrow, 1986" as "A Better Tomorrow"
starring heartthrobs Song Seung-heon
, Joo Jin-mo
and Kim Kang-woo
"'s Lee Hyun-seung
has cast actors Song Kang-ho
and Kim Seung-woo
in "Bamangae" ("Hindsight"
The dominance of testosterone-driven films, however, means not-so-great news for productions of melodrama and for actresses. The makers of "Sinaro Project", a romantic comedy, are reportedly having difficulty casting male actors, many of whom are already tied up with other projects.
Moviegoers can look forward to sequels of box office hits. Kim Sang-jin
's "Attack the Gas Station" starring Yoo Ji-tae
drew in 2.4 viewers in 1999. Kim will handle the megaphone for the second installment "Attack the Gas Station 2
", which will star younger actors, including Ji Hyun-woo
and Jo Han-sun
. It is touted for release in January.
The culinary comic book-turned-hit film "Le Grand Chef"
(Shikgaek) will also be followed by a sequel dubbed "Le Grand Chef - Kimchi War
". Jin Goo
, who received critical acclaim for his supporting role in "Mother - 2009"
, will star as an aspiring chef who competes to make kimchi against his Japanese counterparts. It will open in theaters in February.
Also awaiting fans are sequels to the 2008 teen slasher "Death Bell"
, "Death Bell 2: Bloody Camp
" and the 2006 tearjerker "Heart is..."
Hollywood in Korea
Next year the country will be host to not only local projects but also Hollywood films. Erin Brevig, who directed last year's computer graphics-packed "Journey to the Center of the Earth", will direct a big-budget 3D film about the Korean War, said Madmedia. The script is set to be ready by early next year and preproduction is to be completed by October. The shooting is scheduled to begin here around November. Brevig is said to have been inspired after watching Kang Je-gyu
's Korean War blockbuster "Taegukgi"
. It is slated for release in 2012.
Another Tinseltown venture that will find its way to Korea is an American remake of the local horror movie "Phone"
. Imprint Entertainment, which produced the "Twilight" saga, drew up a budget of $10 million for the project, Miro Vision, the Korean leg of the project, recently announced at a press conference. The filming will begin in Korea during the second half of 2010 for a 2011 release.