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Terracotta Film Festival 2012 April 22, 2012

Posted by ayasawada in Anime, Film.
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Another year, another excellent Terracotta Film Festival. This year’s line-up had a nice blend of relatively unknown gems, while still featuring the popular blockbusters and well-known filmmakers. I only saw four of the films, but what I saw, I liked. (more…)

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Petty Romance (2010) May 8, 2011

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Petty Romance posterA lovely little film marked my participation in this year’s Terracotta Film Festival. Petty Romance (Ze-ze-han Ro-men-su) is a sweet, entertaining way to spend a couple of hours, brightened further by an imaginative blend of live-action and animation, and a sparkling performance from the two lead actors.

Lee Sun-Kyun and Choi Kan-Hee play Jeong Bae and Da Rim, an intellectual manhwa artist with no storytelling skills and a hopeless sex columnist with no experience of sex. Teaming up to win a $100,000 comic book prize, opposites eventually attract, but not before both learn a thing or two about what’s really important to each of them.

I’m a sucker for romantic comedies and Korean romcoms in particular (often the first thing I look for when I’m on an international flight ;) ). I’ve said it before: mainstream fare like this is so generic that more often than not you end up with banal crap. The recipe is almost too easy, so it’s refreshing when once every so often one gets it right.

Petty Romance benefits from imaginative direction, with Kim Joung-Hoon utilising Korea’s first-class animation studios to really bring Jeong and Da’s creations to life. But it really wins because of its fabulous lead actors (with history from a Korean drama series), whose wonderful chemistry left a big smile on my face.

Bi-mong (Dream) (2008) May 24, 2009

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I caught Kim-Ki Duk‘s latest at the Terracotta Far East film festival, which took place in London this weekend. Having enjoyed the likes of 3-Iron and Spring, Summer. Autumn Winter… and Spring I was really looking forward to this. While I certainly wasn’t disappointed per se, I was left rather confused. But perhaps that is because of the very nature of the film, blending reality and dreams to the point where you’re not sure what’s ‘real’ and what isn’t.

The story follows Jin, a Japanese artist living in Japan, who’s been having disturbingly vivid dreams. Mysteriously, he finds that these dreams are being acted out by Korean hemstress Ran. The two are on opposite ends of a spectrum, jin still in love with his ex-girlfriend and Ran having just dumped a boyfriend she can’t stand. Their dreams are connected, the reason for which is unclear.

SPOILER WARNING (more…)

A Tale of Two Sisters (2003) April 5, 2009

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I wrote a couple of months ago about discovering Kim Ji-Woon and my anticipation at catching up with his back-catalogue. A Tale of Two Sisters certainly didn’t disappoint.

The third biggest grossing film  in Korea, apparently, it is a marvelous modern take on an old Korean folk tale. It masquerades as a horror movie, but isn’t actually that scary and is more of a psychological thriller.

The story follows two young teenage girls, who return home after treatment at a mental institution. This stems from emotional issues surrounding their father’s remarriage and their mother’s suicide. Tensions remain with their emotionally distant father and selfish step-mother. Moreover, there is some kind of evil presence in the house.

SPOILER ALERT

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The Good, the Bad, the Weird (2008) January 5, 2009

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I went to the ICA on Sunday to see a preview of the ‘oriental western’ The Good, the Bad, the Weird and boy was it excellent.

It’s a Korean production, big budget and extremely well shot. The plot builds on the basic premise of Sergio Leone’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (of course) with three main characters mixed up in a complicated plot, this one involving a treasure map and riches in Manchuria. But it fills this out with a hint of political intrigue with it’s setting around the time of the Japanese Manchurian occupation and the clash of Korean, Chinese, Japanese and others in Asia’s equivalent of the Old West. That and lots and lots of stunning action scenes.

The first half of the movie in particular seems to be a string of actions scenes, but impressively director Kim Ji-woon doesn’t allow the characterisation to suffer. You do learn a little more about our ‘heroes’ and their way of life as the film goes on, even if they are only as three-dimensional as an action-oriented Western will allow a character to be. In terms of the action, I was blown away by two sequences in particular: the opening train robbery (particularly the one-take follow of Yoon Tae-Goo as he heads for the front car and his target) and the shoot out in Ghost Market, with the unbelievably cool Park Do-won swinging around on ropes, shotgun in hand, picking off bad guys, whilst Yoon Tae-Goo wanders around with a diver’s helmet on.

Those two sequences were exquisitely choreographed and paced, and like the rest of the movie beautifully shot. The cinematography and framing really hit home as well, as I watched the end credits accompanied by still shots of the movie. And the music was superb. Ending felt like a little bit of a cop out to me, after building to the shoot out I was hoping for, but overall I enjoyed the film immensely.

I really can’t emphasise how cool this movie is and urge any fan of action or Asian cinema to see it. It’s my first pleasant surprise of the cinematic year and I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to see a Kim Ji-woon film. I’ll be seeking out A Bittersweet Life and A Tale of Two Sisters over the next few months.