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[HanCinema Book Review] "New Korean Cinema" review

2011/04/23 | 4810 views | Permalink

"New Korean Cinema" is a collection of fascinating essays on contemporary Korean cinema. It contains a variety of different perspectives on the Korean film industry by a number of experienced contributors from around the world. The book examines the growth of Korea's film production industry, theoretical critiques of modern Korean films, as well as how social change has affected filmmaking in Korea.

 The book is divided into three section: "Forging a New Cinema", "Generic Transformations", and "Social Change and Civil Society". The first part of the book explores the relationship between Korea's trying history and the lasting impact it has had on Korean cinema. Issues such as globalisation, spectatorship, marketing, cultural and economic modes of production are all addresses.

 In this section I particularly enjoyed Hyangjin Lee's chapter entitled "Chunhyang: Marketing an Old Tradition in New Korean Cinema". In which she examines Im Kwon-taek's "Chunhyang" in terms of Korea's new modern global identity as she explores the way in which the film "...presents folk art and cultural traditions in Korea to a wider, international audience, in order to evaluate the validity of the creation of a national identity". It's a very focused and thought-provoking argument that is definitely worth a read.

Part two, "Generic Transformations", contains five papers on genre critique applied to a number of modern Korean films. Julian Stringer provides some context and insight into the topic in the first chapter and from there specific films are put under the spotlight with the appropriate critique. Some of the films mentioned in this section are "Tell Me Something", "Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance", "Friend", "Take Care of My Cat", "Attack the Gas Station!", "Soul's Protest", and "Phantom, the Submarine".

The final part in the book, "Social Change and Civil Society", contains probably my favourite essay "Peppermint Candy: The will Not to Forget" by Aaron Han Joon Magnan-Park. Lee Chang-dong is one of favourite Korean filmmakers and the depth and delicacy he brings to his films is incredible. "Peppermint Candy" is well known and Aaron Han Joon Magnan-Park's read on it is equally absorbing and educational. Psychoanalytical film theory has always fascinated me its inclusion in his discussion was personally welcomed.

"New Korean Cinema" presents a number of important considerations for contemporary Korean cinema. It's not exactly a light read but avid moviegoers and scholars will appreciate the contributors' insight into the fascinating world of Korean cinema.

-Christopher J. Wheeler

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