CJ Entertainment has been associated with some of the biggest and best films since the turn of the millennium. 20 years old this year, it is celebrating its birthday with a big splash at the 10th London Korean Film Festival organised by the KCCUK.1
Five screenings at this year’s festival are of CJ productions: Miss Granny (수상한 그녀, Hwang Dong-hyuk, 2014), Mother (마더, Bong Joon-ho, 2009), Memories of Murder (살인의 추억, Bong Joon-ho, 2003), Masquerade (광해, Choo Chang-min, 2012), and Roaring Currents (명량, Kim Han-min, 2014). I’ve seen all of them, and with one notable exception I’d be very happy to see them again.
Of all the above, probably Miss Granny is the one least known outside of Korea, and possibly for good reasons. But it is one of those gentle comedies with a romantic twist such as Love Actually that you can rewatch on those countless occasions when it has reruns on TV, and still enjoy it every time. I’m suspecting that a lot of the verbal humour is lost on a non-Korean-speaking audience, but even without understanding what is being said you can still enjoy the visual humour of Shim Eun-kyung as the 20-year-old Oh Du-ri walking, gesturing and generally behaving like the 70-something granny she really is. And you can tell from the sound of her voice and her facial expressions that she’s talking like a granny too. The fish-out-of-water theme generates plenty of comedy while also exploring cross-generational themes and providing a pretty good soundtrack into the bargain. Paul Quinn has done an excellent review of it over on Hangul Celluloid.
The two Bong Joon-ho films are self-recommending. Mother is a fascinating as well as entertaining film, reviewed by Colette Balmain on LKL here. The film screened at the BFI London Film Festival in 2009, and Director Bong gave an in-depth Q&A after the screening, covered on LKL here. And Memories of Murder?
Masquerade closed the 2012 London Korean Film Festival having swept the board at the Grand Bell awards earlier that year. A highly enjoyable costume drama.
And so we come to Admiral: Roaring Currents, the biggest grossing movie in Korean box-office history, and for that feat CJ Entertainment deserves congratulations and the film deserves its slot in the 20th birthday celebrations. Don’t expect me to turn up to watch it again (my thoughts on it are here), but it has its place in the patriotic historical action genre.
So, enjoy this well-chosen selection from CJ’s filmography, and join the audiences in wishing them a happy 20th birthday and in hoping for many more hits from them in the future.
Book tickets for the CJ special screenings here.
- 10 years ago, it made a similar splash at the 2005 London Korean Film Festival organised by the Korean Anglican Community Centre, programming the whole event if I remember correctly, and sponsoring a fascinating conference on the current state of the Korean film industry.