The London Korean Film Festival is now more than 10 years old, and this is the 5th year of its existence under the organisation of the Cultural Centre. It seems to get bigger every year.
From its early home in the Prince Charles Cinema, it moved to the more prestigious venue of the Barbican for the last three years. This year, with the Barbican screens being refurbished, comes the opportunity to bring the films back to the West End, and although one might initially question the decision to spread the films over three venues, it makes some sense: a Leicester Square cinema for the glitzy gala screenings, the ICA for the mainstream events and the Apollo for the focus on Jang Jin.
The gala opening on bonfire night gave us some cinematic fireworks from the relatively unknown Lee Jeong-beom: The Man from Nowhere (아저씨) featuring the perfectly sculpted abs of star Won Bin. Director Lee was present, and the event was hosted by Tony Rayns, regarded as minor royalty by the Korean cinema world because of his long and consistent interest in the country’s output. But inside the Odeon West End most eyes were on the unknown (in Korea at any rate) former presenter of BBC TV’s film review programme and rather too-risque host of chat shows: Jonathan Ross.
Knowing Ross’s enthusiasm for Korean film (he enthusiastically endorsed the Vengeance trilogy as well as other Tartan favourites on TV) and his status as an A-List celeb, the organisers have been trying to secure his presence at one of their screenings for a while. This year he relented and agreed to show up to one of the first two screenings. He definitely made the right decision to come to The Man from Nowhere, though according to his Twitter account he thought he was going to see Kim Ji-woon’s I Saw the Devil. A lucky mistake, because I Saw the Devil is probably the low-point of Kim Ji-woon’s cinematic output thus far.
A nice touch to open the proceedings was a video of distinguished talking heads wishing the festival well: festival supremo Jeon Hye-jung had gone to the Busan festival armed with a video camera and secured brief statements from some of the stars and directors we are going to be enjoying over the 10 days. From Jeon Do-yeon (Housemaid) to Lee Byung-hun (I saw the Devil) via Jang Jin, it was nice to have the London festival marked by some of the big names in this way – a mark of the success of the KCC in building the importance of the annual London event.
Thanks to Lee Hyung-wook of The East for the photographs. The London Korean Film Festival 2010 runs until 14 November.