Korean Korner

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Re: Korean Korner

Postby hengcs » Fri Jul 07, 2006 8:35 am

King And The Clown (Wang-ui Namja) (Korea) (2005)

Director: Lee Jun Ik
Cast: Kam Woo-seong, Jeong Jin-yeong, Lee Jun-gi

Yup ... this film has broken all time Korea Box Office hit!
i.e., more than Taegukgi, JSA, etc

Recently, it received 15 nominations at the Grand Bells Awards (Daejong)

I feel that the lesser one knows about the plot of this film, the better it will be
But if you insist, here is the official website

Based on the play "Yi" and some historical figures, the film traces the survival of two clowns/jesters who performed on the streets, and due to survival needs, they had decided to venture into the city. Over there, they performed acts that mocked at the king and his concubine. What an audacity! So, they faced execution ... how will they survive? ... and how will all these end?! ...

My thoughts ...

-- I thought the theme of the film is much larger than the overhyped and marketed "gay relationship" ... In fact, the original title captures the essence of the entire film best ... i.e., "The King's Man (or The King's Clown)" ... suggesting the ambiguity in roles ... in the film, the king is likened to a clown, while the clown(s) are in control like a king.

Interestingly, the film has also made a swap of "colors" in their costumes. Traditionally, the king is supposed to be in red, while the clowns are in blue ... this swap of colors further accentuate the theme of the film ...

As a result, I am rather perturbed that many media/publicity seem to emphasize on the "probable" gay relationship of the protagonists as opposed to the satire of the story ... in fact, after watching the film, audience would be more captivated by the wit and clever plot ... it is more about the survival of the the clowns (or jesters) in the palace (rather than the gay relationship) ...

I also thought it is NOT a well comparison to parallel it to Brokeback Mountain nor Farewell To My Concubine ... the three are VERY different ...

-- I thought the film is very well executed on three grounds ...
(i) the wit in the plot (so please avoid reading too many synopsis/reviews that contain spoilers)
(ii) the casting/performance of the three main protagonists
... yup, the King's first appearance in the film is so dominating ... that serious and intense look ... wow ...
... and yup, you have heard enough about how effeminate one clown is ...
... and not forgetting the other clown, his performance is great too ...
(iii) the very subtle but great portrayal of their relationships ...

-- What do you have to be concerned about (if at all) ...
(i) some of the mockery are kind of vulgar (so parents might be concerned)
(ii) in order to believe the plot/acting, you have to understand that the King is kind of "insane" and experiencing lots of troubled past ...

Highly recommended ... mainly for a well written script and a great performance ...

PS: Try to avoid reading too many synopsis/plot (cos what propels the film is its script and surprises (if any)) …

Re: Korean Korner

Postby hengcs » Wed Jul 12, 2006 8:55 am

Director: Yun Jong-bin
Cast: Ha Jung-woo, Seo Jang-won, Yun Jong-bin

well, this is not Clint Eastwood's 1992 Oscar award film ...

BUT controversy surrounds the film ... because
(i) it is the director's project for his thesis
(ii) more imptly, the director is being investigated for deceiving the military into filming on location (i.e., with a "positive" script about the military life); yet, the product is that of something else, one which portrays the military not exactly in a positive light ...
(iii) it was featured at the Cannes Film Festival "Un Certain Regard"

The official website

The film basically traces the life of a new recruit into the military. There, he was fortunate to meet a senior in rank who was his old friend ... would he survive the military? ... would the two maintain their old bond? ... now in their "present life", how have their relationship changed ...

My thoughts

- Having watched it some time ago, the film is good on several grounds ...

(i) for guys who have been through the military, it may touch some chords ... nonetheless, the film does not seek to provide answers to the problem ...

i believe many people would view the plot simply as ... the inevitable repeat of history (under strict regimentation) ... i.e., no matter how much one tries, one will bow to the sytem and probably be compelled to abuse one's authority when one is higher in the hierarchy ...

nonetheless, i offer another interpretation to the film ... which i hope is more thought provoking ... can it also challenges the question ... i.e., when a person "tries to be good" (or "thinks he is doing good"), will he end up aggravating the situation instead, rather than improving it ... afterall, life is never a black and white, but rather gray ...

(ii) told in flashbacks (hope it does not confuse people), the audience often wonders at the actual relationship between the two main protagonists ... and what actually happened in their military such that one is trying to distant himself from the other in civilian life ... does a bond in the past translates into the future?! ... * no spoilers here *

(iii) hey, the director is rather convincing in his "cameo" role ...

What can be better ...
i find the film can improve on several aspects
(i) as a matter of fact, some "tell tale" signs of a low budget film
(ii) better pacing, after a while, it can be rather "slow or uneventful" ...
(iii) this can work both ways, the "down to earth" depiction can make the "hazing" looks kind of "mild", yet realistic ... nonetheless, it may not bite as much ...

Can watch ... you will either like it or hate it ...

Re: Korean Korner

Postby hengcs » Thu Jul 20, 2006 11:39 am

You Are My Sunshine (Neoneun nae unmyeong) (2005)

Director: Park Jin-pyo

The official wesbite

hey justin,
i saw your review at moviexclusive.com,
wanna post here?

Re: Korean Korner

Postby justindeimen » Fri Jul 28, 2006 4:11 pm

Hey heng, thanks for the heads up.


Based on a true story, "You Are My Sunshine" tells the moving love story between a bachelor (Hwang Jung-min) and a good-time gal named Eun-ha (Jeon Do-youn). They get married. However, one day, tests show that Eun-ha is infected with HIV.


The spectre of AIDS holds much gravitas over the movies gritty and raw romance. Its an obvious symbolism of the death do us part aspect of the marriage vows that they take. It also provides a means for director; Jin-Pyo Parks to instill relevant social messages into the film, just as he did with his gutsy introductory feature, Too Young to Live, which was about a pair of septuagenarian lovers. This time round, he takes on the largely taboo topic of AIDS and prostitution in his stride, he tackles these issues while never losing sight of the films purpose.

Taking home 2 awards at the 26th Korean Blue Dragon Awards (Best Actor for Hwang and Best Director for Park), the films strength is rightfully in its performances. An underlying sense of self-loathing nuances Jeons heartbreaking portrayal of a desperate woman who hides her agony behind her playful eyes and cheerful exterior. She seeks solace in the cold comfort of the first man to ever treat her right and her complex faade is broken through by the simple affections of Seok-joong.

Hwangs character transitions both physically and emotionally, from a lonely farmer into a hardened and resolute man with a purpose. He is devastating in his conviction to the role as a nave but kindly lug that devotes his life to his wife.

The movie completely belongs to the 2 leads. Genuinely funny scenes stem from Seok-joongs interactions with his cow and friends while he woos Eun-ha. The endearing courtship rituals were whimsical in their executions, and while the beginning could have been the start of their decline in the romance, it teases us into hoping for an unrealisable happily ever after ending.

While taking a formulaic approach to the genre, the director infuses his own edginess to the banality of the Korean melodrama by giving the couple a happy ending quickly by throwing in obstacles that are initially intrinsic, then creating a hopeless and desperate situation for both the leads. The film takes a sharp turn when it reaches the halfway mark as a contrasting shift in emotions and haunting music lacquers the emotional turmoil that both characters endure together and alone. Instead of referring to the film as a tale of two halves, it should also be seen as a magnification of the love shared between them even when they are apart.

Seok-joongs mother (Mun-hee Na), the initially disapproving matriarch becomes the sole proponent of her sons bleak and fleeting hopes of leading the life he wants with Eun-ha. The supporting characters seem as real as they possibly can be, by becoming an unaffected reflection of the romance between Seok-joong and Eun-ha.

Aside from a rather contrived piece of foreshadowing in the middle of the film, it hardly veers into hokey and bathetic displays of affection of the two leads, whose on-screen chemistry carries a huge responsibility in the films success. Its no wonder that the film starts to meander slightly in the later parts of the film when Seok-joong and Eun-ha are left to their own respective devices.

The very idea of unconditional love against all odds is a daunting and unrealistic prospect by any means, perhaps even too indulgent to be taken seriously. The oneiric notion of idyllic everlasting love is put to the test when the awful truth and the characters past and present indiscretions are revealed. The dichotomy of the simple-minded and complicated lovers coupled with their innocent and seedy pasts does not go amiss. However, incompatible they seem on paper, the bare bones of their relationship is that they are 2 lonely souls finding what they needed in each other.

The title and famed ballad, You Are My Sunshine (originated by Jimmie Davis and Charles Mitchell) has never been more true than in this movie. Its a shining example of Korean melodrama done right. In its finale, the film shows that true love is indeed simple. Its just a matter of committing to it.


Re: Korean Korner

Postby trevor826 » Sat Jul 29, 2006 8:27 am

Thanks justindeimen, good review. Do you have any other gems tucked away, also did you see it in a theatre or on dvd?

Cheers Trev.

Re: Korean Korner

Postby justindeimen » Sat Jul 29, 2006 11:54 am

I see them in the cinemas usually, unless they are excellent films like the Revenge trilogy or something quite highly rated, I haven't seen the need to buy the DVDs. I usually reserve DVDs for European arthouse and/or American blockbusters.

Here's another one for Almost Love (2006)


Ji-hwan yet a stunt who's dreaming to be an action star like Jackie Chan and Dalrae who is another actress wannabe have been friends for 11 years. But as Ji-hwan comes dating with a different girl, their relationship starts seesawing between a mere friendship and a love.


Kwon Sang-woo and Kim Han-nuel team up again after 2003s My Tutor Friend, which unassumingly went on to be one of South Koreas most successful romantic comedies of recent times. It not only solidified that genres popularity with Korean audiences, it also made big stars out of its 2 leads. Reaching back into past collaborations can be a risky ordeal but the pairs fantastic rapport made Almost Love one of the most highly anticipated new Korean movies of the year and made their onscreen affinity its primary focus for audiences. Fortunately, that is not a problem at all. In fact, its the films saving grace.

Kim shines as the first among equals with her effervescent portrayal of the kind and shy girl-next-door, Dal-rae who is an aspiring actress with a debilitating stage fright. She manages to stifle her radiant beauty, seen in her past films to complete her plain-Jane transformation...........

Continued at


Re: Korean Korner

Postby arsaib4 » Mon Aug 14, 2006 2:42 am

[Originally posted 09/20/05 in the TIFF '05 thread]


The Presidents Last Bang (Geuddae Geusaramdeul) is widely considered as one of the most controversial Korean films of recent years. The reason isn't necessarily its violent or sexual content, but rather its depiction of Koreas former President Park Chung-hee who was assassinated by the head of the Korean CIA, someone who was involved in a power struggle with the heads of the governments other agencies. Directed by Im Sang-soo, whose previous feature was the astute sexual drama A Good Lawyers Wife (2003), Last Bang is presented as a fictional and satirical account of the events of October 26, 1979. (In an interview, however, Im has claimed that he believes his take is true. President Parks daughter took the filmmaker to court which prompted removal of 4 minutes of footage.)

There isnt much doubt about the fact that Ims view of the president would be considered as a "leftist" or a popular one. But, as usual, there are two sides to every story, especially when it comes to politics, so it isnt difficult to come across accounts claiming that President Park, who came into power after a coup in 1961, was a key figure in fighting communism. But Im, along with many others, believe that during his rule only the rich got richer while the rest were stomped upon (the director has gotten a lot of mileage out of comparing Park to President Bush). The problem with this technically polished film is not the potency of Ims view but rather the method of its presentation, along with his seemingly lack of knowledge about the motive of the killings.

Much of the film unfolds on the evening of October 26th as President Park (Song Jae-ho) gets ready to meet the heads of the bureaus, including KCIA director Kim (Baek Yoon-shik) who doesnt see eye-to-eye with Cha (Jeong Won-jung), commander of the presidential guard. One KCIA agent under Kim, Ju (Han Suk-gyu), is responsible for producing the presidents lady of the evening (Im makes it clear from the opening scene that the president was a womanizer). Ju comes up with a young college girl named Cho (Cho Eun-ji) while another singer is also present to entertain the president who has a penchant for Japanese "enka." (He and his staff also switch from Korean to Japanese on a few occasions, the language of Koreas former occupiers!)

Im doesnt leave much to the imagination once the mayhem ensues. But his camera-work, that includes many long tracking shots, is exceptional as we roam from one palatial room to another. The word "democracy" is uttered a few times by Kim who believes that hes performing a service to the country through his deed, but to Im everyone was incompetent, making one wish for a bit more depth and political intelligence. (Also, U.S. president Jimmy Carter is referred to as a moron while Pakistani leader Bhutto was apparently nuke hungry.) Though, Last Bang isnt without its share of acerbic humor: Cho being told to not go overboard during sex in order to prevent herself from going down in history books as a whore is only second to an aid covering the presidents private parts with his hat. Last bang satisfies on many counts, and its certainly preferable to shameless Korean "political" panderers like Tae Guk Gi (2004), but it had the potential to be a lot more.


*Available on DVD in the U.S. (Kino).

Re: Korean Korner

Postby arsaib4 » Sun Sep 17, 2006 1:24 am

SAVE THE GREEN PLANET! (S. Korea / 2003)

"I sometimes feel as if movies from all over the world have melted inside me." That Tarantino-esque musing came from young South Korean filmmaker Jang Jun-hwan, whose debut feature, a wild genre mishmash titled Save the Green Planet! (Jigureul Jikyeora!), does give one a feeling that this man has had an unhealthy appetite. His protagonist in the film, Lee Byeong-gu (Shin Ha-gyun), is also not quite well, but a recent tragedy or two in his life is to blame for that. Lee has become convinced that Kang Man-shik (Baek Yun-shik), a CEO of a chemical plant, is an alien from planet Andromeda whos here to destroy the "Green Planet." So, with the help of his portly tightrope-walker girlfriend (Hwang Jung-min), he kidnaps Kang, and subsequently tortures him for more info. Things go from humorously bizarre to darkly berserk after a righteous detective, who had been sniffing around for Kang, meets his grizzly end. And from that point on, the film turns on itself by becoming something altogether serious and, dare I say, meaningful. While Save the Green Planet!s violent content could be toned down (this alone would shave off a few minutes from the overlong film), but that was perhaps just one of the various means employed by Jang to not let his film enter the "crazy-Korean-comedy" zone. The film skillfully carries its heavy genre baggage throughout and, for the most part, does so without drawing attention, which is because Jang seems to have an overall plan, not unlike a few of his "characters." Though Jangs visual panache, not to mention the intricately detailed set-designs and sci-fi theories, only confirm a remarkable flaw: Save the Green Planet! has a few too many ideas up its sleeve.


*Available on DVD in the U.S. (Koch Lorber).

Re: Korean Korner

Postby A » Sun Sep 17, 2006 5:42 pm

Hey, nice to read some thoughts on Save the green planet with which I can agree. Everybody else I talked to, seemed to think this was the new Tarantino or something.
While the film had imo quite a lot of good moments it was totally tearing itself apart into different directions all of the time. In the end the director wanted to package so much into his film, that he would have needed one or two hours more to drive a sensible point home. As it is, the film is overburdened and too long, and in the end fell on the wrong side of the scale for me, even if its heart might have been in the right place.
A classic case of a talented director wanting way too much.

Re: Korean Korner

Postby arsaib4 » Sun Sep 17, 2006 6:25 pm

I agree, though the film's final few minutes made me reconsider a few points. It would certainly be interesting to see what Jang does next.


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