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.

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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Film review double bill: Bamseom Pirates and Criminal Conspiracy

by Philip Gowman 8 October 2017
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This weekend gave us the opportunity to watch two very different documentaries which cast their critical eye over contemporary Korean society and recent political history. Part of the fascination of both of them for UK-based Korea-watchers is the way they resonate: they provide, in the one case, a laser-like dissection of an issue of which […]

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Film review: A Taxi Driver

by Philip Gowman 31 August 2017
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I went along to watch A Taxi Driver out of a sense of duty. What can be said about Gwangju, I thought, that hasn’t been said already? I’d rather see a documentary. Plus, Korean movies with foreign actors always raise slight alarm bells with me (Isabelle Huppert in Hong Sang-soo’s In Another Country left me […]

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Film review: The Battleship Island

by Philip Gowman 30 August 2017
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Synopsis Some nasty Japanese are being beastly to the Korean forced labourers in an offshore Japanese coal mine as the Second World War comes to a close. And one or two Koreans aren’t exactly being that patriotic either. In the middle of it all is a weak, venal Korean who is among the labourers with […]

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Film review: Hur Jin-ho’s Season of Good Rain

by Philip Gowman 12 July 2017
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How reassuring it is, after the disappointment that was Bong Joon-ho’s Okja, to find that there are still directors out there who can serve up what you expect. Maybe that’s a bad thing: maybe you need to be surprised every now and then. On the other hand, there’s no shame in wanting a dose of […]

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Film review: Okja — It’s really rather disappointing

by Philip Gowman 7 July 2017
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“Our super-pigs will not only be big and beautiful; they will also leave a minimal footprint on the environment, consume less feed, and produce less [sic] excretions.” Don’t you just hate it when you’re really looking forward to a movie, really hoping and expecting to enjoy it, and it turns out to be a big […]

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Baek Seung-hwa’s Queen of Walking is the 3rd LKFF Teaser

by Events Editor 30 April 2017
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The LKFF Teasers this year are showing the wide range of film genres in contemporary Korean cinema. This month, a comedy. Queen of Walking (걷기왕) Director: Baek Seung-Hwa Cast: Shim Eun-Kyung, Park Joo-Hee 2016, 93 mins 7pm, Monday 22 May, Regent Street Cinema | Book here Hailed as one of the funniest Korean comedies of […]

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Kim Jee-woon’s Age of Shadows gets UK release

by Events Editor 5 March 2017
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The official UK release date for Kim Jee-woon’s colonial era spy thriller is 24 March. The Age of Shadows, released in the UK by Soda Pictures, opened last year’s London East Asia Film Festival. At the time of writing no London screenings have been announced, but the movie will be screened in Sheffield, and earlier previews are […]

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Festival Film review: Spirit’s Homecoming

by Philip Gowman 27 December 2016
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With the signing of the Comfort Women “deal” between Japan and South Korea in December 2015 – a deal signed without consulting the victims themselves – the issue of the wartime sex slaves once again came to the fore. While the inter-governmental negotiators were reaching the final stages of their deal-making, Cho Jung-rae’s long-term project […]

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Festival film review: Yourself and Yours

by Robert Cottingham 18 November 2016
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Hong Sang-soo (홍상수) Yourself and Yours (당신 자신과 당신의 것, 2016) Review by Robert Cottingham. You can tell from the opening titles exactly the kind of film this is going to be. Black Korean calligraphy on a white background suggests an intelligent and possibly artistic film and the lively classical music hints at a sophisticated comedy on […]

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BFI Festival Film Review: Na Hong-jin’s The Wailing

by Philip Gowman 16 November 2016
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Na Hong-jin can sure put you through a mental wringer. Mysterious and very bloody murders, extremely nasty skin conditions: who or what is to blame? The choice seems to be between a mind-altering magic mushroom concoction and a strange Japanese guy who lives in the forest, fishing and living off the land. And what of […]

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Festival report: Park Hong-min Q+A after the screening of “A Fish”

by Robert Cottingham 12 November 2016
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Park Hong-Min was in London yesterday for a 3-D showing of his first film A Fish (2011). He gave a short Q-and-A after the screening. Transcribed by Robert Cottingham. Tony Rayns: I’ll get things going. I take it this film is not based on your own experience? Park Hong-min: Yes, it’s definitely not based on […]

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Brief festival film review: Eoh Woo Dong

by Robert Cottingham 11 November 2016
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Lee Chang-ho (이장호) Eoh Woo Dong (어우동, 1985, 110 mins). Review by Robert Cottingham. Eoh Woo Dong translates as “entertainer,” a rough approximation of the duties of 14th-century Korean courtesan Eoh Yoon Chang. After a lifetime “in service,” Eoh Yoon Chang retires to a faraway village. Meanwhile, her powerful father, ashamed of his daughter’s lifestyle, […]

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