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Ko - production in Busan
  • Big Names of Korean Cinema to Return behind the Lens
  • by Sonia KIL /  Jun 19, 2015
  • Since the beginning of the year, foreign releases—Hollywood blockbusters in particular—have dominated South Korean box office quite aggressively. Since the February release of Kingsman: The Secret Service, foreign films’ domination have continued through the unfailing success of western films such as Fast & Furious 7, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Mad Max: Fury Road and Jurassic World in May alone, foreign films took an overwhelming market share of 68.5%.
    The absence of local star directors has been a convincing excuse for the continuing underperformance of Korean films. As if they have all been meaning to pull up the local films from the grip of slump, the big names of Korean cinema are gearing up to come back with highly-anticipated new titles in the second half of this year.

    BONG Joon-ho Returns with Monster Flick Okja

    Eyebrows were raised when BONG Joon-ho wrote the script for his 2006 zany monster flick The Host, after he enjoyed a fair success with a crime drama Memories of Murder. The CG monster jumping out from Han River indeed brought a sensation to the Korean box office that year. With his name which has by that time already become one of the bywords for Korean cinema, BONG has continued taking his unique career path, both as a director and as a producer, trying diverse genres and styles in his more recent films such as Cannes title Mother, global giant project Snowpiercer that brought BONG’s fame and career to a whole new level. BONG has not stood behind the camera for two years since Snowpiercer, if SHIM Sung-bo’s Hae-moo which BONG co-wrote and produced does not count.
    After the two-year long hiatus, BONG earlier revealed his plan to come back to the director’s chair with a new project named Okja, for which he had recently completed a first-draft script. Though Ok-ja is a typical Korean name that has been more widely given to girls in the old days, BONG revealed that he gave that name to the monster in the movie, instead of a girl. The story is known to center on a rural girl from Korea’s Gang-won Province who travels between Korea and the US. According to BONG, the creature film will cast a teenage Korean female lead, which reminds of KO A-sung in The Host. Almost 40% of the film will be set in the US and the other 60% back in Korea.

    BONG has mentioned that Okja would be made with a total budget that falls between that of The Host ($11 million) and Snowpiercer ($40 million). Okja is currently in pre-production.
    KIM Ji-woon Unveils Historical Action Drama Secret Agent

    Starting with a densely-written strong comedy horror The Quiet Family that stars pre-stardom actors SONG Gang-ho and CHOI Min-shik, KIM Ji-woon’s 17-year long filmography spans a wide range of genres. Not only as a director, KIM has also been widely acknowledged as a visual artist with the stylish directing he demonstrated in horror title A Tale of Two Sisters and ruthlessly violent noir A Bittersweet Life. His 2008 title The Good, the Bad, the Weird marked the beginning of Korean style western movies. as both of which were received as critical and commercial successes. Just like BONG Joon-ho and PARK Chan-wook, with whom he emerged in the same era, KIM expanded his realm in to Hollywood with his Arnold Schwarzenegger-starring action comedy The Last Stand in 2013.
    KIM will return to his native base with Secret Agent (Working Title), a spy buddy movie set in Korea under the Japanese imperialism. The film is known to tell the story of a group of independence fighters who form a secret agency during the Japanese imperialism. SONG Gang-ho, who starred in KIM’s previous titles including The Quiet Family, The Foul King, and The Good, the Bad, the Weird will again join KIM for this new film. Withus Film’s CHOI Jae-won, KIM’s friendly collaborator (A Tale of Two Sisters, The Good, the Bad, the Weird) as well as a hit film producer (The Attorney), is handling the producing duties for Secret Agent. The budget is expected to lie between $9 million and $13 million.
    Park Chan-wook Adapts Brit Novel Fingersmith

    Old Boy is one of the first Korean films that foreigners bring up when asked about their knowledge of Korean cinema. PARK Chan-wook, who won the Grand Prix at Cannes for his mystery thriller neo-noir Old Boy, has always represented the “arty commercial” film industry in Korea. Famous for his genre stories that spans shock, brutal subjects and social taboo, as in his vengeance trilogy (Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Old Boy and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance) and the vampire movie Thirst, PARK has been less active in his home ground since the 2009 Cannes Prix du Jury title Thirst. His last feature was family crime drama Stoker, his first English-language film which he made in Hollywood (he only produced BONG Joon-ho’s global project Snowpiercer.)
    PARK’s new title will be an adaptation of British writer Sarah Waters’ historic crime novel Fingersmith. In order to localize the original novel set in the Victorian era, PARK has brought the whole set to Korea and Japan in 1930, where Korea was under Japanese occupation. The story evolves around a rich lady (KIM Min-hee) who inherits a huge fortune, a cheating earl (HA Jung-woo) who is after her fortune, and a pickpocket girl (KIM Tae-ri) the earl hires. There is a possibility that Fingersmith might be seen as a lesbian movie where the lady and the pickpocket fall into a swirling erotic relationship, though PARK says the physical interaction between the two is only an extension of their intimate, boundary-blurring communication.

    Currently shooting in Nagoya, Japan, the film is written by an established scriptwriter and PARK’s long-term collaborator CHUNG Seo-kyung (Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, Thirst). PARK’s frequent cinematographer JEONG Jeong-hun (Old Boy, Thirst) and production designer RYU Seong-hee (I'm a Cyborg, but That's OK, Thirst) have joined in for Fingersmith. The film is set for a 2016 release.
    2015 Summer All Ready for CHOI Dong-hoon and RYOO Seung-wan

    Strong chart performers CHOI Dong-hoon (The Thieves) and RYOO Seung-wan (The Berlin File) are all ready to hit the cinemas with new titles. CHOI’s star-studded Assassination has recently sold the rights to 15 countries, including the Chinese-speaking region, seven ASEAN nations (excluding Brunei, Cambodia and Laos), India, New Zealand/Australia, North America and Germany at the recent Hong Kong Filmart and Cannes Film Market.
    Releasing almost a year after the crank-up in June last year, RYOO’s Veteran stars one of Korea’s most widely appreciated lead actor HWANG Jung-min, as well as character actors YOO Hae-jin and OH Dal-su, who are best known for their supporting roles in a number successful Korean films such as The Pirates and Ode to My Father.

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