Sean Harris is on magnificently twisted form as Philip, a troubled children’s puppeteer who is forced to face up to his wicked stepfather (Alun Armstrong, delivering an equally deranged performance) and the dark and surreal secrets that have tortured him his entire life. As Philip deals with his past, he also has to face up to Possum, the hideous hand puppet he keeps in a black leather case, but he finds escaping the will of Possum is as hard as dealing with his demons. (Edinburgh Film Festival)
We are delighted to welcome director Matthew Holness and actor Alun Armstrong to Pictruehouse Central for a post-screening Q&A.
Mi-so (Lee Som), like many thirty-somethings, finds herself unprepared for the harsh economic realities of adulthood. Working as a housekeeper with low wages and zero job security, she struggles to pay the exorbitant rent on her cramped apartment. Mi-so’s spirited youth playing in a band seems a distant memory. The only modest pleasures she has left are smoking and drinking. When she can’t even afford these, Mi-so chooses to give up her home rather than her whisky. What might at first seem a callow choice becomes symbolic of her courageous stand for human dignity. Embarking on an odyssey through Seoul, Mi-so looks up her old bandmates in search of help. Writer-director Jeon has given us a potent heroine for our time in her graceful, wildly inventive debut feature tackling serious themes with style and humour. A truly original voice joins the front ranks of South Korean cinema.
Seven Years of Night is an intense, noirish mystery thriller set, like In Dreams (Neil Jordan, 1999) Jindabyne (Ray Lawrence, 2006) and Lost River (Ryan Gosling, 2014), around a small town and a dam with a ghost town sunk beneath its waters. After a drunken Hyun-soo (Ryu Seung-ryong) accidentally hits a young girl with his car, her monstrous father Young-je (Jang Dong-gun) seeks a vengeance that will involve Hyun-soo's son (Go Kyung-po). Directed and co-adapted by Choo Chang-min (Masquerade, 2012) from a novel by Jung Yoo-jung, this highly accomplished tale of two (or three) errant fathers deftly confounds chronology to weave together an intricate narrative mosaic of guilt, revenge and legacy. It dives deep into the dark waters of patriarchy before opening its floodgates. Elegantly shot and confidently told, it exposes different generations struggling to resurface from suffocatingly toxic masculinity.
Art imitates life in this brazenly honest and delicately diaristic tale of revered actress Moon Sori. Moon, famous for her award-winning roles in The Handmaiden (2016) and Oasis (2002), plays herself in an impressive directorial debut laying herself bare as she invites us to laugh, cry and witness the roles she plays behind the big screen and under the make-up; a wife, mother, friend, daughter and her own worst critic.
Over three acts - or three connected shorts - there’s catharsis in Moon’s comedic approach to her unfolding life. With gracefully paced strokes, she paints a vulnerable picture of the anxieties of women maturing under the spotlight. Offering sensitive insight into the neurosis of a successful actress and how she juggles life behind closed doors, The Running Actress is a portrait of the pressures and burdens of fame in an industry that values youth and beauty.
London Korean Film Festival Forum on Special Focus: A Slice of Everyday Life
Moderated by Danny Leigh
Speakers: Jang Byungwon, programme Jeonju Film Festival + more Participants tba
In a time when cinema has become more and more of a vehicle for escapism, why do we still return to the stories of everyday lives? What is it about the work of Ken Loach, Yasujiro Ozu and Hong Sangsoo that continues to strike a chord with audiences around the world? This year’s panel discussion is dedicated to the festival’s special focus strand, ‘A Slice of Everyday Life’, which celebrates films that pay attention to the familiar yet poetic stories of ordinary people, capturing the intimate and subtle drama of our day-to-day existence. The forum will be an opportunity to hear from South Korean and UK film industry professionals, programmers and filmmakers alike, adding further context to the screenings included in the strand and shining a light on the idea of ‘everydayness’ on screen.
16.00Ad and Trailer Free: No advertisements or trailers will play ahead of this screening. You are recommended to arrive promptly.
LKFF 2018: Picturehouse Central welcomes back the London Korean Film Festival for their 13th edition.
Shot in luminous black and white, this is a deeply affecting contemporary portrait of a society, a city and, above all a woman, all struggling to cope with rapid economic change. Seonghye (Song Ji-in) is an educated young woman whose life appears inexplicably in freefall. Unfolding with a forensic eye for social detail, we gradually discover why Seonghye finds herself marginalised from the plastic yet comfortable corporate world she once inhabited. Physically and mentally exhausted, working two minimum wage jobs, everything is falling apart for Seonghye. Change does come but at considerable cost. When one character says “it’s all about money, money, money – the shit of money”, it’s hard to argue. And yet there is something even darker lurking in the heart of this tough, gorgeous and nuanced work which deservedly won the Grand Prize at this year’s Jeonju Festival’s Korean Competition strand. Riveting.
We’re on Jeju Island, though we see nothing of its tourism industry. But in spirit we’re closer to Venice – the Venice of Thomas Mann’s novella Death in Venice (1912), where a middle-aged writer is suddenly, inexplicably struck by the beauty of a young man and finds his whole life upended because of it. The Jeju writer is Hyeon Taekji (Yang Ik-june), a second-rate poet mired in defeatism with a strong-willed wife who’s determined to get pregnant before it’s too late. The boy is Seyun, a dropout from high school who’s the main carer for his ailing father and works daytimes selling sugary American donuts. Hyeon worries that he might be gay, but his wife is scornful and resentful … Kim Yang-hee’s astonishing debut feature moves from delicious comedy to a transfixing, precisely measured map of the human heart. Yang Ik-june is indelible as Hyeon, a role light years from the gangster he played in his own debut feature Breathless (2010).
Hong Chang-pyo's colourful Joseon-era romantic court intrigue is the second in a loose projected trilogy from Jupiter Films concerned with Korea's traditions of fortune-telling, following Han Jae-rim's The Face Reader (2013). In 1753, a time of drought, the King is advised to restore celestial balance by marrying off his daughter, Princess Songhwa (Shim Eun-kyung). The independent-minded Songhwa is herself desperate to escape the confines of the royal palace for an advance peek at her would-be suitors - but she finds her perfect match in a wise, honourable astrologist (Lee Seung-hi) tasked with testing her compatibility with the four candidates. Full of imposture and masquerade, The Princess and the Matchmaker tells the story of a woman whose name may have been struck from the annals, but whose comic adventures mark her as ahead of her times: a feminist avant la lettre, partnered with a male ally.
Last year’s In Between Seasons was no fluke: Lee Dong-eun’s second feature gets to grips with the complexities of the parent-child bond even more searchingly, and to even more moving effect. We’re in Cheongju, a medium-sized town where Hyojin runs a small primary school which isn’t doing too well. For reasons we don’t need to go into here, she’s more or less forced to become the guardian of a ‘difficult’ teenage boy, the son (by another mother) of her late ex-husband. The boy, Jongwook, is emotionally inarticulate in the way that male teens often are and he treats Hyojin as a virtual stranger; without telling her, he goes looking for the birth-mother who abandoned him. And then his friend Joomi carelessly gets herself pregnant and starts planning to have the baby and give it up for adoption. The film’s intricate plotting dovetails the ambivalent feelings which govern these lives and asks: is parenting purely biological, or something more?
A Blind Alley
(Dir: Oh Suyeon, Cast: Oh Woori, Lee Haeun)
Moonyoung and Eunjae spend every moment together. They are the best of friends, so Eunjae is bewildered when Moonyoung’s behaviour suddenly changes due to an incident she won’t speak about. As Moonyoung avoids confiding in Eunjae, their conversations turn to sex, as girls at school gossip about a fellow classmate they believe to be a lesbian. Moonyoung tentatively shares hints of her sexuality with Eunjae. Their intense bond is tested as the pair navigate their relationship, desires and identities.
(Dir: Choi cho-Ah, Cast: Kim Si-Eun, Yoon Hae-bin)
Si-eun is the new teacher at a nursery school. She is immediately alarmed by the aggressively tactile behaviour of one of the little boys towards Seolha, a little girl. Si-eun’s self-control is destabilised by the echoes of a personal trauma, the nature of which is obscure and lingers menacingly. Her concerns about inappropriate behaviour are met with hostility from her colleagues, who uphold a strict and conspiratorial silence. Boundaries are overstepped as situations escalate and Si-eun’s secret threatens to reveal itself.
(Dir: Woo Gyeng-hee, Cast: Mun Hye-in, Han Hae-in)
When Hye-in returns to her former workplace to retrieve some documents for a job application she finds herself back in a den of toxic masculine energy: a place where women can be prodded, mocked and sent out to buy snacks. When assistant manager, Oh Jungeun, reveals she’s been sexually harassed and reaches out for her help, Hye-in is propelled into a moral dilemma. Amidst accusations from other women about Miss Oh’s behaviour, Hye-in is forced to re-evaluate her own motivations and truth.
(Dir: Kim Do-Young, Kang Mal-Geum, Lee Jae-in, Kwon ji-sook)
Despite her love for her new baby, Ji-yeon struggles with the halt of her acting career, a negligent and insensitive husband, and interfering neighbours. A visit from a now-successful actress friend only increases Ji-yeon’s sense of isolation; so when she gets an offer for an audition, she’ll do anything to make it happen. This award-winning short is a poignant and intimate portrait of a woman’s struggle to maintain her identity in the face of parental responsibility.
Morning of the Dead
(Dir: Lee Seung-Ju, Cast: Kang Gil-woo, Park Seo-yun, Jang Jun-whee)
Sungjae must sell off his large DVD collection. A young student eagerly comes to his house to examine the goods; but she only wants one very special DVD: a limited edition of George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (1978), and he won’t sell it by itself. This leads to a comic battle of wills between the two cinephiles. When Sungjae reluctantly watches the film with the girl, he rediscovers his love of movies, and he wonders who truly deserves such a collection.
(Dir: Kwak Ki-bong, Hwang Young-gook, Kim Jun-hyung)
Sang-gyu and Min-sun are best friends and avid gamers; but on a trip to the game store, they are accosted by bullies, who beat Sang-guy and steal his money. But Min-sun’s brother is known by the bullies, and they leave him alone. Now, Min-sun finds his brother’s protection affords him newer friends, leaving Sang-gyu behind. In order to prove himself, Sang-gyu finds a protector of his own and teaches Min-sun a lesson.
Returning drunk to his newly purchased Gwacheon apartment late at night, middle-aged Han Sang-hoon (Lee Sung-min) witnesses a baseball-capped man (Kwak Si-yang) battering a woman to death in the street below. Dogged police detective Jang Jae-yeob (Kim Sang-ho) is on the case, and needs someone who can identify the wily perpetrator - but Sang-hoon keeps quiet about what he has seen, terrified of exposing his wife Soo-jin (Jin Kyung) or young daughter Eun-ji (Park Bom) to reprisals from the murderer. As other witnesses are viciously attacked, Sang-hoon will learn that selfishness brings deadly consequences. In a country where civilisation is never far from the wilds, Jo Kyu-jang’s (serial) killer thriller uses cat-and-mouse tropes to hammer home its dispiriting picture of bourgeois, educated Koreans more concerned with the prices of private property than with the values of social responsibility.
Since being sent to a home for people with disabilities at the age of 13, Hyejeong has spent more than half of her life away from her family. Reflecting on the lack of agency Hyejeong has had over the decisions made in her life, her older sister Hyeyoung decides to bring her back to Seoul and make a film as they adjust to their new life together. Encountering bureaucratic obstacles and trying out schools for her, Hyeyoung discovers she has a lot to learn about Hyejeong’s needs, as well as her own. As Hyejeong knocks back coffee like there’s no tomorrow, the sisters bond over music, and Hyeyoung considers the pressures and expectations put on carers, and the importance of having a supportive community.
Occasionally turning the camera on the sisters’ friends, Grown Up is a tender and intimate film that is not afraid to show vulnerability and explore the mistakes made along the way.
(Dir: Kim Hu-Jung, Cast: Lee Won-jong, Kim jong-gu)
Civil servant Jong-hak takes pride in helping to resettle North Korean refugees. He also takes pride in his secret job as a spy, identifying family members of the refugees who helped and would be put to death. When he discovers that none of these reports have been sent, he is devastated that his hard work, even if it mean the death of dozens, has been in vain. Tail is a powerful story of the price of loyalty.
Following a mental breakdown and a stay in a hospital, Hye-ju is retrieved by her family. The brother wants to return to childish games, and the parents want to act as ifpretendnothing is wrong -but Hye-ju cannot hide her frustration. Tension builds in everything that is unspoken: the truth behind the image of the ‘happy’ nuclear family, and the cause of Hye-ju’s breakdown, lead to a harsh words, and harsher actions, that will have devastating consequences.
Passing over the Hill
An elderly woman spends her days improving her literacy, collecting empty bottles, and reading poetry by her late son. She decides to find the locations of one poem, venturing into Seoul and tracing its path like the lines on the page. In experiencing the poem as it was written, she hopes to find some lost traces of her son; instead, she finds it though a young woman whose own love of the poetry evokes a different kind of memorial connection.