This Month: South Korean Films
Once October ended, I briefly debated whether I should continue writing about horror but then decided that I could experiment with dedicating each month to different types of films. Right now I’m on a Korean movie kick. Korean movies seem to segue nicely away from horror, with their wicked flare for gore and busting taboos.
I don’t really know a whole lot about Korean culture, and I’m definitely not a film scholar, but I know that South Korea has had something of a cinematic golden age in the last decade or so, producing interesting and globally successful directors like Bong Joon-ho and Park Chan-wook. Bong is most well-known for the popular monster movie The Host, and Park for his cult-favorite Oldboy. Park in particular has gotten a lot of attention stateside recently, with Spike Lee beginning production on an American remake of Oldboy and Park himself debuting his first Hollywood film, Stoker, which releases early next year and stars Nicole Kidman.
It’s hard to say what draws me to Korean movies. They provide a nice alternative to the American aesthetic, with new cultural mores, twisty-turny plots, and run-times that can often try your patience (the 80-minute movie doesn’t seem to have caught on over there). But like a lot of American films (especially indies), they don’t hold anything back, whether it’s an unflinching kitchen-sink character drama or an action film with all the explicit sex and violence you can stomach. At least, that’s what I’ve observed so far.
The move from writing about horror to writing about Korean films is a little daunting. Horror is a genre I’ve grown up with and I’ve watched more scary movies than I could ever count; I’m very familiar and comfortable with the genre conventions. I’ve watched a decent amount of Korean movies, too, more than the average person, but not quite enough to make any coherent, intelligent statement about what defines these films, culturally or stylistically. A month won’t make me an expert, but I hope to start seeing some patterns.
These are the movies I have seen. The next ones on my to-watch list are I’m a Cyborg, But That’s Okay and Joint Security Area (both films by Park) Feel free to suggest others that aren’t on the list that are worth tracking down:
Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance
Barking Dogs Never Bite
Memories of Murder
A Tale of Two Sisters
I Saw the Devil
The Good, the Bad, & the Weird