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Korean films at the 2017 BFI London Film Fest

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As far as I can see there are four Korean movies at the 2017 BFI London Film Festival: two very contrasting documentaries; the movie from festival favourite Hong Sang-soo that won Kim Min-hee the Silver Bear for best actress in Berlin this year; and an adaptation of a novel by Kim Young-ha by Won Shin-yeon, the director who brought us Seven Days. It’s this last one, Memoir of a Murderer, that I’m most looking forward to.

Tickets go on sale from 14 September for the general public, or earlier for BFI members.

Text below is from the BFI website.

Memoir of a Murderer (살인자의 기억법)

Dir Won Shin-yeon (2017, 118min)
Prod You Jeong-hun, Won Shin-yeon
Scr Hwang Jo-Yoon
With Sol Kyung-gu, Kim Nam-gil, Kim Seol-hyun

Monday 09 October 2017 20:40 Haymarket Cinema, Screen 1
Tuesday 10 October 2017 20:45 Prince Charles Cinema, Downstairs Screen
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Memoir of a Murderer

To Catch a Thief meets Memento in this twisted Korean tale of fatherly love and killer instinct.

When retired serial killer Byung-su is diagnosed with dementia, his daughter Eun-hee encourages him to keep a diary. Secretly recalling his murderous youth, Byung-su reflects on his days as a vigilante, picking off those he saw as human trash. But there’s a new killer in town and only Byung-su can identify him. If only he could remember where he wrote their name down. Meanwhile, his schedule is occupied by community centre poetry classes and roadside beers with his only buddy, the incompetent local cop. A black-hearted thriller shot through with dry humour, Memoir of a Murderer will delight fans of cynical Korean cinema who have no qualms about bad taste. The portrayal of Alzheimer’s is used to ingenious effect, playing tricks with the narrative as Byung-su’s memory eludes him. With Oldboy-style amnesiac lapses and Memento-esque conundrums, this is a twisted tale of fatherly love and killer instinct.

Kate Taylor

Becoming Who I Was (다시 태어나도 우리)

Dir-Prod Moon Chang-yong, Jeon Jin (2016 95min)
Sunday 15 October 2017 15:10 BFI Southbank, NFT2
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Becoming Who I Was

Beautiful scenery abounds in this documentary about a reincarnated boy and a monk embarking on an adventurous journey from India to Tibet.

A pint-sized monk attempts to reach the home he had in a former life. Young Padma Angdu is said to be the latest incarnation of a religious teacher, known as a Rinpoche. Supported by Urgyan, an elderly monk, Padma embarks on his epic journey after being expelled from the monastery in Ladakh, Northern India (‘a Rinpoche without a monastery is like an orphan’). They plan to walk to Kham in Tibet, Padma’s home in his previous life. Becoming Who I Was is a beautifully made documentary, a labour of love depicting a punishing journey, often in hazardous conditions, and portraying a fascinating bond between man and boy. Both subjects display a resilient determination in accepting their place in the world and enduring this unique and challenging journey – spiritually as well as geographically.

Justin Johnson

Bamseom Pirates Seoul Inferno (밤섬해적단 서울불바다)

Dir-Scr Jung Yoon-suk (2017, 119min)
Prod Jo Sona
With Kwon Yong-man, Jang Sung-gun, Park Jung-geun

Friday 06 October 2017 20:45 ICA Cinema, Screen 1
Saturday 07 October 2017 13:00 Prince Charles Cinema, Downstairs Screen
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Bamseom Pirates

“Grandma our roof is leaking / Don’t worry son, Twitter will save us!” Korean punks Bamseom Pirates take on the world in this anarchic documentary.

Embracing nihilism, protest, politics, rebellion and a strong sense of humour, young Korean band Bamseom Pirates give a masterclass in punk activism. A grindcore duo in the Lightning Bolt style – drummer and singer – and miles away from the bubblegum of K-pop, Bamseom Pirates play at political benefits and occupations protesting privatisation. They often face violent opposition, with hired thugs paid to smash up their gear. But it’s their hilariously sarcastic lyrical content, including the ironic championing of Kim Jong-il, that gets them into deep trouble, especially when their manager is arrested for jokingly re-tweeting a North Korean Twitter account. Accustomed to using humour as a Trojan horse, will the band compromise the ‘never explain’ ambiguity they prize? An audience hit at Rotterdam Film Festival, this is energised lo-fi documentary filmmaking, offering an alternative perspective on Korean life and highlighting the perils of political activism in a censorious society.

Kate Taylor

On the Beach at Night Alone (밤의 해변에서 혼자)

Dir-Scr Hong Sang-soo (2017 101min)
With Kim Min-hee, Seo Young-hwa, Kwon Hae-hyo

Wednesday 11 October 2017 21:00 Picturehouse Central, Screen 1
Thursday 12 October 2017 15:30 BFI Southbank, NFT2
Sunday 15 October 2017 12:15 Haymarket Cinema, Screen 1
Book tickets

On the Beach at Night Alone

Kim Minhee is luminous as a woman who retreats to Hamburg to recover from a broken heart in Hong Sangsoo’s bold tribute to bruised romantics.

In the opening scenes of this bittersweet post-break-up film, we find Young-hee visiting a friend in Hamburg and nursing a broken heart. With all the enthusiasm of the romantic drifter abroad, Young-hee (The Handmaiden’s Kim Min-hee) ponders relocating there, but life in the German city is also alienating, resulting in much lost-in-translation humour. Meanwhile, back in Gangneung and with the soju flowing, Young-hee questions the social attitudes that have punished her relationship with a married film director. Director Hong Sang-soo is at his most Rohmer-esque here, employing a lightness of touch and compassionate curiosity about Young-hee’s motivations, making the film’s central questions on love and its aftermath more resonant. Kim Min-hee, who won the Best Actress Golden Bear in Berlin, exudes an impressive emotional rawness, demonstrated in a particularly poignant stolen moment, as Young-hee sings a song to herself, whilst smoking outside a bar, all alone.

Kate Taylor


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

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