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.

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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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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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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Stoker fails to impress FT

by Philip Gowman 18 July 2013
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Oh dear. The FT really doesn’t like Park Chan-wook’s Stoker. “Stoker aims for enigmatic but bulleyes incoherent instead,” says Raphael Abraham, reviewing the DVD release in the Weekend edition on 6 July 2013. “Park Chan-wook constructs every shot with maximum flourish while plotlines appear fitfully and then die from neglect,” he adds, concluding that “after […]

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The Berlin File – so slick it’s really rather dull

by Philip Gowman 17 July 2013
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A plot which involves a dodgy international arms deal, a secret multibillion dollar bank account belonging to the extended family of Kim Jong-il and a power struggle in the wake of Kim Jong-un’s succession. A list of characters which includes operatives from the CIA, Mossad, and both North and South Korean security agencies, plus would-be […]

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Hahaha – the first Hong Sang-soo film I’ve enjoyed without trying

by Philip Gowman 9 April 2013
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OK, it was the second time I had seen it. The first time, I had slept through it. But that was because I had been entering into the spirit rather too much by indulging in a drinking session of Hongian proportions beforehand. The second time round, there was the anticipation of seeing the lead actress […]

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“This bad movie is more fun than anything else”

by Philip Gowman 30 March 2013
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“In a bad movie week, this bad movie is more fun than anything else” – the FT’s verdict on GI Joe: Retaliation. The first one was such fun and such nonsense that really you’ve got to go and see this one too.

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LLGFF Festival Film Review: Leesong Hee-il’s White Night trilogy – seek it out if you can

by Philip Gowman 30 March 2013
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It was not so long ago that writing an article on queer cinema in Korea was a real struggle, for want of source material. Adam Hartzell does an excellent job in his 2002 Film Journal article Queer Pal for the Straight Gal, referencing films such as Wanee and Junah, Bungee Jump, Memento Mori and others. […]

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The President’s Barber – an awkward film that’s difficult to categorise

by Philip Gowman 28 March 2013
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Lim Chan-sang’s The President’s Barber (효자동 이발사, 2004) was the first KCC screening of 2013, in which we will be seeing films featuring four actors each of who will be coming to London for a Q&A. The first three months feature Moon So-ri, who will be in London for a screening of Hahaha on 4 […]

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Stoker: not one of Park’s best, but definitely worth a look

by Philip Gowman 28 February 2013
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Kim Ji-woon’s Hollywood debut, The Last Stand, created virtually no buzz and vanished from London screens within a couple of weeks of opening. Stoker, having created some positive vibes at Sundance, played to a packed house at a preview screening at the BFI on 27 February before it has its main UK opening on 1 […]

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Song Hae-seong: A Better Tomorrow – not worth the time

by Philip Gowman 3 January 2013
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I have a huge admiration for Alua at Otherwhere and Colette at Oriental Nightmares for dedicating the time and energy to writing reviews of Song Hae-seong’s remake of the classic A Better Tomorrow. I only had the enthusiasm to stay for the first half hour (which I found confusing and uninteresting) before deciding my time […]

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Film Festival Highlight: Eungyo – A poet looks into his glass

by Philip Gowman 19 November 2012
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Korea’s most famous poet, Lee Jeok-yo, is well into old age. He has taken as a student cum in-house assistant an aspiring but not very talented novelist called Seo Ji-woo. A neighbouring high school girl starts takes a cleaning job at the poet’s house, and a connection soon forms between the poet and the young […]

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