Hit the Night (밤치기, Jeong Ga-young, 2017)

Hit the Night posterFollowing her impressive, Hong Sang-soo inspired debut Bitch on the Beach, Jeong Ga-young returns with a similarly structured exploration of modern relationships though now in a suitably fuzzy colour rather than Bitch’s artful black and white. Once again, Jeong plays a meta version of herself – this time a writer/director ostensibly researching a screenplay but perhaps obfuscating her true motives even as she makes visible her innermost anxieties for her invisible audience.

Hit the Night (밤치기, bam-chi-gi) follows Ga-young (Jeong Ga-young) as she takes a young man, Jin-hyeok (Park Jong-hwan), out on the town. The pair have dinner together, but they aren’t a couple, or even really friends – Ga-young has bought Jin-hyeok’s time on the pretext of interviewing him to get background information for a screenplay she is writing. Jin-hyeok wants to be helpful and has committed to answering Ga-young’s questions as frankly as possible. Her questions are, however, extremely personal from the outset as she begins asking him about his masturbation habits almost before they’ve even sat down. As the night wears on and the drinks keep flowing, Jin-hyeok begins to smell a rat, wondering why it is Ga-young is so interested in his sex life when it doesn’t seem to have much to do with the various screenplays she outlines to him. Ga-young is indeed trying it on, her pretext of “research” a mere ruse and means towards seduction.

It has to be said that the situation is indeed creepy and Jin-hyeok has every right to be upset and offended, especially as he has repeatedly made clear to Ga-young that he has a girlfriend and is not interested in her. If Ga-young were a man taking a young woman out for dinner, plying her with drinks, asking increasingly suggestive and inappropriate questions and all on false pretences she would not be looking very good at all (much, indeed, like a classic Hong Sang-soo hero), not to mention the fact that money has already changed hands.

Nevertheless, despite his irritation Jin-hyeok decides to stay, progressing to a karaoke box rather than simply going home only to leave abruptly after palming Ga-young off on a lonely friend. Despite Jin-hyeok’s slightly underhanded machinations, there is less calculation and a clear possibility for genuine feeling between Ga-young and the other man, but she remains too fixated on her failed conquest and the idealised, unattainable fantasy romance to take a chance on an organic connection with a cheerful guy who likes movies and has his own well developed life philosophy.

Jeong’s approach is meta in the extreme – she repeatedly tells us the ongoing arc of the movie by referencing other movies while also reinforcing her intentions by foregrounding the various ideas for screenplays which Ga-young describes to Jin-hyeok. Her movie titled “Best Ending Ever” ironically has no ending while its hero aims to make a film in which all the characters speak their own fates in a conclusion that “won’t leave you hanging”, but real life is never quite so neat and there are no clean cut, narratively satisfying conclusions to be had in a “film” which is still ongoing.

Ironically enough, unlike the heroine of Bitch on the Beach, Jeong’s screenwriter makes a performance of control she never quite possesses, ceding ground to the earnest Jin-hyeok as he picks her up on her unethical practices and makes frequent attempts to reflect the inappropriate questioning back on her. Ga-young finds herself on the back foot, trying to manipulate Jin-hyeok into abandoning his principles and betraying his girlfriend even as her mask of unflappable frankness begins to slip. Yet Jin-hyeok, even if remaining steadfast in his moral goodness, finds himself captivated by Ga-young’s surprising candour while perhaps more ambivalent about her unusually predatory behaviour. With her short hair and plain, boyish clothes Ga-young adopts an aggressive, “male” persona, pursuing rather than being pursued, and using all of the same tactics that would generally be used against her only for Jin-hyeok to punch a hole through her artifice and expose the very insecurities it was designed to mask.

Not done with her meta messaging, Jeong “ends” on a Days of Being Wild inspired epilogue in which she meticulously dons her chosen persona before setting off to meet Jin-hyeok. This is a film without an ending because in its end is its beginning. Ga-young finds herself running in circles pursuing unrealistic ideals destined to end in frustrated defeat while ignoring the various “realities” which present themselves to her as she sets her sights on the “best ending ever” rather than the emotionally satisfying conclusion.


Hit the Night was screened as part of the 2018 New York Asian Film Festival and will also be screened as part of the London Korean Film Festival on 6th November 2018, 6.30pm at the ICA where director Jeong Ga-young will be present for a Q&A.

International trailer (English subtitles)

London Korean Film Festival Announces Full Programme for 2018

LKFF2018 The ReturnThe London Korean Film Festival returns for its 13th year kicking off in London on 1st November before touring to Glasgow, Edinburgh, Manchester, Sheffield, Nottingham, and Belfast. Opening with indie drama Microhabitat, the theme for this year’s edition is “a slice of everyday life” while the festival will also offer a selection of current hits, independent features, shorts, animation, and a few classics before bringing the London leg to a close on 14th November with Malene Choi’s The Return.

Opening

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  • Microhabitat – A young woman living hand-to-mouth decides rent is an unnecessary expense in the debut feature from Jeon Go-woon who will also be present for a Q&A. Review.

Closing

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  • The Return – A Danish Korean adoptee returns to Korea looking for her history in a semi-autobiographical fiction debut from documentarian Malene Choi. Actress Karoline Sofie Lee will be present for a Q&A.

Special Focus: A Slice of Everyday Life

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  • The Power of Kangwon Province – a woman goes on holiday and ends up spending the night with a married policeman while an adulterous professor decides to visit the same area in the second film from Hong Sang-soo.
  • Christmas in August – 1998 romantic drama from genre master Hur Jin-ho in which a photographer falls in love with a terminally ill woman.
  • This Charming Girl – an isolated young woman develops a fondness for a shy writer but struggles to overcome past trauma.
  • Grain in Ear – second feature from A Quiet Dream‘s  Zhang Lu in which a woman of Korean ethnicity in North East China makes a living illegally selling kimchee.
  • Treeless Mountain – two little girls have to learn to look after themselves when their mum leaves them with relatives to go and look for their long absent dad.
  • The Journals of Musan – Park Jung-bum’s 2011 film in which he also stars as one of two North Korean defectors trying to adjust to life in the South.
  • Bleak Night – a father investigates the death of his son.
  • Alive – Park Jung-bum directs himself in his 2014 drama about a worker in a soybean paste factory.
  • The Bacchus Lady – Youn Yuh-jung stars as an elderly prostitute in E J-yong’s exploration of life on the margins. Review
  • The Running Actress – actress Moon So-ri steps behind the camera for three connected shorts each inspired by her real life and shot through with self deprecating humour. Review.
  • The Poet and the Boy – a middle-aged, unhappily married poet (Yang Ik-june) is suddenly struck by the beauty of a handsome young man.
  • Possible Faces – a young couple take different paths after splitting up in Lee Kang-hyun’s gentle drama.
  • Mothers – a woman becomes the guardian of the illegtimate son of her late husband in the second film from Lee Dong-eun (In Between Seasons)
  • The Land of Seonghye – Seonghye falls from the corporate ladder in Jung Hyung-suk’s indie drama.

Cinema Now

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  • Heart Blackened – Jung Ji-woo remakes Fei Xing’s Silent Witness in which a wealthy CEO hires a fancy lawyer to defend his daughter who has been charged with the murder of her step-mother, a famous pop-star.
  • Love+Sling – father and son wrestlers face off when the girl next door turns down the son’s confession because she likes the dad…
  • The Princess and the Matchmaker – thematic sequel to The Face Reader starring Shim Eun-kyung as a princess who prefers the astronomer brought in to find the perfect match to anyone he suggests.
  • Seven Years of Night – thriller taking place over seven years beginning with the death of an innocent girl. Q&A chaired by Anton Bitel.
  • Little Forest – a lost young woman retreats to her country home in Yim Soon-rye’s take on the much loved Japanese manga. Review.
  • The Witness – a middle-aged salaryman witnesses a murder but selfishly keeps quiet even as the death toll rises.
  • Hotel by the River – the latest (?) from Hong Sang-soo in which a poet and his two estranged sons chat about death .

Woman’s Voices

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  • Hit the Night – Bitch on the Beach‘s Jeong Ga-young once again stars as an extremely forward screenwriter “interviewing” her crush on the pretext of research. Jeong Ga-young will be present for a Q&A moderated by Sophie Brown as well as for a director talk at Kingston University at 11.30am on 7th November.
  • For Vagina’s Sake – documentary in which director Kim Bo-ram travels around the world exploring attitudes to menstruation.
  • Grown Up – filmmaker Jang Hye-yeong chronicles the process of bringing her disabled sister home to live with her in Seoul.
  • Women’s Voices Shorts Programme

Indie Firepower

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  • Motel Cactus – a series of encounters take place at a love hotel in Seoul. Introduction by Tony Rayns.
  • Camel(s) – a middle-aged couple have a lengthy one night stand in Park Ki-yong’s indie drama. Park Ki-yong will be present for a Q&A.
  • Old Love – Park Ki-yong’s most recent film in which old lovers reconnect at Incheon airport. Park Ki-yong will be present for a Q&A.
  • Adulthood  – a 14-year-old girl’s life is turned upside-down when her long lost uncle shows up at her father’s funeral and cheats her out of her inheritance. In order to get the money back she has to pose as his daughter so he can scam a lonely pharmacist. Review.
  • Back From The Beat – an aspiring DJ’s life is disrupted when he makes an unwise remark about employment rights. Introduction by Tony Rayns.

Contemporary Classics: Lee Myung-se & The 1990s

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The subject for this year’s classic film special focus is director Lee Myung-se who began his career with Gagman back in 1988.  Lee will be present at each of the screenings for a Q&A. 

  • My Love, My Bride – Park Joong-hoon and Choi Jin-sil star as a mismatched couple in Lee’s romantic comedy.
  • First Love – an aspiring actress falls head over heels for a chain smoking writer from Seoul.
  • Their Last Love Affair – a married poet falls for a journalist who said some nice things about his work… screening with Short Can’t Live Without You

Animation

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  • The Shower – animation based on a short story by Hwang Sun-won in which a young boy becomes fascinated by a girl who plays by the stream.
  • Pororo, Dinosaur Island Adventure – Cute penguin Pororo returns for another adventure in which he travels to a tropical island to save some dinosaurs from a greedy alien and his robot minions.

Mise-en-scene Shorts

The-Monologue

Artist Video

Grace-Period

The London Korean Film Festival runs 1st – 14th November in London before touring the country until 25th November. Full details for all the films as well as screening times and ticketing information are available via the official website and you can keep up with all the latest news by following the festival on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

A Tiger in Winter (호랑이보다 무서운 겨울손님, Lee Kwang-kuk, 2018)

Tiger in Winter poster“Life just keeps getting harder” sighs a weary policeman charged with extracting a coherent statement from an accidental hero who only wants to talk about a tiger. Lee Kwang-kuk’s third feature, A Tiger in Winter (호랑이보다 무서운 겨울손님, Horangiboda Museoun Gyeoulsonnim), is in some ways a more conventional exercise in comparison with the time bending reflexivity of his earlier work, but the journey he takes us on is similarly circular as a melancholy young man finds himself chased out of his natural habitat and cast adrift, outside of his comfort zone too resentful to crawl back into a familiar cage but too afraid to embrace his freedom. 

On the day a tiger escapes from the zoo, Gyeong-yu (Lee Jin-wook), a failed writer, “loses” his day job and has to temporarily vacate his apartment because his girlfriend’s parents are coming to visit and she evidently hasn’t told them she is “living in sin”. Gyeong-yu offers to stay and meet them, but bristles when his girlfriend wonders if he’s ready to make a firm a commitment. He packs and leaves, planning to return in a few days’ time when the coast is clear. Decamping to a friend’s place, Gyeong-yu continues his night “job” as a designated driver which brings him into contact with an old girlfriend – Yoo-jung (Ko Hyun-jung), who is also a writer and apparently successful but suffering from an extended bout of writer’s block and has descended into a self destructive spiral of alcohol fuelled existential desperation.

After reconnecting with Gyeong-yu, Yoo-jung pulls down a book he once gave her from her well stocked bookcase – a Korean translation of Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. Hemingway’s hero fights his age as manifested in a powerful marlin and dreams of youth in the lions of Africa. The film’s English title, “A Tiger in Winter”, is perhaps a mild pun on “The Lion in Winter” which again tells of a once proud old man struggling to deal with his bodily decline, only Gyeong-yu is still young even if he feels himself diminished and brought low by life. Unlike the old man, he has stopped fighting and accepted his defeat. He no longer writes and flounders aimlessly, running away from the things that frighten him without aim or purpose. The loosed tiger is a manifestation of the fears Gyeong-yu refuses to fight which render him both physically and artistically impotent.

Writing, or perhaps art of any kind, becomes its own kind of vice – a dangerous addition, a need which must be sated or displaced without which the rest of life remains hollow. Unable to satisfy her need for creation, Yoo-jung has crumbled under the pressure of her own expectations and retreated into the comforting world of the permanently tipsy even whilst knowing that the alcohol itself inhibits her ability to create and forever separates her from that which would make her whole. She wants to stop, throws away her soju, but can’t move past her inability to face herself and resolve her creative doubts. Yoo-jung wants the quick fix, and like any addict, she is past caring about the harm she might do to herself and others in the pursuit of it.

Gyeong-yu, meanwhile, almost wallows in his degradation as he allows himself to be belittled by the customers who call for his services and insist on treating him like a servant. Designated driving doesn’t seem like a particularly safe arrangement for either party – many of Gyeong-yu’s customers are extremely drunk and willingly allowing a man they don’t know to drive them somewhere in their own car while they are barely conscious, while conversely many refuse to pay or accuse Gyeong-yu of damaging the car while berating him for acting in an insufficiently humble manner. Yet it’s not humiliation that knocks Gyeong-yu out of his stupor but trauma and a direct confrontation with someone else’s despair.

Tigers lurk everywhere, though when Gyeong-yu finally learns to look his in the eye it’s a very cute and non-threatening sort of tiger which perhaps makes him feel foolish for having evaded it for so long. Lee may not be playing with time in his usual fashion, but he sends Gyeong-yu retreating into the past all the same in an attempt to hide from his fears only to discover you can’t walk backwards into the future. An exploration of the destructive power of the creative urge, the soul crushing inertia of artistic block, and the continuing rootlessness of a life lived in flight, A Tiger in Winter is another beautifully poetic character drama from Lee whose world weary optimism loses nothing in its seeming simplicity.


A Tiger in Winter was screened as the final teaser for the London Korean Film Festival which will open on 1st November with Microhabitat. The full programme for this year’s event is now available on the official website – tickets on sale soon!

International trailer (English subtitles)

Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum (곤지암, Jung Bum-sik, 2018)

Gonjiam Haunted Asylum posterBack in 1992, all of the UK was scandalised by a strangely realistic “drama” starring three well respected TV personalities “investigating” poltergeist activity in an ordinary house. Screened as part of an ongoing anthology drama series, the show was presented as if it were live complete with a telephone number for viewers to ring in. Many were tricked into believing the events they were witnessing were “real” and that a genial children’s TV presenter they knew and loved had been dragged off by a malevolent supernatural entity. Fast forward 10 years and the nation was once again gripped by a “live” ghost hunting show presented by a dubious psychic and a (former) children’s television presenter but this time at least keeping up a pretence of “reality” even if the show’s appeal lay more in its exaggerated seriousness than it did a genuine interest in the paranormal.

The world may have been a more innocent place back in 1992, but ghost shows are still big business even in this comparatively more cynical age. Reality TV ghosthunters Horror Times decide the best way to pick up their flagging views is to go viral by going live inside a notorious disused sanatorium listed as one of CNN’s seven freakiest places on Earth. Rumour has it that Gonjiam Mental Hospital (a place all too real though here given a fictionalised history) was built by the Japanese over the top of a mass grave for resistance fighters though, according to our guides, it was also accounted one of the best psychiatric facilities in the country. Its director received numerous awards from the government of Park Chung-hee (which ought to tell you she was probably up to no good), but the hospital fell into disrepute after an incident in which all the patients mysteriously died and the director herself “disappeared”. Ever since then teenagers have been breaking in to try their luck, but anyone who’s tried to open the door to room 402 has met a sticky end.

Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum (곤지암, Gonjiam) is a found footage horror movie in the modern mould and like most, the crime our “heroes” are about to commit is one of extreme hubris. Cynical in the extreme, the Horror Times crew have absolute certainty in the non-existence of the supernatural and actively mock it through their exploitation of engineered “scares”. In an odd way, if you really thought about it, Horror Times would be quite an exploitative show if it involved “real” ghosts – perhaps you should let malevolent spirits lie rather than bullying them to fight you for the entertainment of others. Nevertheless, the Horror Times crew are about to find out just how wrong they are. While they bicker amongst themselves, hatching plans to wind up the most “expressive” of the team members, setting up bizarre “rituals”, and faking being “scared” to get more money, the Captain keeps a firm eye on the numbers from the safety of the editing tent and the horrors of Gonjiam begin to bubble quietly below the surface.

The thing is, there is clearly horror in spades in this version of Gonjiam where we are told the directoress excelled at treating not only the “distressed” but also “political prisoners”. The lab holds its share of bizarre discoveries including some kind of weird chicken in preserving fluid while the “collective treatment room” is filled with individual confessional boxes which are completely closed save one opening at the chest level. The spectres we later see have large scars running down their torsos and we can only image the true horror of whatever it was that was done here and to whom and on what grounds, but Horror Times aren’t interested in any of that despite their rather superficial “investigations” of the directoress’ office and her many photos of that time she got a prize off a dictator. By the time everyone starts speaking in tongues and getting trapped in strange underwater realms, it becomes clear the “truth” is going to remain buried. 

Maybe the other lesson the Horror Times guys should have learned is that the traumatic past is not your playground and it’s probably fair enough if those unable to pass on begin to feel upset about their personal pain being exploited for ghoulish thrills. Perhaps there’s a mild lesson in the unhappy fates of those who’d rather poke the ghosts than cure them, revelling in the darkness of another era rather than trying to expose it, but Gonjiam isn’t so much about lessons as good old fashioned scares. The abandoned hospital itself is atmospheric, as are the distant banging and doors opening of their own accord but there’s a glibness in its unease that undercuts the sense of dread and inevitability so essential to the genre. The biggest irony of all is that Horror Times’ viewers lost interest when the “real” ghosts showed up – reality TV never really was about “reality” anyway.


Screened as a teaser for the upcoming London Korean Film Festival. The next and final teaser screening will be A Tiger in Winter on 17th September at Regent Street Cinema at which the full programme for this year’s festival will be revealed.

International trailer (English subtitles)

For the curious, a clip from Ghostwatch (1992)

London Korean Film Festival 2018: Documentary Fortnight

Another World We Are Making

The London Korean Film Festival has always made a space for documentary in its packed out programme but for this year’s edition they’ve decided to go a little further and give it a spotlight of its own with two weekends dedicated to the art. On August 11/12, and 18/19, six short and feature lengths films will be screened with directors Kim Dong-won and Song Yun-hyeok making an appearance to present their work.

11th August – Birkbeck Cinema

11.30am: A Slice Room

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Song Yun-hyeok examines the social reality behind the prosperous facade of contemporary Korean society through the lives of those living in “slice rooms”. Director Song Yun-hyeok will also be in conversation with Nam In Young following the screening.

2.30pm: The Sanggyedong Olympics / The 6 Day Struggle at the Myeongdong

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Kim Dong-won’s 1988 documentary Sanggyedong Olympics follows the resistance movement towards urban regeneration amongst a community north of Seoul who had been unfairly evicted from their homes without proper compensation or adequate time to find new accommodation. Kim planned to stay only one day but ended up living amongst the community for three years.

The 6 Day Struggle at the Myeongdong Cathedral, completed during 1996-7, looks back at the pivotal 1987 sit-in which became a catalyst for the June democracy movement.

Following the two short docs, Kim Dong-won will also be in conversation with Nam In Young.

12th August – Birkbeck Cinema 

1.30pm: Repatriation 

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In what many consider his masterpiece, Kim Dong-won examines the lives of the “unconverted” – North Korean “spies” who refuse to renounce their communist beliefs despite longterm imprisonment in the South. Refused the possibility of returning to the North on release, most were left without support in South Korea facing economic hardship and social stigma, dependent on solidarity networks to help them integrate into society. Kim follows two such men over a decade as they try to rebuild their lives in the fluctuating political climate of the ’90s.

The film will be followed by a conversation with Kim Dong-won chaired by Chris Berry.

4.45pm: Roundtable 

A roundtable panel discussion chaired by Professor Chris Berry discussing the Korean independent documentary scene from the late ’80s to the present. Nam In Young of Dongseo University will provide an overview of filmmaking collectives within the sociopolitical history of South Korea while directors Kim Dong-won and Song Yun-hyeok will be on hand to offer their personal experiences.

18th August – Korean Cultural Centre

3pm: Soseongri 

SKOREA-FILM-DIPLOMACY-DEFENCEPark Bae-il’s Soseongri follows a community of elderly farmers facing rural depopulation problems who find themselves in conflict with the police when the decision is taken to place the THAAD anti-aircraft system in their village.

19th August – Korean Cultural Centre

3pm: Jung Il-woo, My Friend 

Jung Il-woo, My Friend 

Kim Dong-won’s most recent film pays tribute to North American Jesuit priest, Jung Il-woo, who dedicated his life to improving the lives of the poor in South Korea.

All the events are free to attend but tickets must be booked in advance via the links above. Full details for all the films are available via the official website, and you can keep up with all the latest news via the festival’s  TwitterFacebookFlickrInstagram and YouTube channels

Claire’s Camera (La caméra de Claire / 클레어의 카메라, Hong Sang-soo, 2017)

Claire's Camera poster“I want talk about someone. About a man of 25, at the most. He is a beautiful man who wants to die before being marked by death. You loved him. More than that.” Hong Sang-soo channels Éric Rohmer through the aptly named Claire’s Camera (La caméra de Claire / 클레어의 카메라), but does so through the unexpected prism of Marguerite Duras whose poem is recited in French at the request of a sleazy Korean film director (Jung Jin-young) making a clumsy attempt to pick up the titular Claire (Isabelle Huppert) through an otherwise beautiful act of cross cultural interaction. The poem, like Claire’s polaroids, exists in an uncanny space – someone wants to tell us about a man we once loved as if we never knew him who wants to die before he is changed by death. Like Duras’ landmark exploration of the shock waves of imploding romance, Hong offers us life in fragments as Claire’s polaroids attempt to rewrite a half remembered history in order to make sense of a disordered present.

Film sales assist Man-hee (Kim Min-hee) is abruptly fired by her boss, Yang-hye (Chang Mi-hee), right in the middle of the Cannes film festival. Yang-hye offers no real reason why Man-hee has to go save that her perception of her has changed. She no longer feels that Man-hee is an “honest” person and as a person who values “honesty” she no longer feels comfortable working with her. Rather than lick her wounds back in Seoul, Man-hee decides to enjoy the rest of her time in Cannes as a kind of holiday which is how she ends up meeting Claire – an older French woman who is visiting the city for the very first time and has brought along her Polaroid camera to properly record the event.

Claire seems to pop-up here, there, and everywhere, dressed in an old-fashioned detective’s outfit of a stylish trench coat and trilby, snapping away like she’s gathering evidence about an international conspiracy. Striking up an awkward conversation with melancholy womanising film director So eventually brings her into the orbit of the three Koreans who are, we later realise, involved in an embarrassing workplace love triangle. Yet each time Claire appears, her photos don’t make sense – she has a photo of Man-hee wearing her trench coat that we never see her take while her other pictures seem generally out-of-order with the timeline as it has been presented to us.

The only way to change things, Claire intones, is to look at everything again very slowly. Ironically enough she offers the opportunity to do just that by means of instant photography, snapping a still frame of a painful memory in order to ruminate and reconsider. She claims she takes photographs as a means of being in the moment – after all, once you take the photo the subject is no longer the same. The act of being photographed has perhaps changed them, but more than that time has passed and we’re all seconds older now than we were before if perhaps no wiser. Yet looking at the photograph, literally looking at yourself from an external perspective, prompts a reevaluation of the past and perhaps changes the course of the present.

There is also, of course, a meta dimension to all this – as he had in The Day After and On the Beach at Night Alone, Hong muses on his own romantic difficulties in casting his real life love Kim Min-hee as a character with a near identical name while also ensuring that So is even more of a Hong stand-in than his usual leads. Man-hee has been unfairly dismissed because of an indiscretion with the drunken director who has had her fired, by his current girlfriend, out of a sense of embarrassment. Both Yang-hye and So are “shocked” by Claire’s photograph which frames her in a sultry pose wearing (they claim) much more makeup than usual, while So, spotting her at a party, goes into a semi-paternal rage about Man-hee’s (not really all that short) denim hot pants and generally “immodest” appearance. Berating her for a supposed lack of self-confidence, accusing her of “selling herself” and trying to catch the attention of men, So “directs” her to be more authentic. Which is quite something seeing as he is currently dressed in a borrowed tux in order to conform to social expectations.

Authenticity, or more directly “honesty”, becomes a running theme from Yang-hye’s instance that Man-hee is “dishonest” to a young filmmaker’s insistence that it’s hard to make an “honest” film. Claire, at least, seems to be embarking on a process of “honest” art even if nothing she says or does quite adds up. Light and bright and breezy, Claire’s Camera is Hong in Rohmer mode, wistful yet resigned and perhaps even hopeful. There’s a reason everyone seems to be so “reasonable” even in the most unreasonable of situations, other people’s feelings are not something that can be debated and are best accepted even if understood only retrospectively. Claire and her camera seem perfectly aware of that, silently observing in preparation for presenting evidence in a self inquisition, but doing so with kindness even in the knowledge that sometimes it’s easier not to look.


Claire’s Camera was screened as part of a teaser series for the upcoming London Korean Film Festival. The next screening in the series will be Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum at Picturehouse Central on 30th August.

International trailer (English subtitles)

Korean Film Nights 2018: Rebels With a Cause

barefooted Youth posterFollowing on from the Novels on Screen season, the Korean Cultural Centre London is back with another series of free film screenings this time themed around those who have dared to defy the social norms of their times.

19th July – Bungee Jumping of Their Own

1024full-bungee-jumping-of-their-own-posterLee Byung-hun stars as a conflicted high school teacher who begins to see echoes of a woman he loved and lost years ago in a male student.

26th July – The Sea Knows

EWBtY1xr1lnEpnQOKim Ki-young recasts the folly of war as a romantic melodrama in which a Korean conscript to the Japanese army receives harsh treatment from his sadistic superior but later falls in love with a Japanese woman.

2nd August – A Woman Judge

71d8383407a3d1bec2d8eed51ce3a6eeMoon Jeong-suk stars as a determined young woman hellbent on becoming a judge in defiance of social convention which views marriage and motherhood as the only paths to female success. Encouraged by her father but forced to dodge her mother’s constant attempts to marry her off, she pursues her dream in spite of intense disapproval.

9th August – The Barefooted Young

barefooted Youth stillKim Ki-duk (the old one!) draws inspiration from Ko Nakahira’s Dorodarake no Junjo for a tragic tale of love across the class divide as poor boy Du-su (Shin Seong-il) and Ambassador’s daughter Johanna (Um Aeng-ran) meet by chance and fall in love. Faced with the impossibility of their “pure” love in an “impure world” the pair find themselves an impasse, unable to reconcile their true feelings with the demands of the society in which they live. Review.

16th August – Mandala 

Mandala posterIm Kwon-taek’s “artistic breakthrough” stars Ahn Sung-ki as a young man who has abandoned his girlfriend and university studies to become a Buddhist monk but later meets an older man who indulges all of life’s Earthly pleasures such as wine and women.

23rd August – Black Republic

Black Republic still 1Park Kwang-su revisits the democratisation movement in its immediate aftermath as a student who hides from the authorities in a small mining village finds himself at odds with his environment while haunted by the possibility that his longed for revolution will not come to pass.

The Rebels With a Cause season runs throughout July and August. All screenings are free but must be booked in advance and take place at the Korean Cultural Centre in central London. Reservations are currently open for all the films via the links above. You can keep up to date with all the latest screening news via the Korean Cultural Centre and London Korean Film Festival websites and be sure to follow the festival on TwitterFacebookFlickrInstagram and YouTube channels for the most up to date information.

Tickets are also currently on sale for the latest teaser screening for London Korean Film Festival – Claire’s Camera, at Regent Street Cinema on 23rd July, 7pm. The next teaser in the series has not yet been announced but will take place on 30th August.