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.

We’ve almost finished clearing the London Korean Film Festival backlog, the only major review outstanding now being Park Chan-kyong’s fascinating documentary Manshin. While I’m polishing that, here are a few brief reviews of the films I didn’t feel moved to write dedicated articles about. Han Gong-ju A heavy and depressing story redeemed by the sensitive […]

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Festival Film Review: This Road Called Life

by Philip Gowman 15 December 2014
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Following on from the success of their feature-length animation Green Days, Studio MWP worked with Korean TV broadcaster EBS to produce a trio of short films which adapt three familiar short stories which are studied by most Koreans in high school: Yi Hyo-seok’s Buckwheat Season, Kim Yu-jeong’s Spring, Spring, and A Lucky Day by Hyun […]

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Festival Film Review: Hwajang / Revivre

by Philip Gowman 17 November 2014
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Well, I was right. Ahn Sung-ki confessed in the Q+A which followed the screening of Hwajang that one of his most difficult tasks in portraying Oh Sang-moo, a senior executive in a cosmetics company, was to project certain aspects of being old – of being blocked inside because of the swollen prostate, of being more […]

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Festival film review: Bitter, Sweet, Seoul

by Philip Gowman 16 November 2014
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Bitter, Sweet, Seoul is an ambitious crowd-sourced project in which people from around the world were invited by the Seoul Metropolitan Government to submit videos which would be made into feature length film. Directors (and brothers) Park Chan-wook and Park Chan-kyong (collectively PARKing CHANce) were commissioned to organise the submissions, attracted to the project by […]

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Seven ways in which Hill of Freedom is different from other Hong Sang-soo films

by Philip Gowman 11 October 2014
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… and some ways in which it isn’t. Hill of Freedom (자유의 언덕) is Hong Sang-soo’s 16th feature, and could not have been made by anyother director. The awkwardness of human interaction and conversation, the bonding over alcohol, the fragmentation of the narrative, the aim to rekindle lost love – all are common features of […]

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K-Drama week: Yang Yun-ho, IRIS, and the current state of Korean drama

by Philip Gowman 6 October 2014
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The KCCUK’s K-Drama week included the opportunity to meet the director of one of Korea’s most successful TV dramas of recent years, IRIS, which has been screened in 26 countries and brings film-like tension to the small screen. Director Yang Yun-ho gave a talk on the current state of Hallyu at SOAS, and participated in […]

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Fashion icon Nora Noh honoured in art and film

by Philip Gowman 15 September 2014
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LKL looks at two works devoted the life and work of Nora Noh: A documentary by Kim Sung-hee (Nora Noh, 2013, South Korea, colour, DCP, 93′) and An installation by Cho Duck-hyun (The Nora Collection, 2008, Graphite and charcoal on canvases, frames, wall papers, dimensions variable) To the current generation of Koreans, two names that […]

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Film Screenings and an artist talk linked to the current KCC exhibition

by Philip Gowman 12 July 2014
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Supporting the current exhibition Measuring Inventing Temperature at the KCC, there will be two imaginative film screenings this month. The second of the screenings will be preceded by an artist talk with the Cambridge philosopher, Hasok Chang, who inspired the exhibition. Note that the screenings start at 7:30 rather than the more usual 7:00. Special […]

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Brief film review: The Contact (Jang Yoon-hyeon, 1997)

by Philip Gowman 11 July 2014
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Synopsis: Dong-hyun (Han Suk-gyu), a radio DJ, has recently been dumped by his girlfriend. Lovelorn and scorned his mood is lifted when he receives a copy of a vinyl Velvet Underground LP thinking that it is a gift from his ex. Since it holds a special meaning for his demised relationship, he plays Pale Blue […]

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Antarctic Journal: a promising start, a confusing end, and a film to be avoided

by Philip Gowman 27 April 2014
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Antarctic Journal (Im Pil-seong, 2004) screened at the KCC on 24 April as part of the Year of the Film Professionals. The second professional to be so featured was cinematographer Chung Chung-hoon, who gives Park Chan-wook movies their distinctive look. Antarctic Journal is one of Chung’s rare films with another director. Given the poor reviews […]

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Festival Film Review: Behind the Camera — the Q&A of the feature of the documentary of the making of the …

by Philip Gowman 14 December 2013
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British cinema-goers are used to a short commercial before the main feature in which a film director is pitching his latest movie idea to some corporate suits whose only interest is that the film should promote a certain mobile phone network at every opportunity. So it’s not such a strange idea that a well-known Korean […]

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Brief film review: Hope / Wish (Lee Jun-ik, 2013)

by Philip Gowman 12 December 2013
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One of the more anticipated films of the 2013 London Korean Film Festival was Lee Jun-ik’s Hope, a harrowing family drama examining the long-term effects caused by the traumatic sexual assault on a young girl by a construction worker near her school. It’s a powerful film which one won’t watch for pleasure, or indeed watch […]

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Festival Film Review: Hide and Seek — Property Ladder meets Oldboy

by Philip Gowman 11 December 2013
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Everyone wants a nice, secure home. And maybe, never satisfied, you might want to upgrade. Without these natural desires, estate agents and TV programmes such as Location Location Location and Property Ladder would not exist. The opening film of the 2013 London Korean Film Festival was, as lead actor Son Hyun-joo joked, a family movie. […]

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Festival Film Review: Nobody’s Daughter Haewon

by Philip Gowman 6 December 2013
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I often find myself falling asleep during Hong Sang Soo films. But my two most recent experiences – a second viewing of HaHaHa as part of the KCC’s Moon So-ri season – and Nobody’s Daughter Haewon at the ICA, coinciding with its screening at the 57th BFI London Film Festival, have been exceptions. Part of […]

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Cloud Atlas – one Hollywood appearance of which a Korean actor can be proud

by Philip Gowman 1 December 2013
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How many Hollywood films have you seen, featuring Korean actors, where you have thought “Yes, he (or she) can be proud of that?” I confess not to having seen Red 2 (Lee Byung-hun) yet, so maybe that will be one of them. But thinking back to the two GI Joe films (Lee Byung-hun), Ninja Assassin […]

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Jo Jin-gyu’s Shaman Gangster / Man on the Edge is great entertainment

by Philip Gowman 12 October 2013
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I know I’ve been somewhat grouchy about a lot of K-film recently, so let me make amends. What could be better than a hilarious but tearjerking shaman gangster almost-semi-gay rom-com. Man on the Edge (aka Shaman Gangster, 박수건달, Dir Jo Jin-gyu, 2013, starring a brilliant Park Sin-yang as a gangster who discovers he is in […]

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The Unforgiven: a fleetingly interesting but ultimately dull debut for Yoon Jong-bin

by Philip Gowman 10 October 2013
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The Unforgiven represents two hours of my life that I shall never get back. Two hours, but it felt like more. After an hour I was looking at my watch, wondering where the film was headed. And then, like Achilles and the tortoise, the remaining period of the film was divided in two, and at […]

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