Not to be confused with the excellent range of Korean films on offer at the 51st BFI London Film Festival in late October, this is the second London Korean Film Festival to be organised by the Korean Cultural Centre and the Korean Culture and Content Agency (KOCCA). Last year they sprung it on us at the last minute, and it was the all-too-familiar queue-up-and-hope-you-manage-to-get-a-seat scenario. This year, things are a lot more professional. We knew it was happening months in advance, and, hurrah, you can actually buy tickets in advance. The bad news is that the opening and closing screenings are pretty much block-booked for VIPs, so get in there quick.
While the BFI London Film Festival has a good range of all that’s latest in K-film, the November festival (let’s call it the LKFF) has less that’s bang up-to-date, but does include some classics.
Like last year, there’s a focus on animation (maybe there’s a bigger perceived export market for it?), though there’s an unfortunate overlap with the BFI Festival because both are showing Yobi the Five-tailed Fox.
The BFI festival certainly has the most prestigious film to have come out of Korea thus far this year – Lee Chang-dong’s Secret Sunshine – but the LKFF can console itself with the latest films from the two directors most recognisable in the West: Park Chan-wook and Kim Ki-duk. Tartan Films, who seem to have bought up most of the rights to Kim’s and Park’s back catalogue, are also partnering with the festival to show some of these directors’ earlier works. So as well as Park’s Cyborg, we’ll also get the first and third in his Vengeance trilogy (the second, Oldboy, being by now well exposed to the public). The first, Sympathy for Mr Vengeance, is probably the toughest of the three to get to grips with but nevertheless is well worth the effort. As far as I’m aware it hasn’t been given a proper theatrical release here, so this will be a welcome opportunity to catch it on the big screen. One of the highlights of the festival will be the post-Cyborg talk by Director Park.
And as well as Kim’s Breath, well received at the Edinburgh Film Festival earlier this year, we’ll get Time, which has had less exposure. Somehow we’ve missed out on Kim’s The Bow. The last Kim Ki-duk films to have got a general release here were 3-Iron his four seasons film.
The classics on offer are Madame Freedom, an important film from 1956, and My mother and her guest by Shin Sang-ok, famously adbucted to North Korea on the orders of Kim Jong-il where after a period in a concentration camp he eventually made films such as the monster parable Pulgasari.
We are also going to be treated to last year’s big hit King and the Clown (it was meant to be shown at last year’s BFI London Film Festival but the print never showed up), coupled with a less familiar period drama Forbidden Quest. Also in store is the well received crime caper Tazza / Tajja / The High Rollers / War of Flower (take your pick as to the name) coupled with thriller A Dirty Carnival. The festival is rounded out by a quieter drama, Family Ties, which I’ll certainly make a point of seeing because it includes Moon So-ri in the cast, of whom I’ve been a fan since her performances in Oasis and A Good Lawyer’s Wife.
The full programme of the LKFF is here.
Reviews of LKFF films:
- My Mother and her Guest – reviewed by Peter Martin at Twitch
- Time – reviewed by Darcy Paquet at koreanfilm.org
- I’m a Cyborg, but that’s OK – reviewed by Kyu Kyun Kim at koreanfilm.org
- Lady Vengeance – Kyu Hyun again
- Mr Vengeance – by Darcy
- King and the Clown – Darcy
- Family Ties – Darcy
- Madame Freedom – Duncan Mitchel at koreanfilm.org
- Dirty Carnival – Kyu Hyun
- Forbidden Quest – a mammoth 2-part review by X at Twitch
- Empress Chung – Mark Russell in the New York Times
- Tajja – by Kyu Hyun
- Yobi – by Ardvard at Twitch
- Mateo – a brief review by X
- Breath – by Richard Brunton at Filmstalker
- Go on, watch Pulgasari. You know you want to.