Film reviews and comment

For a complete listing of LKL’s film reviews, click here. For a listing of the top films of the noughties – compiled from the lists of prominent K-film bloggers – click here, and the article was updated here. For LKL’s own list of the top films 2000-2010 (2003 was a bumper year) click here. Otherwise, all our reviews are in publication date order below.

Almost inexplicably, when compared with previous documentary screenings, the KCC’s mini festival of Korean documentaries, spread over two weekends, was over-subscribed, with latecomers for one session needing to sit on the floor. The decision to break out the documentary strand from the main London Korean Film Festival has probably been vindicated, and the strategy of […]

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Movie review double bill: Along with the Gods 1 and 2

by Philip Gowman 16 August 2018
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Somehow, I managed to miss last year’s fantasy blockbuster Along with the Gods. I didn’t spot that it got a brief UK release until it was too late, and the movie didn’t make to any of the UK festivals to my knowledge. I didn’t even read any reviews. But it registered in my brain as […]

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Film review: The Unfair / Minority Opinion

by Philip Gowman 3 July 2018
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The Unfair (also known as Minority Opinion) screened as the penultimate movie in the Korean Novels on Screen season at the KCC. Based on a novel by Son Aram, it is the only film in the season where the underlying book has not (yet) been translated into English. Although the scenario is based loosely on the […]

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Review: 1987 – When the Day Comes

by Philip Gowman 18 June 2018
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1987: When the Day Comes is one of those movies which could not have been made a couple of years ago. It would have got the director and its all-star cast included on the infamous blacklist of suspected lefties who would not get government support in future. And to have the director of this film […]

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Film review: Be With You

by Philip Gowman 11 June 2018
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Ten years ago or so I was watching a rather good relationship drama on DVD when my wife came into the room and asked: “so which of the two has the mysterious incurable disease?” “It’s not one of those films,” I replied, somewhat tetchily. Ten minutes later, a car crash killed off one half of […]

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Film review: Yu Hyun-mok’s Descendants of Cain

by Philip Gowman 13 April 2018
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I had looked forward to the first movie in the KCC’s Korean Novels on Screen series – Kim Ki-young’s adaptation of Yi Kwang-su’s The Soil – and had been disappointed. Conversely, not being a particular fan of Yu Hyun-mok’s depressing movies, I was regarding the second in the series – his adaptation of Hwang Sun-won’s 1954 […]

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Film review: The Propaganda Game

by Philip Gowman 4 April 2018
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The SOAS North Korea Society recently hosted a screening of Álvaro Longoria’s The Propaganda Game. The documentary is not going to tell you anything new about North Korea, its on-location original footage being the product of a fully-chaperoned three-day tour in Pyongyang and the DMZ. What it does do, however, is hinted at in its […]

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Brief review: Kim Ki-young – The Soil

by Philip Gowman 2 April 2018
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I’m not sure quite how to assess Kim Ki-young’s adaptation of Yi Kwang-su’s 500-page serial novel The Soil (흙, 1932-3). At 125 minutes, it doesn’t sound particularly long. But as we got up from our seats at the KCC last Thursday at around 9:15pm, it felt much later – maybe around 10:30pm. And that wasn’t […]

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[Updated] A further look back at movies from 2017

by Philip Gowman 30 December 2017
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Two Korea-based critics have published lists of their top movies of the year. Many of them were screened in London this year and merited a mention in our own roundup which you can find here. And while the two critics have a lot more enthusiasm for Okja than I do both of them highlight some […]

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A look back at some of the films of 2017

by Philip Gowman 28 December 2017
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A review of some of the films that screened in London during the 2017 – another busy year. For me the undoubted highlight of the London film year was the Bae Chang-ho retrospective at the London Korean Film Festival: a chance to see a couple of his movies – including the classic Whale Hunting (1984) – […]

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Festival film review: Bae Chang-ho’s The Dream

by Philip Gowman 27 November 2017
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Bae Chang-ho’s The Dream is based on a story from the Samguk Yusa, a story that Yi Kwang-su worked up into a short novel. Although the tale is set in the late Silla dynasty, its message is timeless. The story starts with a weary and impoverished traveller (played by Ahn Sung-ki) trudging through the snow […]

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Festival film review: Bae Chang-ho’s Whale Hunting

by Philip Gowman 24 November 2017
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Based on a story by long-standing collaborator Choe In-ho, Whale Hunting is one of Korea’s seminal road movies. Hunting the whale, in the dark days of the dictatorship, was symbolic for yearning for things beyond the day-to-day. In Bae Chang-ho’s 1984 movie it represented the search for the things that give life meaning; in a […]

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Festival film review double bill: Two Doors / The Remnants

by Philip Gowman 22 November 2017
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As part of the Documentary strand of the 2017 London Korean Film Festival Lee Hyuk-sang of the activist documentary makers PINKS presented a pair of films on the Yongsan tragedy. The context of the tragedy was the plan to redevelop the Yongsan area as the US army prepared to move to their new base in […]

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Festival film review: Bae Chang-ho’s People of the Slum

by Philip Gowman 20 November 2017
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Bae Chang-ho’s debut feature, People of the Slum (1982), is based on a semi-autobiographical novel by Lee Dong-chul. The film tells the story of a complicated love triangle. Myeong-sook, played by Kim Bo-yeon, lives with her second husband, the idle and dissolute Tae-seop (played by Kim Hui-ra). Living in the same house in the run-down […]

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Festival film review: Becoming who I was

by Philip Gowman 8 November 2017
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Nine years ago Moon Chang-yong and Jeon Jin were in Ladakh, Kashmir – a mountainous region 100 miles or so northeast of where the Dalai Lama lives, and less than 50 miles from Tibet’s westernmost extremity. They were filming a documentary about practitioners of traditional medicine in the various regions of Asia. Their subject was […]

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Festival film review: The Mimic

by Philip Gowman 28 October 2017
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I don’t quite know how you go about reviewing a film like The Mimic. As I watched its early sections, enjoying the ride reasonably enough, I nevertheless thought back to some of the Whispering Corridors series (and sadly the weakest of them, Blood Pledge) in which plot is subservient to gratuitous scares. Probably if you […]

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Film review: Memoir of a Murderer

by Philip Gowman 12 October 2017
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Memoir of a Murderer asks us to step inside the mind of someone who is losing his memory, a sufferer of Alzheimer’s disease. The movie opens with a scene focusing on the face of a gaunt and aged-looking Sol Kyung-gu as single dad Kim Byung-soo. As we watch, his face begins to twitch. At first […]

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