Five Must-See Films at the 2017 Korean Film Festival in Australia
From a Kill Bill-like vengeance movie to an animated train station zombie flick.
Goodbye Hollywood, hello Hallyuwood. No, that's not a typo. Instead, it's the thriving Korean film industry, which has become a major player in the global cinema realm in more ways than one.
First, there's the spate of high-profile Korean directors making the jump to English-language movies, such as Okja's Bong Joon-ho and Stoker's Park Chan-wook. Next, there's the growing list of Korean flicks that have earned American remakes, like Oldboy and The Lake House. And finally, there's the all-round ace movies that Korean's finest cinema talents keep pumping out.
It's the latter that's in the spotlight at the annual Korean Film Festival in Australia, which marks its eighth year in 2017. From high-octane crime efforts to different takes on familiar genres to thoughtful dramas, this year's lineup is filled with highlights — including these five must-see picks.
It's a great time for kickass women in cinema, finally. Wonder Woman and Atomic Blonde have company, however, and her name is The Villainess. This killing machine-focused thriller ramps up the action and body count as a trained assassin seeks bloody vengeance after her husband is murdered on their wedding day. Spies, secrets, Kill Bill-like mayhem, and La Femme Nikita-esque trickery and duplicity — they're all on the bill, as is a memorable display from star Kim Ok-bin (perhaps best known for Park Chan-wook's Thirst) as the formidable Sook-hee.
Another Australian film festival, another Hong Sang-soo film. It's becoming a habit, but the Korean writer/director is nothing if not prolific, having made four flicks in the past year alone. Hong's latest boasts his usual trademarks — booze and interpersonal battles — in a tale about a publisher's affair with his assistant, his wife's expectedly unhappy reaction, and his new helper caught in the middle. Fans will know that misunderstandings and written missives feature as frequently in his movies as free-flowing soju, and that's the case here.
One of 2016's unexpected highlights gets an animated prequel — and yes, that's a rather rare development. Train to Busan was exactly what a zombies-on-a-train flick should be, and while Seoul Station isn't that movie, it is intriguing in its own right. Flesh munching and mindless shuffling takes over the titular railway stop, as brought to light in grittily drawn frames that somehow make the ravenous masses of undead even more frightening. You might think you've seen every take on zombie movies ever made, but we're betting that you haven't seen this.
Winner of best youth feature at the 2016 Asia Pacific Screen Awards, The World of Us uses the friendship between two ten-year-old girls to explore the social reality facing kids in modern-day South Korea, and dissect the situation given to them by their adult counterparts. In doing so, the small in feel, sizeable in impact effort relays a relatable story audiences all around the world have been through. There are few things tougher in childhood than realising the inequities and differences that are used to separate the population, particularly when they don't go in your favour, something that director Yoon Ga-eun clearly understands.
Even given their fantastic premise, a good body swap film can not only entertain and amuse, but can also offer ample insights about walking in someone else's shoes. Because I Love You is the latest to attempt that feat, though it's not just content with making songwriter Lee-hyung inhabit one other person. No, a sole soul switch clearly isn't enough. Instead, after an accident renders him hospitalised, he hops from body to body trying to solve their romantic problems, all while his own potential fiance waits for him to wake up.
Need a couple more suggestions? Here's two others. We recommended The Bacchus Lady highly back when it played at the 2016 Brisbane Asia Pacific Film Festival, while Karaoke Crazies caught our interest from the 2016 SXSW lineup.
The Korean Film Festival in Australia tours the country from August 17 to September 23, screening at Sydney's Dendy Opera Quays from August 17 to 26, Melbourne's Australian Centre for the Moving Image from September 7 to 14, and Brisbane's Event Cinemas Myer Centre from September 8 to 10. For further details, check out the festival website.
Published on August 17, 2017 by Sarah Ward