Korean Film Nights 2018
Director: Kim Dae-sung
Cast: Lee Byung-hun, Lee Eun-ju, Yeo Hyeon-soo, Hong Soo-hyun
In 1983, college freshman In-woo falls for fellow student Tae-hee. His relentless pursuit pays off when, during a hike, they declare their mutual love and decide to seal it with a bungee jump in New Zealand. At the moment of leaving Seoul, In-woo waits in vain at the station for Tae-hee, who never shows up. Seventeen years later, In-woo - now a high school teacher with a family of his own - starts seeing idiosyncrasies of his former lover in a male student, and slowly becomes obsessed with him. As the mystery of who this boy might be unfolds, In-woo must deal with gay jibes and his own memories of Tae-hee to try and make sense of it all. A powerful romantic drama that tries to answer the question: can love endure forever? Using a cyclical structure, Director Kim Dae-seung opens and closes his film following the course of a river, which suggests that love is never-ending, just as the current that never stops. He elevates love above and beyond classifications such as sexuality, boldly challenging notions of heterosexism and what constitutes the ‘norm’.
KCCUK, 19 Jul 2018 7:00 pm
Director: Kim Ki-young
Cast: Woon-ha Kim, Sang-sa Lee, Ye-chun Lee
In 1944, Japan is conscripting Koreans into the Imperial Army. Students Arowoon and Inoue are forced to journey across the sea to Nagoya, where they face gross mistreatment from their sadistic Japanese superior, Mori. Nevertheless, they retain their defiant spirit in both word and deed. When Arowoon ventures outside the barracks, he encounters another side to Japan through a young woman called Hideko. Although she is Japanese, he defies convention, yet again, by falling in love with her. He finds solace in her tenderness and resolute devotion, despite the fierce opposition to their union. However, their ‘Romeo and Juliet’ story takes a terrifying turn when the war threatens not only their lives, but also that of their unborn child. Will fate grant this unconventional pair a happier ending than Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers? Kim Ki-young, originator of the grotesque in Korean film, explores the full horrors of World War II in this epic. At the same time, he rails against racial prejudice, providing hope for a more egalitarian future with his defiant lovers. Kim considered The Sea Knows amongst his best works in his maverick career as a ‘cineaste who went ahead of the times’ (KoFA).
KCCUK, 26 Jul 2018 7:00 pm
Director: Hong Eun-Won
Cast: Kim Seung-Ho, Moon Jung-Suk, Yu Gye-seon, Kim Seok-hun
A young, determined woman, Jin-suk, has her mind set on becoming a judge. Encouraged by her father who sends her off to a monastery to focus on her studies, and despite her mother’s fervent efforts to marry her off to a wealthy suitor, Jin-suk defiantly follows her own path. With those around her doing nothing but oppose and obstruct, should she relent and follow the route society expects of her, or can she go against all odds and fulfil her dream? Hong Eun-won, the second woman in Korea to direct a film, said that she was “...interested in making films that depicted the lives of women, but seen through a woman’s eyes rather than imagined by male writers and directors.” In taking this approach, Hong boldly challenged both the melodramatic portrayals of women in Korean cinema of the time, and the directorial world that remains to this date monopolised by men.
KCCUK, 02 Aug 2018 7:00 pm
Director: Kim Ki-duk
Cast: Shin Seong-il, Um Aeng-ran, Yoon Il-bong, Lee Yea-chun
Adolescent films first gained widespread popularity in Korea during the 1960s; of these, The Barefooted Young (or Barefooted Youth, as it is sometimes translated) is the best-known example. In the film, Doo-soo - a lower class gangster - stumbles across a group of thugs harassing two young women. He intervenes, saving the women but getting himself injured in the process. When one of the women, a diplomat’s daughter named Johanna, comes to thank him in person, the two begin a relationship. Whilst highlighting the vast socio-economic gap between Doo-soo’s underworld and the upper class existence of Johanna, the film reflects the rise of youth culture in the 1960s. Moreover, it portrays the rebellion and force for change bubbling beneath a rigid class structure, as well as its repercussions. Kim Ki-duk (1934–2017), whilst best known outside of Korea for his 1967 monster film Yongary, was one of the leading young directors of the Korean cinematic wave of the 1960s and made distinctive and successful melodramas. The Barefooted Young is Kim Ki-duk’s rallying cry against social inequality and class barriers with its effective use of melodrama and romance.
KCCUK, 09 Aug 2018 9:00 pm
Director: Im Kwon-taek
Cast: Ahn Sung-Ki, Jeon Moo-song, Bang Hee, Gi Jeong-su
Set in contemporary Korea, Mandala follows two rather different characters: Pob-un, a young Buddhist monk who has decided to quit his university studies and leave his doting girlfriend, instead embarking upon a search for answers regarding the futility of human existence, and Ji-san, an elderly, rather unconventional monk who indulges all life’s earthly pleasures, particularly alcohol. The two meet by chance on the road in rural Korea and together they start a journey of selfdiscovery, reflecting upon the issues of freedom of choice, religious devotion and enlightenment. Based on an eponymous bestselling book by Kim Seong-dong, Mandala was regarded as the breakthrough film of Im’s career, and was one of the rare Korean films of its time to also be screened internationally. A contemplative work that avoids clichés about religion and meditation, Mandala is one of Im’s two main works dealing with Buddhism (the other being Come Come Come Upward, 1989) and a truly poetic film, with its symbolism and imagery perfectly complemented.
KCCUK, 16 Aug 2018 7:00 pm
Director: Park Kwang-Su
Cast: Moon Sung-keun, Park Joong-hoon, Shim Hye-jin, Hwang Hae
Opening on a pitch black screen, we begin to hear a voice: it is the words of the mother of the protagonist, Han Tae-hoon, a student who becomes involved in the Korean democratisation movement of the 1980s. The woman’s voice stands for both mother and country, a land then plunged into darkness. Tae-hoon flees from the authorities using a fake identity and seeks refuge in a mining village, but the state-repressive forces are not the only ghost he is trying to escape - the lingering thought of the possible failure of the democratisation movement never ceases to haunt him. Tae-hoon does not belong in his chosen hideout; his presence starkly reveals the undeniable tensions between intellectuals and blue-collar workers, a division permeating through the minjung movement. Ten years after the Gwangju Uprising, Park Kwangu-su revisited that traumatic period in the history of contemporary Korea. Park’s early filmography echoes the same social tensions and Tae-hoon, like his other male protagonists (see Chilsu and Mansu, 1988; To the Starry Island, 1993), poignantly embodies the opposition between the individual and the masses.
KCCUK, 23 Aug 2018 7:00 pm