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Korean films at the 2015 BFI London Film Festival

The programme for the BFI London Film Festival has been announced and as usual there’s a decent Korean representation. It’s great that Assassination is coming, though I was secretly hoping that it was going to open the London Korean Film Festival in November, giving the organisers an excuse to bring over Jeon Ji-hyun as star guest for the gala. There goes my dream.

As usual, the latest Hong Sang-soo features. I’m kind of getting used to him now and actually look forward to his movies. The documentary My Love, Don’t Cross That River is rather a lovely one, though Paul Ajosshi found it rather exploitative.

Although I’m looking forward to Choi Dong-hoon’s Assassination, assuming it to be as slick as his Thieves, the one I’m most looking forward to is Madonna, which looks interesting.

Text below is from the BFI website. Booking opens soon, though you can get priority booking if you are a BFI member, which is highly recommended.

Assassination (암살, 2015)

During occupation by the Japanese army in 1933, the Korean resistance hires three professional killers to strike back against the enemy.

Friday 09 October 2015 21:15 | Picturehouse Central, Screen 1
Saturday 10 October 2015 11:30 | Odeon Leicester Square
Tickets on sale from 17-09-2015 10:00 am

Director Choi Dong-hoon
Producers Ahn Soo-hyun, Choi Dong-hoon
Screenwriters Choi Dong-hoon, Lee Ki-cheol
With Jeon Ji-hyun, Lee Jung-jae, Ha Jung-woo
139 mins

The spirit of Quentin Tarantino dances like a dervish through this colourful period bullet opera, which takes the exuberantly irreverent historical revisionism of Inglourious Basterds and fuses it with the reliably solid pulp thrills of Korean genre cinema. From the mind of local box-office king Choi Dong-hoon, director of the enjoyable Ocean’s 11-channelling crime romp The Thieves, Assassination unfolds amidst the Japanese occupation of Korea in the 1930s. The exiled government, now based in Shanghai, hatches a plan to send three assassins to kill two strategic targets, but the Japanese secret service is one step ahead and hires flamboyant mercenary Hawaii Pistol to eliminate the trio. Choi plays fast and loose with history, sending his men – and, most importantly, a woman – on a mission to change the future, in a picaresque tale of subterfuge and double-cross that boasts smart, witty dialogue and a killer twist.

Damon Wise

Madonna (마돈나, 2015)

Hospital thriller meets character portrait in this stylish Korean tale of a woman who never fitted in.

Wednesday 14 October 2015 20:45 | BFI Southbank, NFT2
Friday 16 October 2015 21:00 | Rich Mix Cinema, Screen 1
Tickets on sale 17-09-2015 10:00 am


Director Shin Su-won
Producer Francis Lim
Screenwriter Shin Su-won
With Seo Young-hee, Kwon So-hyun, Kim Young-min
120 mins

When a pregnant but comatose Jane Doe, nicknamed ‘Madonna’, arrives at a VIP hospital, she is swiftly earmarked as a heart-transplant donor by an unscrupulous businessman desperate to keep his chairman father alive at any cost. Moon, a new nurse at the hospital, is tasked with investigating the woman’s life and faces a test of her own moral mettle as she uncovers Madonna’s history – a lifelong string of personal and professional humiliations. In her sophomore feature, director Shin Su-won (Pluto) veers between intense hospital thriller and dramatic character portrait, with some sharply stylish filmmaking and a wide streak of black humour. Frequently pushing at the boundaries of taste, with an irreverent take on prostitution, body image and – most jarringly – sexual violence, the film is concerned with the abuse of power and emerges as a spirited polemic against exploitation, with a central character you won’t soon forget.

Kate Taylor

My Love, Don’t Cross That River (님아 그 강을 건너지마오, 2014)

A warm and tender exploration of a 76-year marriage in South Korea.

Thursday 08 October 2015 13:00 | BFI Southbank, NFT2
Saturday 10 October 2015 15:30 | Rich Mix Cinema, Screen 1
Tickets on sale 17-09-2015 10:00 am

Dont Cross That River

Director Jin Mo-young
Producer Han Kyung-soo
Screenwriter Jin Mo-young
86 mins

They are still very much in love, walk hand-in-hand in their bright matching outfits, splash about in the river and play mischievous jokes on each other. They’ve shared a lifetime of hardship and happiness, had children and now live off the land in their small house by the river. As Jo Byeon Man becomes increasingly more frail, Kang Kye Yeol prepares to say goodbye. In this warm and tender documentary, director Jin Mo Young captures small moments of intimacy in the daily life of a couple in their twilight years, creating an evocative and affecting reflection on lifelong love and companionship. The most commercially successful Korean independent film of all time when it was released domestically last year, My Love Don’t Cross That River won’t fail to inspire and move you.

Laure Bonville

Right Now, Wrong Then (지금은 맞고 그때는 틀리다, 2015)

Hong Sang-soo delivers a low-key charmer about a filmmaker, a painter, and a lot of Soju.

Sunday 11 October 2015 15:30 | Cine Lumiere
Monday 12 October 2015 20:50 | BFI Southbank, NFT2
Tickets on sale 17-09-2015 10:00 am

Right Now Wrong Then

Director Hong Sang-soo
Producer Kim Kyoung-hee
Screenwriter Hong Sang-soo
With Jung Jae-young, Kim Min-hee
121 mins

A highly regarded arthouse director, Ham Chunsu, visits a small town for a film festival screening and meets pretty young painter Yoon Heejung. They hang out and get drunk together. Repeat. Much of the pleasure in Hong Sang-soo’s work, the winner of the Golden Leopard at the Locarno Film Festival, is found in his complex approach to chronology and this film doubles back in time to revisit the couple’s interactions, illustrating how a few altered nuances of communication and behaviour can change the flavour of a new relationship. The premise may sound a little ‘inside baseball’, but the execution, as ever, is an unpredictable delight. More deliberately paced and melancholy than 2014’s Hill of Freedom, this one nevertheless offers much of Hong’s signature humour, particularly in questions around the nature of an artist’s ego (or lack thereof) and in Ham’s disgust at a terrible Q&A experience. It’s another low-key charmer full of wry observations on human foibles.

Kate Taylor

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

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