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Korean interest at the 2022 BFI London Film Festival

The programme for the 2022 BFI London Film Festival was announced yesterday. After the complete drought of 2020, and the solitary quite fun film (plus a promo screening for a Netflix TV series) in 2021, this year is something of a treat,

BFI London Film Festival 2022

Date: Wednesday 5 October - Sunday 16 October 2022
Venue:
Various venues

Tickets: Various | More info below

Details of the five Korean movies and one Korean American movie in this year’s London Film Festival follow. For completeness, and not listed below, there’s a zainichi Korean character in Kôji Fukada’s movie Love Life.

Decision to Leave (헤어질 결심)

South Korea 2022, 138min
Director-Producer: Park Chan-wook
Screenwriters: Chung Seo-Kyung, Park Chan-wook
Cast: Tang Wei, Park Hae-il
Friday 14 October 2022 21:20 | Southbank Centre, Royal Festival Hall
Saturday 15 October 2022 20:30 | Prince Charles Cinema, Downstairs Screen
Book tickets

Decision to Leave

Busan Detective Hae-joon (Park Hae-il) is happily married, although work means spending too much time apart from his wife. When a climber’s body is found, suspicious photos on his phone lead to a murder investigation, and Hae-joon to the man’s young wife, Seo-rae (an entrancing Teng Wei) and a stakeout of her home. But even as her alibi clears her, Hae-joon finds himself unable to end his surveillance. Is this his detective’s instinct, or something more? His questioning of Seo-rae at the police station reveals an evident chemistry between them, but it’s unclear whether she is genuine in her behaviour or cleverly manipulating the detective. Director Park has crafted a mystery plotted with virtuoso aplomb – one breathless, twisting story-turn after another. Every shot is marked by its boldness and visual beauty, while the intricacy of the details on display harmonises with the ingeniously crafted plot. And at its centre are the mesmeric performances of Teng Wei and Park Hae-il. Decision to Leave finds director Park working at the dizzying peak of his powers.

Tricia Tuttle

Next Sohee (다음 소희)

South Korea 2022. 135min
Director-Screenwriter: July Jung
Producers: Kim Dong-ha, Kim Ji-yeon
Cast: Bae Doona, Kim Si-eun
Friday 07 October 2022 18:05 | BFI Southbank, NFT3
Saturday 08 October 2022 20:15 | Curzon Soho Cinema, Screen 2
Saturday 08 October 2022 20:30 | Curzon Soho Cinema, Screen 3
Buy tickets

Next Sohee

The highly anticipated follow-up to A Girl at My Door (LFF 2014), Jung’s Cannes Critics’ Week closer is a darkly compelling portrait of exploitation, bureaucracy and accountability. Inspired by the real-life suicide of a high-school student, the film’s first half focuses on the cheerful, dance-loving Sohee (impressive newcomer Kim Si-eun), an intern at a call centre who soon realises she is trapped in a toxic environment. The second follows the investigation by police detective Yoo-jin (Doona Bae, Sympathy for Mr Vengeance, The Host) into Sohee’s death. Who should be held accountable, and how can we prevent someone else from becoming the next Sohee? Jung’s film fearlessly searches for answers, while uncovering the uncomfortable truth behind the tragedy.

Hyun Jin Cho

Jeong-sun (정순)

South Korea 2022, 105min
Director-Screenwriter: Jeong Ji-hye
Producer: Choi Won-uk
Cast: Kim Kum-soon, Yun Seon-a, Cho Hyeon-woo
Monday 10 October 2022 18:30 | BFI Southbank, NFT2
Tuesday 11 October 2022 17:30 | ICA, Screen 1
Sunday 16 October 2022 20:20 | Curzon Soho Cinema, Screen 2
Buy tickets

Jeong-sun

Centring on Jeong-sun, a frank and fearless middle-aged factory worker, this drama tells a broader story about the deep-rooted misogyny at the heart of contemporary society. Drawing on the recent ‘Nth Room’ case – an horrific crime involving sexually exploitive filming and cybersex trafficking in South Korea, it sensitively explores the universal problem of the continuing exploitation of the female body. The struggle Jeong-sun faces following the sharing of a video capturing a sexual encounter with her co-worker feels layered and real, and crucially, the film shines a light on female friendship as a counter to the social stigma she confronts at every turn. Elegantly composed observational cinematography frames the understated but deeply affecting performance by Kim Kum-soon as Jeong-sun.

Hyun Jin Cho

The Woman in the White Car (하얀 차를 탄 여자)

South Korea 2022. 125min
Director: Christine Ko
Producer: Park Joon-suh
Screenwriter: Seo Ja-yeun
Cast: Jung Ryeowon, Lee Jung-eun, Kim Jung-min
Friday 07 October 2022 20:40 | Prince Charles Cinema, Downstairs Screen
Saturday 08 October 2022 17:20 | ODEON Luxe West End, Screen 1
Saturday 08 October 2022 17:35 | ODEON Luxe West End, Screen 2
Book tickets

Woman in the White Car

The spirit of Fargo lives on in this terrific debut from South Korea, starring Parasite’s housekeeper Jung-eun Lee as Hyun-ju, a kind-hearted smalltown cop with a razor-sharp mind. She is summoned by the local hospital to deal with Do-kyung (Ryeowon Jung), who has arrived carrying the limp body of her sister, believed to have been stabbed in a violent attack by her controlling fiancé. Hyun-ju, herself a victim of domestic abuse, is sympathetic until she finds holes in Do-kyung’s statement. Her suspicions are further aroused when it transpires that the injured woman is not Do-kyung’s sister – and Do-kyung’s real sister is missing. There’s more to come in Christine Ko’s serpentine thriller, which features more twists than your favourite true-crime podcast and showcases superb performances from its three female leads.

Damon Wise

New Normal (뉴 노멀)

South Korea 2022. 112min
Director-Screenwriter: Jung Bum-shik
Producers: Park Min-woo, Choi Jin
Cast: Choi Ji-woo, Lee Yu-mi, Choi Min-ho
Saturday 15 October 2022 20:50 | ODEON Luxe West End, Screen 1
Saturday 15 October 2022 21:05 | ODEON Luxe West End, Screen 2
Sunday 16 October 2022 14:50 | Prince Charles Cinema, Downstairs Screen
Book tickets

New Normal

The portmanteau horror film hasn’t been in fashion for a while now, but this riotous midnight-movie cracker from South Korea’s Jung Bum-shik is a cool throwback to the genre’s 60s British heyday. Unspooling in discrete chapters, starting with the story of a vulnerable woman being creeped out by a leery handyman in her apartment late at night, it seems at first to be a series of vignettes inspired by the strangeness of lockdown. By the third chapter things start to become far stranger – characters return and their stories impact on each other’s in ever more macabre ways. After that, it’s up to the viewer to piece it all together. New Normal combines the feral fun of Damián Szifron’s Wild Tales with the whip-smart jigsaw storytelling of Doug Liman’s Go.

Damon Wise

Liquor Store Dreams

USA 2022. 85min
Director: So Yun Um
Producers: So Yun Um, Eddie Kim
Screenwriters: So Yun Um, Christina Sun Kim
Sunday 09 October 2022 20:00 | Curzon Soho Cinema, Screen 2
Sunday 09 October 2022 20:15 | Curzon Soho Cinema, Screen 3
Monday 10 October 2022 20:50 | BFI Southbank, NFT2
Book tickets

Liquor Store Dreams

From Spike Lee to Gregg Araki, Korean liquor store owners have frequently appeared in pop culture and American cinema. By the late 1980s, three quarters of stores in the US were owned by Koreans. In her excellent debut feature, So explores her own memories of growing up in the liquor store her father owned, while also reflecting on their relationship and the generational gap she is trying to bridge. Imaginative storytelling interrogates the stereotypes and racial tension between Korean and Black American communities, fanned by the LA uprising in the early 1990s. Bottled-up feelings are harmful in this vibrant, nuanced portrait. So uncorks both dreams and heartbreaks; she reckons with the issues that are hard to talk about and witnesses the transformational work already in progress.

Sophie Brown

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