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Varied new Korean films on display at PIFF

2006/11/03 Source

The 11th edition of the Pusan International Film Festival drew attention for its various industry sidebars and other events, but those festival attendees who focused on the program itself declared it to be a good year for new Korean films.

Independent filmmakers in particular turned out a large number of interesting projects, which look sure to turn up at other major international festivals in the coming months. Some examples include "No Regret", the feature debut of acclaimed indie director Lee Song-hee-il, about a male escort who becomes romantically involved with a rich man. Apart from the critical praise it earned, international rights to the film was also picked up by Fortissimo one of the arthouse world's most famous sales companies.

"Ad-Lib Night" by director Lee Yoon-ki, about a woman who agrees to "stand in" as the daughter of a dying man, was also warmly received. After debuting with the award-winning "This Charming Girl" in 2004, LEE returned with "Love Talk" last year but failed to stir up much critical interest. His new film, shot in just a few weeks on a low budget provided by a cable TV station, was praised as an exciting return to form for the director.

"Pruning the Grapevine" by director Min Byeong-hoon is an unusual film about a man studying for the Catholic priesthood that had festival programmers intrigued. MIN's previous films "Bee Fly" and "Let's Not Cry" were shot in central Asia (MIN studied filmmaking in Moscow), and his return to Korea was judged to add a new, unique perspective to Korean cinema.

Two films in the New Currents section also earned praise. "The Railroad" from director Park Heung-shik (no relation to the filmmaker of the same name who directed "My Mother, the Mermaid") depicts a man and a woman who find themselves stranded in a strange town shortly after experiencing personal tragedies. The energy and tension in the last reel in particular was praised by viewers. Meanwhile, "Driving With My Wife's Lover" by debut director Kim Tae-sik won over some fans for its quirky, creatively told tale of a man who discovers that his wife is having an affair with a taxi driver.

Meanwhile "My Friend and His Wife" by director Sin Dong-il, who won praise last year for his film "Host and Guest", returned with a harrowing tale of family life that earned glowing reviews. The film's tension and strong acting were judged to give it a strong chance of re-appearing in a major festival competition in the near future.

Other independent films that received their premiere at PIFF include "Boys of Tomorrow" by Noh Dong-seok, "Before The Summer Passes Away" by SEONG Ji-hae, and "Butterflymole" by Seo Myeong-soo. Films that previously screened at other festivals include the highly praised "The Last Dining Table", which premiered at Locarno, and "A Shark" by Kim Dong-hyun-VI.

The more mainstream commercial film industry was also represented at PIFF, although primarily with works that had already screened at other international festivals. Newer films that many foreign guests were viewing for the first time include "A Dirty Carnival" by Yoo Ha, "Dasepo Naughty Girls" ("Dasepo Girl") by E. J-yong (Lee Jae-yong), and "Like A Virgin" by Lee Hae-yeong and Lee Hae-joon.

Three new commercially-oriented works also received their world premiere: Opening Film "Trace of Love by director Kim Dae-seung, which earned a mixed but on the whole positive assessment from the festival audience; "Gangster High", which stood out for its stylish visuals and harsh violence; and "Cruel Winter Blues" featuring acclaimed star Sol Kyung-gu.

Darcy Paquet

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