16th London Korean Film Festival

Collectors, Josée And Recalled: The 16Th London Korean Film Festival In Review

It’s been a good year for Korean cinema and TV, one would have to have been hiding under a rock to not have heard of Squid Game, the Kdrama which took Netflix by storm. In addition to this actress, Youn Yuh Jung became the first Korean actor to win an Academy Award this year for her portrayal of a Korean grandmother in Lee Issac Chung’s film Minari. Of course, we cannot forget Bong Joon Ho’s success with awards in 2020 for his film Parasite either, nor ignore the fact that other 2021 Korean dramas such as Hellhound or My Name have also seen international popularity.

However, due to the pandemic, many of us have had to witness this success on the small screen at home so the opportunity to watch some of the best of Korean cinema on the big screen at the 16th London Korean Film Festival was a pleasure in itself. Spread across nine venues in the capital the festival also allowed viewers to visit a variety of London cinemas such as Cinema in The Arches, Everyman, Screen on the Green and the Genesis Cinema among others. Of course, with such a huge lineup of films, it would be impossible to discuss all of them so NR Magazine chose three to review.

The first of the three was Collectors at Everyman, Screen on the Green. Directed by Park Jung Bae the film follows a group of misfit ‘tomb raiders’ on a blockbuster comedic heist. The two main leads of the film have also enjoyed success outside of the cinema this year. Lee Je Hoon, who plays a roguishly likeable artefact thief, also starred in the popular bittersweet Netflix drama Move To Heaven whilst Shin Hae Sun, who takes on the role of the beautifully cunning museum creator, also gained huge recognition for playing the chaotic Queen in the historical comedy Mr Queen. In Collectors, their chemistry and comedic timing is undeniable and leave the audience hoping to see them work together again in other projects. Meanwhile, the rest of the cast, several of whom also stared in Squid Game, gave spectacular performances of their own. Park Jung Bae creates a crown pleasing romp that keeps you guessing, and laughing, right to the end.

Next was a total change of pace with the slow bittersweet romance, Josée at Ciné Lumière. Kim Jong Kwan’s adaptation of the Japanese film Jose, the Tiger and the Fish was a quiet and soulful exploration of a disabled woman (Han Ji Min) whose life is obviously very lonely. When she meets a young student (Nam Joo Hyuk) it seems as if things might change for the better but the audience very soon realises that Josèe is an unreliable narrator and is left wondering how many of the events of the film are real and how many are simply figments of her imagination. This isn’t the first project Nam Joo Hyuk and Han Ji Min have worked together on and the pair have a very obvious chemistry albeit a morose and intense connection. Kim Jong Kwan makes the viewer question reality whilst forcing them to appreciate the beautiful mundanity of life.

Finally, we finished the festival with Seo You Min’s Recalled at Genesis Cinema. A dreamy but intense thriller that follows Soo Jin (Seo Yea Ji) who wakes up in hospital with amnesia after a serious head injury. Her doting husband Ji Soon (Kim Kang Woo) is with her every step of the way on her recovery but when Soo Jin begins to get prophetic visions she starts to distrust everything about her seemingly perfect life. The storyline leaves you thinking you have cleverly guessed the ending before pulling the rug out from under you. Seo You Min leads the audience through a rollercoaster of emotions before tugging at their heartstrings one last time as the credits roll.

While immensely enjoyable the London Korean Film Festival highlights the need for cinemas to diversify from their unfortunately stolid Hollywood fair. The popularity of Korean media in mainstream culture in recent years highlights that cinema is moving away from long-lasting Western hegemony. It would be great to be able to watch Korean movies in the cinema year-round but for now all we can do is look forward to the 17th London Korean Film Festival in 2022.

For further information and announcements visit koreanfilm.co.uk

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