Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Loft's Favorite South Korean Films

Tonight marks the beginning of a very unofficial, ad hoc, miniature South Korean film festival at The Loft.  We'll be playing three recent South Korean films in the span of a week and a half--Secret Sunshine tonight at 7:30, The Housemaid, starting Friday, March 25th, and I Saw the Devil, starting Friday, April 1st.  The three films are about as different as three films could be, but they reflect the recent trend of excellent films coming out of South Korea, whether they be the arty, austere films of Kim Ki-Duk (Breath, Spring, Summer, Winter, Fall... and Spring), the polished exploitation of Park Chan-wook (Oldboy, Thirst), or the wrenching dramas of Lee Chang-dong (Peppermint Candy, Secret Sunshine).  We got to thinking about all of the great films that have come out of this one country over the past decade, and came up with a list of our top five favorites.  Here it is:

5. The Good, the Bad, the Weird

A seriously fun movie, Kim Jee-woon (A Tale of Two Sisters, I Saw the Devil) tackles yet another genre: the adventure Western.  Hollywood could learn a lesson or two from this great-looking, slick, fun film.

4. Mother

The Loft's 5th-favorite film of 2010, Mother is basically a Korean Hitchcock film.  Unspoken tensions, suspense, and mystery are all there, along with a dark sense of humor that constantly catches you off-guard.

3. Oldboy

Winner of the Jury Prize under Quentin Tarantino's Cannes Jury, this is the prototypical Korean revenge film (of which there are many).  What puts this one above the rest is the intense, relentless performance by Choi Min-Sik (I Saw the Devil) as the beleaguered Oh Dae-Su, and some truly remarkable set pieces.

2. The Host

The best monster movie in years is also a great film about family, the influence of media, and flatulence.  Kong Hang-So (Secret Sunshine, Thirst), the South Korean everyman, stars as the incompetent Park Gang-Du. Worth seeing if only to prove that great CGI should always be secondary to story.

1. Memories of Murder

A flat-out masterpiece of modern cinema, this film sucks you in from the very first moment and won't let you go until the end, by which point the tragedy and humor of a country cop and a city cop trying to catch a serial killer together have overtaken your thought processes.  A true must-watch, it's also the third film on this list from Bong Joon-Ho (Mother, The Host), and the third starring Kang Hang-So (The Good, the Bad, the Weird, The Host).  They are the Scorsese-DeNiro of South Korea.  Here's hoping they never stop making films together.

Secret Sunshine plays Wednesday, March 23rd at 7:30. 

The Housemaid opens Friday, March 25th.

I Saw the Devil opens Friday, April 1. 

Oldboy screens as part of the Cult Classics series Friday, April 22nd and Saturday, April 23rd at 10:00 pm.

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