London Korean Film Festival 2016

lkff-2016

It is time to set aside those unwritten LFF reviews as the LKFF is here! The London Korean Film Festival has returned from the capital and runs until 17th November with a season of classic and contemporary Korean cinema. This year’s festival has a special focus on films that explore the lives of Korean women as told through the lenses of female directors as reflected in Thursday’s opening gala screening of Lee Kyoung-mi’s new thriller The Truth Beneath. The festival closes in London with Hong Sang-soo’s latest Yourself and Yours after which the festival goes on tour to Sheffield, Manchester, Nottingham, Glasgow and Belfast from 18th – 27th November.

The festival features a wide range of Korean films and gives a rare opportunity to see films that might not make it back to the big screen in the UK. See the official website for more info or read on to find out what I have seen so far.

The Truth Beneath

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In Lee Kyoung-mi’s second feature the wife (Son Ye-jin) of an aspiring politician finds her life upended when her teenage daughter goes missing at the start of the national election campaign. While her husband (Kim Joo-hyuk) remains focussed on his political ambitions she instead picks up where the police investigation has failed and delves into the second life her daughter was leading.

With clever cinematic devices and an unflinching eye Lee Kyoung-mi explores both the story of a young girl’s struggle to find acceptance and friendship alongside a grieving mother’s struggle to get to know her daughter when she is no longer around. The film’s twists created loud gasps from the audience and the tense narrative had us gripped from start to finish. The lead performance by Son Ye-jin was powerfully understated and complex. A powerful opening to the festival and a strong statement to show this year’s commitment to showing the life of Korean women on-screen.

Our Love Story

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Another female director Lee Hyun-ju tackles a different kind of female relationship in Our Love Story as she explores the beginnings of a romance between a female student and an older young woman (Lee Sang-hee and Ryu Sun-young). The film is much more understated than the thriller above as it focusses on emotional nuance above flashy plot twists.

The romance between the two lovers is handled with great care and sensitivity. Free from the male gaze Our Love Story is capable of including sex between two women without including a full panoramic view of entwined naked forms à la Blue is the Warmest Colour or The Handmaiden. Instead we have a more restrained, tender, and authentic romance on-screen as part of a sweet and emotionally complex romantic drama.

I really do recommend you seek out a screening, a trailer of highlights is below, and if anyone has a spare ticket to the closing gala please let me know; it has already sold out!

Right Now, Wrong Then – LFF Review

Right Now Wrong Then

Korean director Hong Sang-soo (or Sang-soo Hong) makes a very specific type of film. When sitting down to watch his latest film I did so not expecting to see something wildly different but to see what new spin he has put on his usual formula. I will write more about my favourite Korean director (we all have one) another today but for now let’s assess Right Now, Wrong Then using my Hong Sang-soo checklist (patent pending).

✅ – A director as a main character
✅ – A long scene of heavy drinking
✅ – A male character with a large, but fragile, ego
✅ – Handwritten title cards
✅ – Dialogue scenes above all else
✅ – A camera that zooms and pans rather than cutting to new angles
✅ – A day repeated to show an alternative iteration of events

Check, check, check, and check. This is possibly the most Hong Sang-soo film so far!

Right Now Wrong Then

In Right Now, Wrong Then we see a famous film director (Jae-yeong Jeong) and an aspiring painter (Min-hee Kim) as they meet, spend the day together, and pass the evening getting foolishly drunk. We see their day from start to finish and then, at the film’s halfway mark, we start over again seeing the day once more but with slight differences. The second time round not too much has changed, much of the dialogue is intact and the camera has often only moved a few feet, but the way the characters act, and how they deliver their lines, is tweaked enough to give the second day a completely different feeling.

What Sang-soo does best is to create whole three-dimensional characters, put them together in a scene and just let them talk. In doing so he lets all drama, comedy, and emotion arise from the simple act of human interaction with no editing, special effects, or artifice getting in the way.

Min-hee Kim and Jae-yeong Jeong are a winningly mismatched pair who are equally strong and sensitive dependant on how the person they are with is treating them. By seeing them in two alternative versions of the same day we get to see multiple sides of their character’s personalities which are performed with seemingly effortless ease.

A charming film about humans and how a slight change in mood can affect your fortunes Right Now, Wrong Then gives everything we’ve come to accept from Hong Sang-soo.