London Korean Film Festival – Scotland
Since 2003, when the all-time masterpiece Oldboy hit screens, Korean cinema has been arguably producing the strongest films internationally. Films such as I Saw the Devil, The Chaser, The Wailing and Extreme Job are modern cinema at its best, in a variety of genres such as horror, action and comedy. Despite fading a little in the last few years, Korean output is still making waves, most notably with Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite winning the Palme D’or at the Cannes Film Festival this year (the first Korean film to achieve this). 2019’s London Korean Film Festival celebrates 100 years of Korean cinema, so it follows that the Scottish leg showcases films old and new.
Hong Sang-Soo is known as a director in the realist style, and his new film Grass is being screened. The festival screened his The Day After previously, a film with a straightforward narrative. Grass looks to be a little different, centring on a writer who overhears conversations in a cafe and transcribes them into a kind of diary. A hard to pin-down enigma of a film, with an arthouse style sure to please those who like to apply intelligence and reflection in their watching habits.
Scattered Night sheds light on the trauma divorce can cause young children. Su-Min (A vivid debut from Moon Seunga) and her brother Jin-ho (Choi Junwoo) are told by their parents they will soon divorce. The film concentrates on the emotional reactions they have, and in contrast the harshness of the adult’s world. Both parents and children make hard decisions, and the film offers both compassion and positivity in it’s message.
Made in 1964, Lee Man-hee’s The Devil’s Stairway is a psychological horror that weaves a hallucinatory tapestry. Dr Hyeon (Kim Jin-kyu) is a well-regarded surgeon who accepts the advances of the hospital owners daughter (Bang Seong-ja), setting in motion a plot twisting though murder and psychological breakdown. The film comes with great pedigree and effective use of atmosphere through techniques such as mood lighting and pouring rain in some scenes. The film deserves to take its place alongside such 60s horror greats as The Haunting and Onibaba, and this special screening is one to savour for fans.
Aimless Bullet was made at a time when realist cinema was coming of age, in the early 60s, and is a take on postwar Korea so uncompromisingly dark it was originally banned by the Korean Government. Many believe it to be the best Korean film ever made. The movie concentrates on a number of characters and manages through this to paint a picture of an extreme class-divided country, with a huge amount of poverty. The film concentrates on Cheol-ho (Kim Jin-kyu), who wanders aimlessly through the days and nights of Seoul, embodying the hopelessness of Korean society. As an important a film now as it was then, revealing much about the human condition, here is your chance to catch it on the big screen.
My knowledge of Korean cinema starts at Oldboy, and to hear about and see older Korean films, and to know there is a wealth of material I still have to watch, is a comforting thought. So catch them while you can, and witness arguably the greatest film making nation at work in the last 20 years. For twisting and subverting genres, challenging the viewers perception of our world and creating original aesthetic styles, Korean cinema cannot be matched.
The London Korean Film Festival Scottish legs run from the 18th till the 24th of November in The Glasgow Film Theatre and Edinburgh’s Filmhouse cinema.