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London East Asia Film Festival 2020

Fingers crossed: it looks like we might see some more great Korean movies in a real cinema in a Central London location before the year’s out, thanks to the London East Asia Film Festival. The festival also includes films from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan.

I’m particularly looking forward to Beauty Water: having caught a cut-down teaser for it during the online Annecy festival this year I’m eager to see the full-length version. Shin Su-won’s Light for the Youth should be interesting too: we enjoyed her earlier film Madonna at the 2015 BFI London Film Festival. And the opening gala, Beasts Clawing at Straws, has a cast that makes it self-recommending, but it has had good reviews not least from Paul Quinn at Hangul Celluloid.

Details of the Korean offerings at the festival are below. The full programme is on the festival website.

London East Asia Film Festival

10-13 December 2020

Beasts Clawing at Straws (지푸라기라도 잡고 싶은 짐승들)

Thursday 10 December 2020, 7:30pm
ODEON Luxe Leicester Square | 24-26 Leicester Square | London WC2H 7JY | Book here
Director: Kim Yong-hoon (2020, 108 min)
Cast: Jeon Do-yeon | Jung Woo-sung | Youn Yuh-jung | Bae Seong-woo | Shin Hyun-bin | Jung Man-sik
Screening supported by Film London

Beasts Clawing at Straws

A desk clerk at a downmarket hotel finds a bag of cash in a bathhouse locker and sees a way to alleviate his financial woes. A young hostess is planning to escape her abusive husband. Her glamorous boss hides a very different past. A customs agent is in trouble with a local gang boss after his wife disappears and leaves him with a debt that needs repaying. The gang boss’s methodical and emotionless henchman is baying for blood. And a detective feels there are strange things afoot as he searches for a corrupt businessman on the run. All the while, TV news reports highlight a series of strange crimes that have taken place in the harbour city of Pyeongtaek. All these elements come into play as Kim’s narrative keeps us guessing as to where the trail of crime and bloodshed will take us next. Do-yeon Jeon (Cannes Best Actress winner for Secret Sunshine) and Jung Woo-sung (The Good, the Bad, and the Weird) lead a superb cast who revel in the high jinks. There’s elements of the Coen brothers here, both in the gloriously labyrinthine plotting and the exploration of humanity’s darker side. And the film’s sardonic humour and its breathless pace ensures Beasts Clawing At Straws will grip you like a vice and refuse to let go until the final, thrilling moments.

(text by Ian Haydn Smith)

Light for the Youth (젊은이의 양지)

Friday 11 December 2020, 8pm
Cinema at Selfridges | 40 Duke Street | London W1U 1AT | Book here
Director: Shin Su-won (2019, 114mins)
Cast: Kim Ho-jung, Yoon Chan-young, Jung Ha-dam
Screening supported by The Korea Tourism Organization

Light for the Youth

Seyeon, a manager at a call centre, faces a crisis at work after her 19-year-old trainee June disappears. Seyeon’s daughter, Mi-rae, struggles with a job interview and the expectations of her mother. Later, Seyeon begins to receive suspicious messages from June.

Beauty Water

Saturday 12 December 2020, 8:45pm
Cinema at Selfridges | 40 Duke Street | London W1U 1AT | Book here
Director: Cho Kyung-hun (2020, 85mins)
Cast: Moon Nam-sook, Kim Bo-young, Cho Hyun-jung
Screening supported by The Korea Tourism Organization

Beauty Water

Ye-ji discovers a mysterious water cosmetic that enables her to lose weight and reshape her appearance to how she’s always dreamt of looking. But Ye-ji soon discovers that the more she desires to be beautiful, the more her life is in danger.

3 thoughts on “London East Asia Film Festival 2020

  1. Sorry to be pedantic, but I had lunch in Pyeongtaek two days ago, and it isn’t a port city. I’m afraid I haven’t seen Beasts Clawing at Straws, so I don’t know if the review has the name of the city or its location wrong.
    I have seen Light for the Youth, and I can recommend it highly.

    1. Actually, while I agree it’s probably wrong to call Pyongtaek a harbour city, it does have a port / harbour, and much of the action takes place there. Fun film!

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