Korean films at the 2014 BFI London Film Festival

There’s rather a good haul of Korean movies at the BFI London Film Festival this year, including a Hong Sang-soo which looks a little different from the usual, a treat for fans of the remarkable Bae Doona, a charming animation and a “tense, kinetic and darkly funny neo-noir”. Tickets go on sale on 18 September. Here are all the details, from the BFI website:

A Girl at My Door (도희야)

A cop with a drink problem is re-assigned to a small backwater town only to discover that the main problem there is alcoholism, leading to an explosive climax.

Bae Doona

Oct 13, 2014 6:15 PM Rich Mix Cinema, Screen 1
Oct 16, 2014 1:00 PM ICA Cinema, Screen 1

Director July Jung (정주리)
Producer Lee Chang-dong, Lee Joon-dong
Screenwriter July Jung
With Bae Doo-na, Kim Sae-ron, Song Sae-byuk
2014, 119 mins [Buy tickets]

Expelled from her Seoul job for excessive drinking, Young-nam soon finds that her new role as Police Chief in a backwater town involves corralling a community of drunks. Worst offenders include a family whose brutish patriarch likes nothing better than knocking several shades out of his school-age daughter Dohee while his dotty mother eggs him on. When sympathy impels Young-nam to protect the girl, a new raft of problems enter the frame. Doona Bae (Air Doll, Cloud Atlas) gives a wonderfully nuanced performance as Young-nam, a woman who knows that any lapse of judgement will put everything she holds dear at risk, yet cannot quite see clearly through a fog of alcohol. In exploring the way that abuse can spawn its own monstrous behaviour, the film is fearless in travelling into uncomfortable terrain and the emotionally explosive finale will spark many a post-screening debate.

Kate Taylor

A Hard Day (끝까지 간다)

A crooked cop’s bad day goes from worse to hellish when a hit-and-run accident leaves him with a corpse on his hands.

Hard-day

Oct 12, 2014 5:00 PM Vue West End Cinema, Screen 5
Oct 16, 2014 8:45 PM Rich Mix Cinema, Screen 1

Director Kim Seong-Hun (김성훈)
Producers Cha Ji-Hyun, Billy Acumen
Screenwriter Kim Seong-Hun
With Lee Sun-kyun, Cho Jin-woong
2014, 111 mins [Buy Tickets]

Fans of Korean crime cinema get two movies for the price of one in this tense, kinetic and darkly funny neo-noir. Channelling the fatalistic wit of the Coen brothers and taking fellow countryman’s Bong Joon-ho’s magpie approach to genre, Kim Seong-Hun’s second feature finds detective Ko Gun-su (Hong Sang-soo regular Lee Sun-kyun) having one of those days: it’s his mother’s funeral, internal affairs are investigating his team for corruption and while speeding back to police HQ after dark he kills a pedestrian in a hit-and-run accident. Ko’s decision to cover his tracks and hide the body is just the start of a 24-hour nightmare and things turn really nasty with the shark-like arrival of rival cop Park Chang-min (the charismatic Cho Jin-woong). Furiously switching gears with each explosive revelation, Kim’s masterful, morally-shaded thriller barely pauses for breath as it hurtles to a wholly satisfying and unexpected climax.

Damon Wise

Hill of Freedom (자유의 언덕)

Hong Sang-soo returns with this smart comedy of foreign manners, where a Japanese man searches for the Korean girl of his dreams, only he doesn’t know where she is and can only speak a little English.

Hill of Freedom

Oct 8, 2014 6:30 PM ICA Cinema, Screen 1
Oct 10, 2014 1:00 PM BFI Southbank, NFT1

Director Hong Sang-soo
Producer Kim Kyoung-hee
Screenwriter Hong Sang-soo
With Ryo Kase, Moon So-ri, Seo Young-hwa, Kim Eui-sung
South Korea 2014, 66 mins [Buy Tickets]

Mori is a young Japanese guy searching for Kwon, the Korean girl that got away. Unable to speak the language, he communicates in hesitant English with the people he encounters in her neighbourhood: his guesthouse landlady, her nephew and the sweet girl behind the counter in the local café. When Kwon returns, a package of letters from Mori is accidentally reshuffled, giving her story a jumbled chronology. If you’re already on the Hong Sang-soo train, you’ll be delighted to hear that present are many of the prolific director’s signature puzzles of perspective and temporality, drunken conversations across tables and an emotional journey narrated in voiceover – this time by Japanese star Ryo Kase, imbuing Mori with an easy charm. But prior knowledge isn’t necessary to relish this fresh and often hilarious take on the nature of romantic relationships, which also makes some wonderful observations about the limits of translation.

Kate Taylor

The Satellite Girl and Milk Cow(우리별 일호와 얼룩소)

A bizarre trio of heroes ward off evil in this enjoyable animated tale from Korea.

Satellite Girl

Oct 18, 2014 1:15 PM Ritzy Cinema, Screen 2
Oct 19, 2014 4:00 PM BFI Southbank, NFT2

Director Chang Hyung-Yun (장형윤)
Producer Cho Young-Kag
Screenwriter Chang Hyung-Yun
With voices of Yoo Ah-in, Jung Yu-mi
2014, 81 mins [Buy Tickets]

A satellite, having spent 20 years in space, free-falls through the sky and crash lands on earth, turning into a girl, complete with rocket shoes and weapon limbs. A music-playing milk cow reminisces about his past as a human being with a broken heart and musical aspirations. A wizard, eager to help the pair out but restricted since he was transformed into a roll of toilet paper (complete with embossed, magical sheets), is desperate to find a way to break their curses. This bizarre trio of unlikely heroes must face up to the ensuing menace of an incinerating machine and a witch with her pet ‘snouts’. The Satellite Girl and Milk Cow is a kooky animated love story whose off-beat sense of humour, warm heart and sheer exuberance deserves to be seen by an appreciative London audience.

Justin Johnson

In addition, there’s Free Fall (Dir György Pálfi, 2014), which is a French / South Korean / Hungarian co-production, but based on the synopsis and the stills, the Korean connection seems tenuous.

(automatically generated) Read LKL’s review of this event here.

2 thoughts on “Korean films at the 2014 BFI London Film Festival

  1. I’d love to see all four, but I think I’ll limit myself to Bae Doona / anime / Kase Ryo (who is superb, in case you are not familiar with him – not all surprised that Hong Sang-soo cast him).

  2. Me too, and it’s unusual for me to look forward to a Hong Sang-soo film. Andrew’s post on Eastern Kicks is making me want to see a whole load of other stuff as well.

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