Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Some Korean movies I've had a chance to watch, Pt. 1

One of the best perks of living in Korea is having easy access to Korean films. Once in a while, a Korean movie makes it across to North America and becomes relatively easy to obtain, but these movies tend to be ones that are selected for Cannes and other prestigious film festivals. But every weekend, many movies are released in Korea that will be viewed, enjoyed, and quickly forgotten by the public, and this is the Korean cinema that interests me, as opposed to the artsy fare.

At this point, I am fed up with Hollywood and its endless parade of superhero movies, so watching what Korean cinema has to offer has been a refreshing change. Here are some of the movies that I've seen in the past year or so.

Spellbound (오싹한 연애)

The literal English translation of the title is something like "Eerie Romance", which is fitting because this romantic comedy is about a budding relationship between a woman who is haunted by ghosts, and a magician. Its pitch could be "The Sixth Sense if written by Nora Ephron (rest in peace)".

There's a sweet romance here, but there are also plenty of scares as well. So if you're watching it as a date movie (as I did), make sure that neither one of you is averse to sudden shocks involving creepy undead children.

I liked how the film showed how the heroine's supernatural affliction affected her real life. Being haunted by ghosts may be something out of the ordinary, but in the end, it's just like having a crippling mental disorder. That level of realistic treatment helped me care about the main characters of the story.

The Last Godfather ( 라스트 갓파더)

I'll come out and say it: this is the absolute worst movie I've ever watched. There are movies that have truly annoyed me, like Can't Hardly Wait, but I could at least see how some people might've liked them.

Not with this one though. I only saw it because my dad really wanted to see it, and though I know he has a putrid taste in movies, I felt bad forcing him to either go alone (my mom definitely wasn't going) or not see it at all.

Terrible mistake.

This is one of the most racist movies I've ever seen, and the saddest thing is that it was made by a Korean. A person with a serious hatred of Koreans could easily make a movie like this. The "hero" is a stumpy, mentally-handicapped buffoon of Korean descent who accidentally finds himself as the heir to an American mafia empire. Hilarity is supposed to ensue, but it excruciatingly doesn't. 

The poster is a rip-off of Once Upon a Time in America too. Absolutely nothing redeeming about this trash.

Architecture 101 (건축학개론)

Ahh, to wash the rancid taste and smell of The Last Godfather out of my senses is Architecture 101.
I love this movie. It's the story of a guy and girl who met as university freshmen who quickly developed a close friendship that, for some reason, abruptly ended. About 15 years later, they meet again and the audience finds out their backstory.

I really enjoy movies like this, ones that show and explore youth culture in Korea. The best thing about this movie is the way it lovingly pokes fun of the 90s (I supposed we're far enough removed now to cast an anthropological view of that decade).

The film is beautifully shot, and there's such a delicate balance between romance and realism. I was very happy that such an understated movie became a box office smash in Korea, and perhaps as a result, it'll be easier for foreigners to get access to this gem of a movie.

All About My Wife (내 안애의 모든 것)

What kind of weak-ass man would pay a notorious womanizer to seduce his own wife because he's too afraid to ask for a divorce?

The main character of this screwy comedy, that's who. Everything starts off well for the main couple after their Meet Cute moment in Japan when earthquake tremors conspire to bring them together. But the stagnation of marriage sets in and the husband finds that his once-lively and ambitious wife has become cynical and joyless. Too meek to ask for a divorce, he propositions a tragically poetic and soulful Lothario to win over his wife and cause HER to incite the divorce.

Unfortunately for our hero, his wife begins to turn back into the woman he fell in love with once she feels appreciated and noticed by this new man in her life, and he realizes that he's been a neglectful partner. But can he undo his own little scheme before it's too late and he loses his love forever?

This is a very good romantic comedy, one that focuses more on the periods after the cute courtship and the wedding ceremonies. It stars one of my favourite Korean actresses, Im Soo Jung, so that made me happy too.

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