"The King and the Clown
" 2005, 119 min
Directed by Lee Joon-ik
. Starring Lee Joon-gi
. Recorded the highest grossing Korean film in history with 12.3 million viewers.
Based on the popular play "Yi" (YOU
), which was inspired by the diaries of a sixteenth-century king, the film blends comedy and wit with Shakespearean tragedy. Weaving a rich, colorful tapestry of historical landscapes, amazing acrobatics and unspoken emotions, the fateful story of two clowns is masterfully revealed.
The film's distinctive appeal rests in the sumptuous depiction of an era seen through the wise eyes of street performers, and in the superbly conveyed sensations that gush from the wounded heart of a nation broken under the weight of a tyrant.
"Welcome to Dongmakgol
" 2005,132 min
During the Korean War, solders from the US, North and South Korea come to a peaceful village, Dongmakgol. At first, they confront each other but soon, the start to mix with the villagers. But now the time has come when they must carry out their duties.
Based on the long-running play, since its first release Dongmakgol has been praised as a feel-good fantasy about the Korean War.
"Memories of Murder"
2003, 127 min
Directed by Bong Joon-ho
. Starring Song Kang-ho
. Hong Kong International Film Festival Award, Munich International Film Festival, Rotterdam Film Festival, Fantasia Film Festival.
The story is based on a real-life string of murders in rural Korea during the late 80's in Gyunggi Province.
The director smartly highlights the era in which the murders took place in which the Korean populace was struggle to shake off its authoritarian and militaristic past. Another impressive aspect of this film is its visuals perfectly recreating the underdeveloped rural landscape of the mid-80s.
Seopyeonje 1993, 113 min
Directed by Im Kwon-taek
. Starring Kim Myung-gon
. Winner of Best Director and Best Actree at the 1st Shanghai Internationsl Film Festival. Screened at the 46th Cannes and 50th Venice International Film Festivals.
Three main characters, Yu-bong who is a p'ansori master and his two adopted children travel throughout the countryside in efforts to perform and develop their artistry while trying to remain true to Yu-bong's interpretation of what qualifies as real p'ansori.
The film utilized the musical form of p'ansori for metaphoric purpose, and it eventually caused resurgence in this traditional genre of music.
"The Big Swindle
" 2004, 116 min
Possibly the most ingeniously scripted Korean film of the year, "The Big Swindle
" richly deserved its enthusiastic support from domestic viewers and kudos from critics.
The Big Swindle
is a fine example of a caper film as in The Sting (1973). The subgenre's lineage embraces such disparate examples as the French noir classis as well as the big budget Hollywood productions as in Ocean's Eleven. It is highly recommended to anyone looking for Korean films that break away from the stereotypical molds of weepy melodramas and haughty art house hits.
Winner of the FIPRESCI, NETPAC and other awards at the 2005 Pusan Film Festival.
With its clever flashback structure, the film has the outline of a mystery, but it is at heart an intimate character study of two figures through their experiences in the two years of mandatory military service. The reduction of all human relationships into a rigid hierarchy, as well as small and large mechanisms of enforcement from casually handed-down insults and corporal punishment to sexual aggression cast a very long shadow on the lives of Korean men.
Few Korean films have directly tackled the subject of what really goes on inside the military, and what the experience means for Korean men.
1996, 101 min
Directed by Jang Sun-woo
. Starring Lee Jeong-hyun. A featured movie at the 1997 Rotterdam Film Festival.
May, 1980 during the Kwangju-uprising. A 15 years old girl deserts her dying mom and runs away amid gunfire. Years later, the girl calls on a construction site worker Jang and follows him everywhere. Jang seems to know that the girl has experienced something horrible.
The director, Jang himself was active in the cultural protest movement during 70's. He was jailed for having distributed brochures disclosing the Kwangju massacre. Fifeen years after the bloodshed of Kwangju, he wrote and directed "A Petal"
"The Murmuring" 1995, 99 min
Documentary directed by Byun Young-joo
The first of three documentaries on "comfort women", the numerous women form Korea and elsewhere who were taken by the Japanese Army during World War II and ofrced into sexual slavery. This film has impact far beyond the theaters, both in bringing a spotlight to an issue that most people avoided, and in transforming the lives of the women who are the film's subject. In the course of making this documentary, director gradually becomes close to the elderly women who meet every week to protest in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul. The film provides an insightful portrait of the victims of one of the worst crimes of the 20th century.
"Mudang" (Youngmae) 2003, 99min
Documentary directed by Park Ki-bok
This film provides a valuable experience for viewers from varied backgrounds. In Korea, Mu (Shamanism) constitutes an important part of people's lives. Mudangs (Korean shamans) predict future events and act as mediators between the living and the dead through a Gut (shamanistic ritual provoking the spirits). In this sense, Mudangs are seen as equivalent to high priests who performs religious rituals. The film captures wonderfully intimate moments in the life of towns and villages less prevalent in Korean cinema. The film introduces the Korean-specific concept of Han, an elusive concept to non-Koreans, but roughly translated in this documentary as bitterness or sorrow across generations which it is the job of Mudang (Shamans) to reconcile.
"The Flower in Hell"
(Jiokhwa) 1958, 88 min
Directed by Shin Sang-ok
. Starring Choi Eun-hee
Winner of a best Actress at the 2nd Buil Film Awards.
Beginning scene in A Flower in Hell starts with striking documentary footage of daily life in postwar 1950s Seoul.
Shots of U.S. Soldiers in particular predominate among these images. Few Korean films of this era present the hard realities of day-to-day existence with such honest force as A Flower in Hell. This film also represents Shin Sang-ok
at the top of his form as an aesthetic filmmaker, despite the technical hurdles he faced.
US-Korea Institute at SAIS
1740 Massachusetts Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20036
202.663.5930 (Kate Surber)
* Korean Embassy:
2370 Massachusetts Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20008
202.797.6346 (Sue Jung)
* George Mason Public Library:
7001 Little River Tnpk
Annandale, VA 22003
703.256.3800 (Jane Kim)
Schedule to be found by following the source link