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Korean films at the 2016 BFI London Film Festival

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If I were to draw up a list of feature films that I simply *had* to see this year, the following three would be on it. Thanks to the BFI selectors for securing them for the festival.

There’s also a short film showing.

Text below is from the BFI website. Tickets go on sale to the public from 15 September, though if you join the BFI you can buy them a week earlier.

The Handmaiden (아가씨)

Dir: Park Chan-wook
Prod: Park Chan-wook, Syd Lim
Scr: Chung Seo-kyung, Park Chan-wook
With: Kim Min-hee, Kim Tae-ri, Ha Jung-woo, Cho Jin-woong
South Korea 2016, 144min

Friday 07 October 2016 17:30 | Embankment Garden Cinema
Saturday 08 October 2016 11:00 | Embankment Garden Cinema
[Page on LFF website]

Park Chan-wook (Old Boy, Stoker) channels Sarah Waters’ novel Fingersmith, to create a sumptuous twisty psychological thriller, full of erotic intrigue.

The Handmaiden

Young pickpocket Sook-hee is enlisted by Fujiwara, a suave con artist claiming to be a count, to work as a handmaiden for wealthy heiress Lady Hideko. Sequestered in a grand mansion by her pervy black-tongued uncle, Hideko is looking for a way out and Fujiwara expects Sook-hee to help him charm his way into the role of Hideko’s husband. But the plan is complicated when the haughty Mistress begins to fall for her new lady-in-waiting. Inspired by Welsh writer Sarah Waters’ 2002 novel Fingersmith, The Handmaiden relocates the narrative from Victorian England to 1930s Korea, which is under Japanese colonial rule. This enables production designer Ryu Seong-hie to give full flower to her imagination, creating awe-inspiring sets rich with period detail, blending Japanese and British architecture (and my God – the wallpaper!). Marking Park Chan-wook’s first Korean film after Stoker, The Handmaiden continues the theme of revenge so deliciously and obsessively explored in the director’s Vengeance trilogy. But here, the erotic is foregrounded, through immaculately composed images that imbue every object with a seductive energy, so that even a pair of gloves thrums with scintillating power. A foxy concoction of exquisite style and thrilling storytelling, The Handmaiden will leave you breathless.

Kate Taylor

The Bacchus Lady (죽여주는 여자)

Dir-Scr: E J-yong
Prod: Suh Dong-hyun
With: Youn Yuh-jung, Chon Mu-song, Yoon Kye-sang
South Korea 2016, 110min

Wednesday 05 October 2016 18:15 | ICA Cinema, Screen 1
Thursday 06 October 2016 15:30 | BFI Southbank, NFT2
Saturday 08 October 2016 20:45 | Ritzy Cinema, Screen 2
[Page on LFF wesbite]

A sex worker solicits older men in public parks by offering them bottles of Bacchus energy drink, in this wonderful funny/sad Korean melodrama.

Bacchus Lady

‘Don’t call me granny. My vagina is still young.’ Oh my! The Koreans really know how to make films about older women and this is a story of sex and death, but probably not as you’re expecting it. Youn Yuh-jung gives an astounding performance as our senior heroine So-young, the eponymous Lady whose profession as a sex worker has her soliciting elderly men in public parks by offering them bottles of Bacchus energy drink. In this melodrama that finds comedy in the darkest places, we follow So-young as she accidentally steals a child and is asked by former clients for merciful services beyond her profession. The breadth of emotional triggers and the range of social issues tackled here could, in lesser hands, be exhausting. However, director E J-yong peels through them all with deadpan humour and matter-of-fact gusto, creating a remarkably fine balance of audaciousness and sensitivity. You may laugh, but your heart will be broken.

Kate Taylor

The Wailing (곡성)

Dir-Scr: Na Hong Jin
Prod: Suh Dong Hyun, Kim Ho Jung
With: Kwak Do Won, Hwang Jung Min, Jun Kunimura
South Korea 2016, 156min

Wednesday 12 October 2016 20:50 | Picturehouse Central, Screen 1
Thursday 13 October 2016 14:00 | Odeon Leicester Square
[Page on LFF website]

A policeman investigating a string of mysterious deaths in a sleepy Korean village finds himself facing an ancient, unimaginable evil.

The Wailing

After his 2008 serial-killer thriller The Chaser and 2010 crime drama The Yellow Sea, Na Hong Jin’s third feature switches genres once again. This time it’s a full-throttle supernatural epic. It begins with a spate of killings that may or may not be connected to a mysterious Japanese man who has moved into the outskirts of the town of Goksung. As Jong-goo (Kwak Do Won), a well-meaning but bumbling local cop begins to investigate, he finds that his pre-teen daughter may have fallen under the stranger’s spell. Jong-goo calls on a charismatic shaman (Hwang Jung Min), but his intense exorcism ritual threatens to worsen the situation. From here, all hell breaks loose, as Jong-goo faces the ultimate evil in a spine-chilling horror fantasy that gathers the momentum of an runaway train, transforming from a rustic noir into an occult free-for-all. It’s as if Rosemary’s baby had grown up, left home, dropped acid and joined the circus.

Damon Wise

New Kind of Kick

An international collection of shorts… “Films whose protagonists walk the line between right and wrong. Some just do it for the buzz, others out of sheer desperation. (Simon Young)”… in which the Korean contribution is:

Keep Going

Dir: Geon Kim
South Korea 2015, 19min

Friday 07 October 2016 21:10 | BFI Southbank, NFT3
Saturday 08 October 2016 13:00 | ICA Cinema, Screen 1
[Page on LFF website]

Keep Going

The journey of Yeonhee and a robot called Margo, whose heart she is connected to.


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

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