Korean films at the 2018 BFI London Film Fest

by Events Editor on 4 September, 2018

in BFI London Film Festival | Event Notices

An exciting selection of Korean movies is lined up for the BFI London Film Festival, of which the highlight is undoubtedly Burning. Finally: Lee Chang-dong will be in town!

All details below are from the BFI LFF website. Become a member and get access to tickets from 6 September, a week earlier than general release.

Believer (독전)

Dir Lee Hae-young (2018. 123 min)
Cast: Cho Jin-woong, Ryu Jun-yeol, Kim Sung-ryoung
Tuesday 16 October 2018 20:30 @BFI IMAX
Wednesday 17 October 2018 15:15 @Odeon Tottenham Court Road, Screen 3
Friday 19 October 2018 23:59 @Prince Charles Cinema, Downstairs Screen
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Oldboy meets The Usual Suspects in this hall-of-mirrors thriller, as a dogged South Korean narcotics officer tries to smoke out a shadowy drug baron.

Still from Believer

Attempting to remake a modern classic should never be advised, but Lee Hae-young’s razor-sharp reinvention of Johnnie To’s superb 2012 thriller Drug War is an exception to the rule. It starts with a narcotics cop Won-ho (Cho Jin-woong) meeting a teenage junkie to find out more about an elusive drugs kingpin named Mr Lee. The girl is abducted before he can gather any concrete information, but a subsequent explosion at a meth lab brings him into contact with Rak (Ryu Jun-yeol), a low-level runner whom Won-ho believes will introduce him to Mr Lee’s inner circle. Following the tough terrain of To’s original bullet opera, but adding some inspired psychological levels, director Lee’s film also profits from the performances of his two superb leads, who keep us guessing as to how their mind games will play out.

Damon Wise

Burning (버닝)

Dir Lee Chang-dong (2018, 148min)
With Yoo Ah-in, Jeon Jong-seo, Steven Yeun
Friday 19 October 2018 20:15 @Embankment Garden Cinema (+ introduction and Q&A)
Saturday 20 October 2018 14:00 @LFF Cineworld Leicester Square
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Lee Chang-dong (Poetry) wowed Cannes with this spellbinding, richly complex thriller about obsession, class conflict and suppressed male rage.

Still from Burning

Jongsu’s (Yoo Ah-in) unremarkable day-to-day life is pleasantly disrupted when a chance meeting with quirky childhood friend Haemi (Jeon Jong-seo) sparks a promise of romance. Soon to depart on a trip to Africa, Haemi asks Jongsu to cat-sit, which he dutifully does, even though the animal remains stubbornly elusive (does it even exist?). Anticipating their reunion, Jongsu is surprised at the airport to find Haemi arriving with the charismatic Ben (Steven Yeun), whom she met on the trip. No match for the poised and obviously wealthy Ben, Jongsu’s jealousy at the shift in Haemi’s affections builds over subsequent weeks. Based on a Haruki Murakami short story, screenwriter Oh Jung-Mi and Lee have fashioned a lean slow-burner: gripping, elliptical and intriguingly ambiguous. Pitch-perfect performances from the three leads are intimately captured by cinematograper Hong Kyung-Pyo, his camera also revelling in the visual poetry of every environment. With a missing girl, a mysterious cat, an arsonist and a possible murder, director Lee expertly controls the tension until the breathtaking, explosive finale.

Tricia Tuttle

Lee Chang-dong Screen Talk

Saturday 20 October 2018 12:00 @BFI Southbank, NFT3
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We’re delighted to welcome Lee Chang-dong to the BFI London Film Festival, to talk about his career and the making of Burning, his keenly anticipated mystery thriller adaptation of a short story by Haruki Murakami.

Lee Chang-dong

Having established himself as a successful novelist and screenwriter before turning to direction, Lee quickly earned a reputation at home and abroad as one of South Korea’s most talented filmmakers. A master of intensely emotional human dramas, he attracted immediate acclaim with 1997’s feature debut Green Fish, an incisive critique of Korean society told from the perspective of a young man who is tragically ensnared by the criminal underworld. He followed it with the ingenious reverse chronology of Peppermint Candy (1999), offering a powerful socio-political allegory for key events in the nation’s history. After 2002’s refreshingly frank love story Oasis, Lee took a five-year break from filmmaking to become his country’s Minister of Culture. He made a stirring comeback with Secret Sunshine, an unpredictable work examining grief and deliverance, which was followed by 2010’s internationally successful Poetry, a profound meditation on the nature of life, death and memories.

Last Child (살아남은 아이)

Dir-Scr Shin Dong-seok (2017, 124 min)
With Choi Moo-seong, Kim Yeo-jin, Seong Yu-bin
Saturday 13 October 2018 17:50 @Vue Leicester Sq, Screen 5
Sunday 14 October 2018 12:30 @Prince Charles Cinema, Downstairs Screen
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Writer-director Shin Dong-seok delivers a devastating debut, an emotionally wrenching family drama that heralds a serious new voice in cinema.

Still from Last Child

That their teenage son died heroically saving a classmate from drowning offers little comfort to Sungcheol and Misook. Sungcheol focuses on his work as a decorator to deal with his grief, while Misook only feels alive when ruminating on her feelings for the dead boy. When Sungcheol learns that Kihyun, the schoolboy who survived the accident, is being bullied, he feels compelled to step in and give the lad a chance by teaching him a trade. But young Kihyun is not everything that he seems. Balancing tender yet unsentimental drama with thorny dilemmas, writer-director Shin Dong-seok perceptively explores working-class life and the emotional terrain of the masculine psyche, while the tone recalls Ibsen as it builds towards a gripping finale.

Kate Taylor

Little Forest (리틀 포레스트)

Dir Yim Soon-rye (2018, 103 min)
With Kim Tae-ri, Ryu Jun-yeol, Jin Ki-joo, Moon So-ri
Monday 15 October 2018 20:45 @Cine Lumiere
Thursday 18 October 2018 12:30 @Odeon Tottenham Court Road, Screen 3
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A young woman jettisons city life for a rural existence, producing a lot of mouthwatering food along the way in this charming take on the quarter-life crisis.

Still from Little Forest

When independent Hye-won (Kim Tae-ri, The Handmaiden, LFF 2016) returns from Seoul to her childhood home after a break-up, she hopes to live incognito. But nothing stays secret in the sticks. Before long, her sassy friend and the only eligible boy in the village pop round for meals. And what meals! Recalling the recipes learned from her currently absent mother (Moon So-ri), Hye-won finds her dishes and feelings evolving with the changing seasons. Based on a Japanese manga, Little Forest has been a smash hit with South Korea’s millennial female audience. Thoughtfully considering the healing nature of food and the role it plays in all our relationships, Yim Soon-rye’s film elegantly explores mother-daughter dynamics and the journey towards becoming your own person.

Kate Taylor

The Spy Gone North (공작)

Dir Yoon Jong-bin (2018, 137 min)
With Hwang Jung-min, Lee Sung-min, Cho Jin-Woong
Friday 12 October 2018 20:20 @Picturehouse Central, Screen 1
Saturday 13 October 2018 15:10 @Rich Mix Cinema, Screen 1
Tuesday 16 October 2018 14:50 @Vue Leicester Sq, Screen 7
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How was a South Korean spy, codenamed ‘Black Venus’, able to ingratiate himself with the highest ranks of the DPRK, including Kim Jong-il himself?

Still from The Spy Gone North

Anyone looking for a little background into the tense relationship between North and South Korea will find this enthralling spy thriller both gripping and revealing. Hwang Jung-min (star of The Wailing, LFF 2016) plays Park Suk-young, a secret service agent sent on a mission in the mid-1990s to discover the truth about the North Korean leader’s nuclear arms agenda. Park’s method is the long game: appearing to drop out of the service, becoming an alcoholic and gambler, then reinventing himself as a teetotal businessman looking at trade links between the two countries. There are more than a few shades of John le Carré in what happens next, as Park’s superbly fashioned alter ego reels in his opposition in a furtive game of cat and mouse.

Damon Wise

The Little Drummer Girl (episodes 1 + 2)

Dir Park Chan-wook (2018, 116 min)
With Alexander Skarsgård, Michael Shannon, Florence Pugh
Sunday 14 October 2018 17:00 @Embankment Garden Cinema
Monday 15 October 2018 14:30 @Embankment Garden Cinema
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Park Chan-wook’s stylistic mastery meets John le Carré’s espionage twists in this thrilling new series from the makers of The Night Manager.

Still from Little Drummer Girl

Charlie (Florence Pugh) is an actor working London pub theatres. She’s confident, forthright, a political lefty and a very good liar. When a mysterious patron whisks her drama troupe to Greece, she finds herself drawn to a stranger on the beach (Alexander Skarsgård). Meanwhile, Kurtz (Michael Shannon), the leader of an Israeli counter-terrorism unit, is working in West Germany to apprehend a cell of brothers who have murdered a diplomat and his family. As Charlie and Kurtz’s worlds grow closer together, she swiftly discovers that her survival depends on keeping her wits about her. Fans of director Park’s (The Handmaiden, Oldboy) flair for visual sophistication will be delighted by these first two episodes of his debut venture into long-form storytelling. Collaborating with production designer Maria Djurkovic (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy), Park creates a world of impeccable 1970s details: each watch, jacket and car is loaded with significance. Alongside daring framing and elegant use of colour, Park’s dark sense of humour is also a perfect match for John le Carré’s sophisticated form of espionage and intrigue, and in Pugh (Lady Macbeth) we have an actor who embodies the series’ qualities: sharp, sexy and wickedly intelligent.

Kate Taylor

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