Korean Films at the 2019 BFI London Film Festival

Tickets for this year’s London Film Festival go on sale on 12 September, or earlier if you’re a BFI member. Five Korean movies this year, four of which are by female directors. I’m looking forward to all of them.

A piece of trivia: this is the second year in a row that there hasn’t been a Hong Sang-soo film screening. In the 10 years 2008-2017, the festival screened 11 of his movies (including one short), so it’s kind of nice to have a little break.

When searching the BFI website I was wondering whether I had missed Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite – certainly a movie I was expecting to see in the line-up. But the consensus is that there’s an imminent UK theatrical release, so that a festival screening would lack the impact and detract from the theatrical takings. The rumour is that the release date is sometime in October, though currently Curzon Artificial Eye are only saying “coming soon”.

Details of the movies and screening times are set out below. All info, including the insightful text by Kate Taylor (Twitter: @sheshark), is from the BFI website.

63rd BFI London Film Festival

2-13 October 2019
Various locations in Central London
whatson.bfi.org.uk/lff/

BFI LFF 2019 banner

Maggie

Dir: Yi Ok-seop (2018, 88min)
With: Lee Ju-young, Moon So-ri, Koo Kyo-hwan
Wednesday 02 October 2019 18:30 @ICA Cinema, Screen 1
Friday 04 October 2019 12:40 @BFI Southbank, NFT3
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Prepare to have your pants charmed off by this quirky freeform journey through a Seoul beset by mysteriously appearing sinkholes – all narrated by a catfish.

Yi Ok-seop: Maggie

After a sassy radiologist is snapped having sex in the X-ray room, the image swiftly circulates around the hospital. Nurse Yoon-Young is concerned that she might be one of the randy skeletons depicted. This sets in motion a bizarre series of events that see Yoon-Young bonding with her boss (Moon So-ri) and embarking with her on a mission to determine whether human beings are ever really worth believing. Debut director Yi Ok-seop’s portrait of young South Koreans’ contemporary concerns is nothing if not idiosyncratic. It may nod to Miranda July and Michel Gondry, but Yi has a style very much her own. For those seeking sparky cinema full of ideas, Maggie is an absolute tonic, packed with invention and fizz.

The House of Us (우리집)

Dir-Scr: Yoon Ga-eun (2019, 92min)
With: Kim Na-yeon, Kim Sia, Joo Ye-lim
Saturday 05 October 2019 18:15 @ODEON Tottenham Court Road, Screen 3
Monday 07 October 2019 15:20 @BFI Southbank, NFT2
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One for fans of the family dramas of Hirokazu Kore-eda: in The House of Us director Yoon Ga-eun proves herself one of the world’s finest filmmakers at capturing contemporary childhood onscreen.

Yoon Ga-eun: The House of Us

It’s the summer holidays in the city and young Hana is trying to get her warring parents to reunite. But she’s distracted from her quest one day by a couple of younger girls, nine-year-old Yoomi and seven-year-old Yoojin. As she swiftly becomes an older-sister figure to the pair, the trio’s recess becomes one of imagination and adventure – from playing tricks on the landlady to going on a seaside reconnaissance – that leads to the bittersweet glimmerings of maturity. In her follow-up to the much-loved The World of Us, Yoon Ga-eun continues to draw astonishing performances from young actors and performs the cinematic magic trick of immersing us in children’s perspective while allowing us to bring adult understanding to their experience. This is rich, joyous, heart-swelling cinema.

Heart

Dir-Scr:  Jeong Ga-young (2019, 70min)
With: Jeong Ga-young, Lee Suck-hyeong, Choi Tae-hwan
Tuesday 08 October 2019 18:30 @ODEON Tottenham Court Road, Screen 3
Thursday 10 October 2019 15:30 @ICA Cinema, Screen 1
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Fleabag meets Hong Sangsoo in this funny and savage film that stars its director, Jeong Ga-young, as a woman without boundaries.

Jeong Ga-young: Heart

In her previous film Hit the Night, Jeong played an unethical filmmaker pretending to research a film so she could seduce an actor she fancies. Now, in Heart, she plays an asshole filmmaker who seeks out the married man she slept with, on the night of the birth of his first child, so she can ask his advice about an affair with another married man. An audacious film, with excellent scenes of people sat on sofas having increasingly drunken conversations, the script excels at deadpan staccato dialogue, as Jeong’s character spars with the art teacher who’s both bewildered by and attracted to her. Heart will induce some of the most pleasurable squirms you’ll have in the cinema this year: ‘Can I think of him while we do it?’

House of Hummingbird (벌새)

Dir-Scr: Kim Bora (2018, 138min)
With: Park Ji-hu, Kim Sae-byuk, Lee Seung-yeon
Tuesday 08 October 2019 18:00 @Vue West End, Screen 5
Wednesday 09 October 2019 12:30 @ODEON Tottenham Court Road, Screen 3
Sunday 13 October 2019 17:45 @Vue West End, Screen 4
A number of access tickets have been ring-fenced for the BSL screening on Tuesday 8 October.
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Announcing a bright new voice in South Korean cinema, Kim Bora brings us this absorbing coming-of-age drama about a dysfunctional Seoul family circa 1994.

Kim Bora: House of Hummingbird

With regular beatings from her brother, the evasions of a feckless boyfriend and a blossoming friendship with a new teacher, teenage Eunhee certainly has a lot on her mind. And with her parents always working late or fighting, it’s starting to feel like she’s invisible. But as Eunhee navigates the first flushes and disappointments of adolescence, she begins to develop her own philosophy towards life. Though Eunhee’s circumstances are often bleak, writer-director Kim Bora brings both humour and elegance to her autobiographical debut, capturing the tiny moments when perceptions shift in a young person’s life. It’s a richly textured depiction of South Korea – encompassing events and attitudes ranging from the collapse of Seongsu Bridge to society’s relationship with violence – all experienced through Eunhee’s wise young eyes.

The Dude in Me (내안의 그놈)

Dir: Kang Hyo-jin (2019, 122min)
With: Jung Jin-young, Park Sung-woong, Ra Mi-ran, Lee Soo-min, Kim Kwang-kyu
Wednesday 09 October 2019 17:20 @Embankment Garden Cinema
Thursday 10 October 2019 14:15 @Embankment Garden Cinema
Sunday 13 October 2019 12:20 @Vue West End, Screen 4
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A ballsy gangster accidentally possesses a timid schoolboy in this sassy body-swap comedy from South Korea.

Kang Hyo-jin: The Dude in Me

Pan-su (Park Sung-woong) is a high-flying CEO and ruthless gangster who thinks nothing of violently muscling out the little man to get what he wants. After a strange encounter at a ramen cafe, he’s involved in a street accident and finds himself in a pickle when he awakens to discover that he’s magically traded bodies with… a nerdy high-school student. Crikey! As the timid teenager Dong-hyeon (Jung Jin-young, of K-pop band B1A4) gains super-confidence overnight, his inner Pan-su discovers that he has unfinished business with a classmate’s mother. From Freaky Friday to Your Name, body swapping is an ongoing fascination in cinema. The Dude in Me approaches the genre with giddy glee, revelling in hilarious slapstick, whip-crack timing, and some finely-tuned comic performances – particularly that of heartthrob Jin-young Jung, who displays a surprising adeptness at playing a boy possessed by a crass middle-aged man. Employing dry humour to undercut macho culture, the film finds fresh twists to a classic premise, resulting in an upbeat, poptastic entertainment that sustains its surprisingly sweet energy and laughs to the last.

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