Film reviews and comment

For a complete listing of LKL’s film reviews, click here. For a listing of the top films of the noughties – compiled from the lists of prominent K-film bloggers – click here, and the article was updated here. For LKL’s own list of the top films 2000-2010 (2003 was a bumper year) click here. Otherwise, all our reviews are in publication date order below.

Tunnel (dir: Kim Sung-hoon, whose Hard Day put him on the map) has been topping the Korean box office since it was released less than four weeks ago, and amazingly now has a one-week release in the UK, until 8 September. What has contributed to its popularity in Korea? And could it attain the same […]

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The Priests – another excellent LKFF16 teaser

by Philip Gowman 3 June 2016
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The second of the KCC’s “teaser screenings” for the 2016 London Korean Film Festival, which screened last night at the Picturehouse Central, was another hit. Let’s hope they keep this up. Jang Jae-hyun’s The Priests was a hugely fun (and suspense-filled) exorcism movie, and an impressive full-length debut for the director. It will win new […]

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2016 travel diary 1: Arrival

by Philip Gowman 13 May 2016
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Canary Wharf, London, 12 May 2016. In previous years I had always felt stressed in the run up to my departure for my annual Korea trip. Had I packed everything? Would I get everything done before I left? This time I was straining at the leash. I couldn’t wait. I had planned most of my trip […]

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Lee Joon-ik’s The Throne: a familiar tale made a believable tragedy

by Philip Gowman 22 April 2016
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The first of the KCCUK’s “Teaser Screenings” for the London Korean Film Festival 2016 took place on Monday in the presence of Director Lee Joon-ik and the recently-arrived Korean ambassador. The chosen film was The Throne (사도) – a movie which was #5 in the 2015 Korean box office and deals with an incident in […]

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Last Thursday’s screening at the KCC – Sunny – was an unexpected delight

by Philip Gowman 16 April 2016
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Unexpectedly, I really enjoyed Kang Hyeong-cheol’s Sunny at the KCC this week. I shan’t bore you with the details – Paul Quinn has articulated it on Hangul Celluloid much better than I could. Based on the trailers I had been kind of expecting a bit of an offbeat teen comedy. When it featured in the […]

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Review: Embeddedness — The past, present and future of Korean experimental film

by Philip Gowman 14 March 2016
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The series of three screenings of short experimental films at the Tate in September 2015 was a fascinating insight into an artform that is hardly mainstream. To someone not used to sitting in darkened rooms watching 16mm creations the experience was sometimes confusing, sometimes rewarding, but never less than interesting. And what brought the whole […]

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Im Heung-soon: Jeju Prayer, Symptom and Sign

by Philip Gowman 13 March 2016
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The most substantial work in the final session of experimental film screenings at the Tate in September 2015 was Im Heung-soon’s Sung Si (숭 시 – Jeju Symptom and Sign. 2011, HD Video, colour, sound, 24mins), a work which obliquely addresses the 4:3 incident and the Gangjeong naval base. The piece has been made into […]

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Film review: Perfect Proposal

by Philip Gowman 16 December 2015
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Ji-yeon, a penniless bar girl in Macao in debt to some loan sharks is given the opportunity of a new life if she manages to get a super-rich tycoon to marry her. In league with the tycoon’s estranged son, it seems that with her natural charms and honesty she will win the cantankerous and eccentric […]

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Film Review: Wonderful Nightmare

by Philip Gowman 15 December 2015
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Owing to an administrative cock-up at the Pearly Gates, rich, single, hard-nosed, man-hating lawyer Lee Yeon-woo, whose main client is an evil construction company, meets an early death. She is given a chance to resume her life, but only on condition that she first, for one month only, lives the life of a mother-of-two married […]

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Caught on the plane: Twenty and Memories of the Sword

by Philip Gowman 13 December 2015
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I always look forward to long-haul flights as an opportunity to catch up on all the movies I should have been watching over the past year. And having just returned from an ultra-long-haul holiday, I can heartily recommend Singapore Airlines in-flight entertainment. My only complaint is that there was too much to watch: if the […]

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Festival Film Review: Lee Kwang-guk focus

by Philip Gowman 23 November 2015
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If I had seen no other films at the 2015 London Korean Film Festival, the evenings of films by Lee Kwang-guk would have made the whole festival worthwhile. The first evening featured his second film, the short Hard to Say (2013), along with his debut feature Romance Joe (2012), while the second evening followed up […]

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Festival Film Review: Chung Chang-wha focus

by Philip Gowman 20 November 2015
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Each year the LKFF includes a few golden oldies among its line-up of the latest commercial and art house offerings. This year the festival gave us the opportunity to get to know three films by veteran director Chung Chang-wha, made before he was scouted by Shaw Brothers in 1969. The earliest film to be screened […]

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Festival film review: Love And…

by Philip Gowman 20 November 2015
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Two years ago the revered Korean film critic Tony Rayns asked Moon Sori an awkward question. The question was followed by a sharp intake of breath from the audience who couldn’t believe what they had just heard, and by a few false starts at a response by Ms Moon before she answered fluently. At the final […]

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Festival Film Review: Socialphobia

by Philip Gowman 16 November 2015
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Socialphobia, a debut film from Hong Seok-jae, was one of the fifteen sold-out screenings at this year’s LKFF. For an indie film, it had a strong reception at the Korean box office, aided in part by the actor Byun Yo-han who played in the hit TV drama Misaeng, but also because of its contemporary theme: […]

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Festival Film Review: Sleepless Night

by Philip Gowman 16 November 2015
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There is something slightly hypnotising about seeing a movie which seems to aspire to do nothing more than lovingly record the daily lives of a couple who face the same everyday challenges and questions that most of us face. How and whether to stand up to the boss at work when he seeks to make […]

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Festival Film Review: Collapse

by Philip Gowman 15 November 2015
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The second screening in this year’s documentary strand, this movie left you wondering what the director’s intentions were. Indeed, it made you wonder whether there was another guiding spirit which took over the film-making process, editing and shaping the unfinished work of the director. And then you looked at the credits, and discovered that there […]

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Festival Film Review: The Classified File

by Philip Gowman 12 November 2015
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As goodwill ambassador for Sancheong County, I was delighted when Sancheong’s most famous Buddhist monk, the late Seong Cheol sunim, got name checked in The Classified File as the Seon Master of the Buddhist-trained fortune teller who unofficially assisted the police in the real-life 1978 kidnap case that was the subject of the movie. One […]

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