Christmas in August is one of the first Korean DVDs I bought, when I first got interested in Korean movies rather more years ago than I care to remember, back when the best “start here” was Darcy Paquet’s list of top ten movies of the 1990s. It’s a poignant film, but one of the things that sticks in the memory about it is the rather grating laugh of Han Seok-gyu as he tries to maintain a brave face in his last months. I quite liked the film in its own quiet way, but enjoyed even more the rather lush but emotionally equally restrained follow-up, One Fine Spring Day. The screening on 28 May is preceded by a talk by Kate Taylor (BFI Programmer) at 7pm. As always, registration is required via firstname.lastname@example.org.
May Korean Film Nights: Hur Jin-ho
When he graduated from the Korean Academy of Film Arts (alongside Bong Joon-ho, Jang Jun-hwan and others), Hur Jin-ho was widely expected to become a ‘new wave’ innovator in Korean cinema. Instead, he pursued a much more personal course, making a series of obliquely autobiographical films about young people struggling to overcome their inhibitions and express their feelings. Films like Christmas in August and One Fine Spring Day touched a nerve with audiences (not only in Korea), and established Hur as an exceptionally sensitive chronicler of awkward emotions. But he found himself trapped by the film industry view of him as a specialist in romance, and has taken time off from directing to rethink his priorities. Never prolific, he has spent recent years exploring the possibilities and practicalities of working in China, where he has a large fan-base.
Christmas in August (8월의 크리스마스, 1998)
14 May / 7pm / Korean Cultural Centre UK
Cast: Han Seok-kyu, Shim Eun-ha, Shin Koo
97 mins / cert. 15
In a quiet corner of Seoul, Jung-Won runs a small photo studio. A humble shack passed down from his widower father, the studio is a space where Jung-Won goes about his daily routine of dealing with fussy customers, enlarging photos of class heartthrobs for local kids and photographing pictures to place on funeral altars. For Jung-Won, life seems to be a series of peaceful events, but in reality his time on earth is too limited for comfort. Life goes on as usual until one day he meets Darim. Darim, who works at the Traffic Control Division of the local district office, is a regular customer at the studio. Her daily visits to develop snapshots of parking violations, and her somewhat bold attempts to capture his attention stir feelings of anticipation inside Jung-Won. As his health gradually deteriorates, Jung-Won is faced with the painful duty of bidding farewell to family, friends, to the studio and to Darim.
One Fine Spring Day (봄날은 간다, 2001)
28 May / 7pm / Korean Cultural Centre UK
KFN Amplified No.4: Introduction by Kate Taylor (BFI Programmer)
Cast: Yoo Ji-tae, Lee Young-ae
113 mins / cert. 15
Sang-wu is a sound engineer who lives with his grandmother, his widowed father and his sister. One winter, he meets radio programme director, Eun-su.
Sang-wu and Eun-su go on a trip to find sounds of nature for her radio show. and the wo become close, spending the night together at Eun-su’s apartment. Sang-wu finds himself falling fast and hard for Eun-su. Their relationship begins in the winter, progresses through the following spring but begins to fall apart in the summer. Sang-wu travels to and from Seoul to Kang-neung unable to overcome his emotions and affection for Eun-su.