Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Audacious and Refreshing: Discovering Korean Cinema

This week our contributing writers will be revealling their personal stories of how they first discovered Korean cinema, and what were the films that made them get hooked. So far we have had Richard Gray talk about his experience with Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, and the same film greatly effected Paul Bramhall but from a different entry point. 

Now it's time for James Brown to tell us about his intriguing discovery of Korean cinema. What's your story? Tell us at cinema@koreanculture.org.au

“What was the film that made you want to
continue exploring Korean cinema?”

I dived into Korean film shortly after visiting the country in 1999. For me, there wasn’t any one particular film or filmmaker. Driving my interest was the sense that this was a national film industry on the move in a much broader sense.

Ahn Sung-ki and Park Joong-hoon, stalwarts of 80's and 90's Korean cinema 

At the turn of the millennium, here was an industry experiencing a vast and extensive commercial re-awakening. Audiences for local films were blooming once again. Money was pouring into the industry, not just to produce films, but also to build multiplexes, manage talent, and to grow the distribution empires of pre-existing and new commercial entertainment media conglomerates. 

A retrospective on Park Joong-hoon was held last year in New York.
Read all about it here

Various support platforms and the international festival circuit ensured that smaller, less commercial films and auteurs weren’t ignored in the frenzy to capitalise on the heightened awareness of Korean film–and more broadly speaking Korean culture–at home and overseas.

The breakthrough was explosive. Inevitably there has been a greater emphasis on consolidation and taking fewer risks in the period since, but for a prolonged time in the late-1990s and early-2000s, Korean cinema was a fascinating and richly rewarding object of study and appreciation. 

Bae Doona in "Barking Dogs Never Bite"

If pressed to pick an actual film, I’d have to go with a tie between Nowhere To Hide (Lee Myeong-se, 1999) and Barking Dogs Never Bite (Bong Joon-ho, 2000). Nowhere for its audacious and inventive stylistic flourishes; Barking for its refreshingly goofy tone and intriguingly light-hearted black humour. 

James Brown 
James is a Project Manager at Madman Entertainment and a Board Member of the Media Resource Centre in Adelaide. He was the Program Coordinator of the 2011 Adelaide Film Festival and earlier completed a master’s in Screen Studies from Flinders University with a dissertation on South Korean film’s commercial rejuvenation since the mid-1980s.

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