Just as the Korean film scene seems to be losing some of its buzz, books about it are coming thick and fast. 2004 saw the Wallflower Press book (though it seems only last year that it came out); 2005 saw the Julian Stringer / Shin Chi-yun book; and last year came the book on Kim Ki Duk. Meanwhile, there’s the stream of books on individual directors issuing forth from Seoul Selection. Later on this year we’ll see a new one: the rather unimaginitively titled Seoul Searching, from the State University of New York press.
From the publisher’s website:
Seoul Searching is a collection of fourteen provocative essays about contemporary South Korean cinema, the most productive and dynamic cinema in Asia. Examining the three dominant genres that have led Korean film to international acclaim – melodramas, big-budget action blockbusters, and youth films – the contributors look at Korean cinema as industry, art form, and cultural product, and engage cinema’s role in the formation of Korean identities.
Committed to approaching Korean cinema within its cultural contexts, the contributors analyze feature-length films and documentaries as well as industry structures and governmental policies in relation to transnational reception, marketing, modes of production, aesthetics, and other forms of popular culture. An interdisciplinary text, Seoul Searching provides an original contribution to film studies and expands the developing area of Korean studies.
“Students and scholars are hungry for good critical material on South Korean films, and this book is a welcome contribution to this quickly growing area in film studies.” â€” Corey K. Creekmur, coeditor of Cinema, Law, and the State in Asia
Contributors include Chris Berry, Robert L. Cagle, Diane Carson, Hye Seung Chung, David Desser, David Scott Diffrient, Linda Ehrlich, Frances Gateward, Myung Ja Kim, Suk-Young Kim, Darcy Paquet, Seung Hyun Park, Anne Rutherford, Chi-Yun Shin, Julian Stringer, and Hyangsoon Yi.
Frances Gateward is Assistant Professor of Cinema Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is the editor of Zhang Yimou: Interviews and coeditor (with Murray Pomerance) of Where the Boys Are: Cinemas of Masculinity and Youth.
Table Of Contents
Introduction – Frances Gateward
Part 1: Industry Trends and Popular Genres
1. Korean Cinema after Liberation: Production, Industry, and Regulatory Trends – Seung Hyun Park
2. Christmas in August and Korean Melodrama – Darcy Paquet
3. Storming the Big Screen: The Shiri Syndrome – Chi-Yun Shin and Julian Stringer
4. Timeless, Bottomless Bad Movies: Or, Consuming Youth in the New Korean Cinema – David Desser
Part 2: Directing New Korean Cinema
5. Scream and Scream Again: Korean Modernity as a House of Horrors in the Films of Kim Ki-young – Chris Berry
6. Forgetting to Remember, Remembering to Forget: The Politics of Memory and Modernity in the Fractured Films of Lee Chang-dong and Hong Sang-soo – Hye Seung Chung and David Scott Diffrient
7. Reflexivity and Identity in Park Chul-soo’s Farewell, My Darling – Hyangsoon Yi
8. Nowhere to Hide: The Tumultuous Materialism of Lee Myung-se – Anne Rutherford
9. Closing the Circle: Why Has Bodhidharma Left for the East? – Linda C. Ehrlich
Part 3: Narratives of the National
10. Waiting to Exhale: The Colonial Experience and the Trouble with My Own Breathing – Frances Gateward
11. Crossing the Border to the “Other” Side: Dynamics of Interaction between North and South Koreans in Spy Li Cheol-jin and Joint Security Area – Suk-Young Kim
12. Race, Gender, and Postcolonial Identity in Kim Ki-duk’s Address Unknown – Myung Ja Kim
13. Transgressing Boundaries: From Sexual Abuse to Eating Disorders in 301/302 – Diane Carson
14. Taking the Plunge: Representing Queer Desire in Contemporary South Korean Cinema – Robert L. Cagle
Some familiar themes there, but also some new angles, and of course it’s gone straight onto my Amazon wishlist.
But there are still further areas which could be covered. As Daniel Martin (who drew this collection to my attention) pointed out, where is the exploration into gangster comedies and high school melodramas, which play so well to the domestic audiences? Maybe in the next book by Nikki J. Y. Lee and Julian Stringer…
A while ago Lee & Stringer were calling for papers for a book on Korean film to be published by the British Film Institute. Their CFP text went as follows:
THE KOREAN CINEMA BOOK forms part of the BFI’s highly successful series of survey texts on specific national cinemas: volumes publishedto date are THE BRITISH CINEMA BOOK (2nd ed., 2001), THE FRENCH CINEMA BOOK (2004), and THE GERMAN CINEMA BOOK (2002). The proposed volume aims to provide a comprehensive exploration of the history of Korean cinema, and should therefore play a key role in defining the field of English-language Korean cinema studies for years to come.
We envisage a relatively large volume comprising 25-30 chapters of around 5,000 words each, with both South Korean cinema and North Korean cinema well represented. While in practice many individual chapters may provide textual analysis of specific movies, all chapters should aspire to cover a general topic rather than one specific film. This practice is in line with the other books in the series. (For the table of contents of THE BRITISH CINEMA BOOK, see here.
We are interested in considering chapter proposals on all aspects of Korean cinema history, including the following topics:
a) GENRE – action movies, animated films, blockbusters, comedy, documentary, erotic films, ghost/horror films, historical drama, melodrama, short films, workers’ films, etc.
b) FILMMAKERS AND FILMMAKING – Na Un-gyu, Choi In-gyu, Han Hyung-mo, Lee Kang-chun, Kim Kee-duk (1934), Jung Chang-hwa, Lee Man-hee, Shin Sang-ok, Kim Ki-young, Yu Hyun-mok, Kim Soo-young, Im Kwon-taek, Lee Doo-yong, Lee Jang-ho, Bae Chang-ho, Jang Sun-woo, Park Kwang-soo, Lee Myung-se, Hong Sang-su, Kim Ki-duk (1960), Park Chan-wook, Bong Jun-ho, Kim Ji-woon, etc.
c) STARS – Choi Eun-hee, Um Aeng-ran, Shin Sung-il, Kim Ji-mi, Choi Mu-ryong, Shin Young-gyun, Park Noh-sik, Yun Jung-hee, Ahn In-sook, Jang Mi-hee, Jung Yun-hee, Yu Ji-in, Ahn So-young, Ahn Sung-gi, Han
Suk-gyu, Choi Min-sik, Shim Hye-jin, Shim Un-ha, Jun Ji-hyun, Lee Jun-gi, etc.
d) AESTHETICS – the relation of cinema to other arts such as painting and theatre, acting, cinematography, set design, scriptwriting, sound, special effects, etc.
e) INDUSTRY – adaptations from books and other media, censorship, distribution, exhibition, film collectives and manifestos, film education, apprenticeships, and film schools, film festivals, film policy, periodisation of Korean cinema history, marketing, production eras and cycles, the relation of cinema to other media forms such as radio and television, non-commercial film culture, the silent cinema, state involvement, etc.
f) TRANSNATIONAL CONNECTIONS – co-productions, diaspora, exile, globalisation, links between the Hong Kong and Korean cinemas, Japan and Korea, Korea in Hollywood/Hollywood in Korea, overseas location
g) CULTURAL POLITICS – class, colonialism and post-colonialism, democratization, ethnic identity, gender/sexuality, identity politics, memory/trauma, modernization, national identity, religion, etc.
h) CULTURAL RECEPTION – audiences, canon formation, fan cultures, the practices of film criticism, history, and theory, etc.
In addition, we are particularly keen to ensure that chapter titles fit under one of the following seven broad categories:
1. Early Korean Cinema and the Colonial Period (up to 1945)
2. Postwar Korean Cinema (1945-1950s)
3. South Korean Cinema of the 1960s and 1970s
4. South Korean Cinema of the 1980s and 1990s
5. Contemporary Korean Cinema (1990s-present)
6. North Korean Cinema
7. What is Korean Cinema?: Contexts, Debates, Identities
“An ambitious and complex project” commented one of the co-authors / editors, “so it won’t be out for quite a while”.
I’m looking forward to it, and of course also to Frances Gateward’s book.