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Recently published books on Korean film

Having done my list of upcoming fiction titles, I’ve been working on a similar list of upcoming non-fiction. But in compiling the non-fiction list I’ve identified several titles that slipped under the radar towards the end of last year. Three of them relate to film.

No doubt, following all the buzz about Parasite, there will be a rush of new books on the the broad topic of Korean film or on Bong Joon-ho in particular. But so far, I’ve been unable to identify, via my preliminary scan, any Korean film books that are due for publication in 2020. I know of one or two that that are currently being written, but not any that are about to hit the bookshops. Do please correct me if you know of any yourselves.

So, here are the books from the last couple of months that I failed to include in my upcoming non-fiction titles of 2019 post:

Recent film books

Of the three, Rediscovering Korean Cinema, Sangjoon Lee’s collection of essays for the University of Michigan Press, looks the most appealing. Too many writers on film seem to feel that in order to justify saying anything interesting about the subject in hand they also have to demonstrate to us that they’re familiar with at least three tedious European philosophers. Lee’s collection brings together 35 essays by a range of writers, so there’s a chance that at least some of them will be brave enough not bother with all the Deleuze stuff. Plus, Michigan was responsible for two collections of academic essays on Korea last year (Cultures of Yusin and Revisiting Minjung), both of which were pretty approachable – so maybe they have a policy of cutting out text that is unnecessarily inpenetrable. And at around £38 for over 600 pages, it’s the best value of the three, abeit something of an investment.

I’m in two minds about Dis Voir’s collection of essays on Lee Chang-Dong, which also contains an interview. If I remember correctly, their similar book on Kim Ki-duk managed to be both heavy-going and insubstantial at the same time. Maybe, a dozen years after tackling that volume I’m more receptive to the sort of free-flowing ideas that I used to think of as highfalutin waffle. I shall feel obliged to buy it, as it’s more up to date than Seoul Selection’s publication on the director (reviewed here), which came out just before Secret Sunshine, and thus was only able to cover three of Lee’s (now) six movies. Plus, we are told by the blurb on Amazon that “the book was designed by Lee himself, who selected and arranged all the images”. At £20 for 128 pages (including images, which in the Kim Ki-duk book were generous) it’s the highest cost per word of the trio; but it’s worth it for the nice photo of Lee on the front cover.

The final title, Transnational Korean Cinema, is a bit more of a gamble. It’s the sort of book I’d rather browse in a bookshop or library before buying in case it’s not too user-friendly. As it’s about the same price as the Lee Chang-Dong book it won’t break the bank, so I’ll outsource the purchasing decision to my local bookshop. If they can get hold of it (sometimes they have difficulty with American university presses), I’ll buy it; if they can’t, I’ll decide not to buy it instead from the famous online store who claim to be able to source it, and whose affiliate links are embedded in the table below.

Incidentally: can anyone identify the movie that provides the cover image for Dal Yong Jin’s book? Kind of looks like one by Leesong Hee-il, but I don’t recognise the actor.

Author Title Month Order
Sangjoon Lee (ed) Rediscovering Korean Cinema
University of Michigan paperback, 616 pages
This groundbreaking collection of thirty-five essays by a wide range of academic specialists situates current scholarship on Korean cinema within the ongoing theoretical debates in contemporary global film studies.
Dec 19 Amazon shopping cart graphic
Daniele Riviere (ed) Lee Chang-Dong
Dis Voir large format paperback, 128 pages
This is the first full monograph on the widely acclaimed South Korean director Lee Chang-dong (born 1954), whose 2018 film Burning was the first Korean production shortlisted for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film.
Oct 19 Amazon shopping cart graphic
Dal Yong Jin Transnational Korean Cinema
Rutgers UP paperback, 200 pages
In Transnational Korean Cinema author Dal Yong Jin explores the interactions of local and global politics, economics, and culture to contextualize the development of Korean cinema and its current place in an era of neoliberal globalization and convergent digital technologies.
Nov 19 Amazon shopping cart graphic

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