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As with any powerful national cinema, there is a wide range of work for every taste, mood, mood and occasion. There are horror festivals, action adventures, dramatic brilliance to the chin, goofball comedy, tear-filled melodrama, rare art films and filthy exploitation films. Veteran author M Kwon Taek has made over 100 films and deserves a deep dive. On the other end of the movie spectrum, I recommend “Train to Busan” to Yeon Sang-ho, a pulse founder focusing on a fascinating businessman and his young daughter who is trapped in a zombie train that gnaws in a loud move. It is an amazingly difficult and emotional journey.
Given the tremendous reward of South Korean cinema, I can only point to a select group of favorite artists, among them the illustrious Lee Chang Dong, who deserves a much larger audience in the United States. Known here for his disturbing drama and know-how about “burning” philosophy, centered on an uncomfortable triangle – featuring a revelation turn of American actor Stephen Eun – which ends in disaster. Two other major Lee films, “Poetry”, are about a woman who realizes that her grandson has committed a horrific crime, and “The Mystery of the Rising Sun”, about a mother who – for a brief, catastrophic period – turned to religion after a crisis figure.
Abundant director Hong Sang-soo is another mainstay of the festival scene, although his films often secure a limited theatrical distribution in the United States. His flexible, fictional and creative films depict the coordinates of desire between men and women who share and share them, often during conversations engulfed in alcohol. Few managers do a lot with little apparent, but in Hong’s best cases, worlds of feelings are revealed in scenes of people facing each other – and themselves – across a table filled with soju bottles. “Gangwon County Force”, “Virgin stripped naked by her singles”, “Turning Gate”, “Woman on the Beach”, “Day of Arrival”, “Next Day”, “Hotel by the River” – There is so much to choose from, so get On watch.
Plus! One of my favorite movies of the past decade is “The Handmaiden” by Park Chan-Wook, which is an immersive and mostly funny story. Kim Ki-duk is not always a Cuban of cruelty, but I love his selfie “Arirang”, which he did in the aftermath of a semi-fatal accident in one of his buds. Na Hong Jin’s first movie, “The Chaser”, is a black action movie about a policeman who turned into a pimp chasing a serial killer and features, as his title suggests, a lot of trot for cats and mice. His latest release, “The Wailing”, is a frustrating and sprawling horror movie about possession of demons in a small town; it is good, but I prefer the “Yellow Sea”, a tour full of blood, kinetic movement and the drawn chaos accompanying acid politics.