Ever since Park Chan-wook’s Oldboy (2003) burst on to European screens ten years ago, Western audiences have been treated to a fairly consistent stream of interesting and bold Korean films. From the ever provocative Kim Ki-duk, to the studied and thoughtful Lee Chang-dong, via the genre-mashing Bong Joon-ho, there is an awful lot of talent plying its trade both home and abroad. Thankfully there’s the London Korean Film Festival.to help keep British audiences up-to-date with the latest releases – which may or may not find their way onto our theatrical release schedule. Arriving in the capital for its 9th edition, the festival runs from 6th-15th of November before hitting the road on a UK tour. It also boasts an impressive line-up including the latest from revered director Hong Sang-soo.
Kicking off proceedings at the Odeon West End on Thursday is Yoon Jong-bin’s period actioner, Kundo: Age of the Rampant (2014) – a taster of the sweeping epic dramas that have taken the Korean box office by storm recently. At the close of the festival sits Im Kwon-taek’s adaptation of one of his nation’s most beloved novels, Revivre (Hwajang, 2014). Elsewhere, there are three K-Focus strands – each highlighting the works of a specific actor, director and producer – as well as other strands concerned with classics, animation and shorts. There’s a retrospective of controversial director Kim Ki-duk’s work, which means the UK premier of his new film, One on One (2014), as well as screenings of his last two incitements, Pieta (2012) and Moebius (2013) – and a rare screening of Crocodile (1996).
The producer chosen for the K-Focus strand is Lee Joon-dong, meaning screenings of the well-received A Girl at My Door (2014) as well as 2010’s profoundly moving Poetry, while Jung Woo-sung, star of the successful Cold Eyes (2013) is the featured actor. In addition to these there are places at the festival for Kim Dong-yoon’s corrupt-cop thriller A Hard Day (2014) and the Bong Joon-ho scripted nautical nerve-shredder, Haemoo (2014). There’s lots more besides those mentioned above – with spotlights for independent features as well as screenings of classics such as Under the Sky of Seoul (1961) and Kim Ki-young’s fabulous 1960 melodrama The Housemaid which can also be caught on art-house VOD specialists Mubi. All in all, this year’s London Korean Film Festival looks like being another corker.
Ben Nicholson | @BRNicholson