Tag Archives: South Korea

A beginner’s guide to the films of Lee Chang-dong

A celebrated academic and novelist prior to his directing career, Lee Chang-dong came to filmmaking relatively late in life, making his first feature in his forties. What unites all of his films is their extensive portraits of characters often at the mercy of circumstances beyond their control, be they societal and historical developments in his native South Korea, debilitating illnesses, or some omnipresent force that seems out to get them. As evidenced in his brilliant latest, Burning, Lee is unafraid to confront the ugliness of human nature. To celebrate the film’s release, we’ve put together a handy primer of his previous directorial efforts…

Full feature for Little White Lies

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Steven Yeun and Lee Chang-dong on thriller ‘Burning’

Arriving eight years after previous film Poetry, Korean director Lee Chang-dong’s Burning left last year’s Cannes without any competition prizes but with perhaps the most ardent critical support of any movie to premiere there in 2018. Much of the film’s pleasure comes from how it slowly reveals its mysteries, so it’s best to keep any plot details to a minimum. All we’ll say is that it concerns a young man, Jong-su (Yoo Ah-in), reconnecting with and developing feelings for a girl from his youth, Hae-mi (newcomer Jun Jong-seo). He agrees to look after her cat while she’s abroad in Africa. When she comes back, she’s accompanied by a mysterious companion, Ben (Steven Yeun), a wealthy man with a proclivity for pyromania that may be a cover for something more sinister…

Full interview for The Skinny

Bong Joon-ho on ‘Okja’ & Netflix

“Someone said it’s very difficult to define, this movie. For me, that is the biggest praise.” South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho is speaking of his latest project, but such a query of genre and tonal classification could easily be applied to most of his prior features as a director – from debut Barking Dogs Never Bite to Memories of MurderThe HostMother and Snowpiercer. With pretty much all of them, you think you know what you’re going to get based on a glance at the plot synopsis, only for a considerably different beast to emerge during viewing; sometimes multiple different beasts…

Full interview for The Skinny

The Wailing (Na Hong-jin, 2016)

As a follow-up to The Yellow Sea and The Chaser, it should come as little surprise that Na Hong-jin’s The Wailing is a slippery beast to define, opening as one thing and ending as something completely different, while also becoming several very different things on the road there. It is a furiously weird and inventive film, and thanks to those qualities being stretched over a two-and-a-half-hour-plus runtime, it’s also something of an exhausting journey. But the bonkers ride is definitely worth it…

Full review for VODzilla.co

The Handmaiden (Park Chan-wook, 2016)

After a polarising foray into English-language filmmaking with 2013’s Stoker, Park Chan-wook returns to his native South Korean cinema for The Handmaiden. The results on display suggest a director rejuvenated. With this period epic of lust, love and (lady) vengeance there’s still all of the off-kilter bombast and blunt force that has characterised his career to date, but with a much more assured control of tone, pitch-black humour and his maximalist stylistic tendencies that makes this a career high…

Full review for The Skinny